Maha has an interesting post about whom she calls pseudoconservatives (italics original):
Through most of our lives we’ve witnessed a right-wing faction take over the Republican Party and, eventually, the government. But if you think of pseudo conservatism as a philosophy — I personally think it’s more of a pathology, but let’s pretend — it’s important to understand that it was never a true governing philosophy. It is better understood as an agitating philosophy. Pseudo conservatives are no more capable of responsible governance or building democratic consensus than they can fly. (Or tell jokes.) They smear, they hector, they ridicule, they propagandize, they kick all rules of ethics out of their way to gain power. But govern? Please.
When they finally got their hands on both houses of Congress and the White House, they had no idea how to actually run the country. That’s the plain, observable truth.
So instead of governing, they looked for more power. It’s all they know how to do. They became obsessed with politicizing and dominating the judicial branch, for example. And their pseudo-conservative chief executive, who is too incompetent to use the power the constitution gives him, usurped power the constitution doesn’t give him.
I often agree with Maha, but in this case I really disagree. The problem isn’t that pseudoconservatives fail at governing. It’s that they are using government to achieve the society they would like. What she sees as failure, they see as success. The pseudoconservatives fundamentally reject the New Deal consensus, which is something neither Nixon nor Eisenhower ever did.
The problem with calling conservatives who reject the New Deal consensus pseudoconservatives is that it provides conservatism a patina of respectability it should not have. When William Buckley claimed the conservative movement “stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it”, the history he was trying to stop was the civil rights movement (which he referred to as the Negro Revolt). He was also trying to turn back the clock on Social Security, arguably the best anti-poverty program ever devised, as well as the Great Compression, which reduced economic inequality and led to the most economically secure middle class in U.S. history.
That is what conservatives stand for–or more accurately, stand against. I would argue that Nixon and Eisenhower both were essentially the right wing of the liberal consensus, and not conservatives as conservatives themselves understand conservatism. Conservatives are a different kind all together.