First Canada, then the United States, now Britain.
In each country of the Anglosphere, the conservative parties have been overtaken by their militant right-side wings.
In Britain, party hardliners pushed David Cameron into calling a referendum on the European Union. With the Brexit result, they are now in control. The consequences for Britain and well beyond Britain, as the great wealth of analysts agree, could be dire.
In the United States, the Republican Party fell under the sway of Dick Cheney and his ilk. They brought on the Iraq war, the consequences of which have been dire and still are. The Republican Party then fell into the grip of the radical-right Tea Party. Now they are under the control of demagogue Donald Trump. His appeal has similarities to that of the rebels in the British Conservative Party. It is driven by aging, angry-man populism.
If you like Brexit, if you liked the Iraq war, if you favour the retrograde prejudices of Donald Trump, you will like the direction of modern-day conservatism.
In Canada, the moderate Progressive Conservative Party was overtaken first by the harder line Reform Party and then subsumed with the merger of 2004. The new Conservatives gave the country an authoritarian brand of right-wing leadership that scored some electoral successes and brought the West in.
That brand, which pulled populist strings but was hardly in a league with the thinking of Brexiters and Trump followers, was repudiated in last fall's election. Given that outcome and given the extremes of the new conservatism as seen in the other jurisdictions, Tories embarking on a leadership race face a critical decision. They can stay the course, as they appear to be doing. Or they can make a sharp break with the Anglosphere's troglodyte trend and develop a new vision, a new conservative creed for the new century.
Conservative stalwarts Jason Kenney and Tony Clement, thought to be ardent free traders, were quick to enthusiastically endorse the Brexit vote, drawing scorn from many quarters.
They don't see Brexit as a step backward. They don't see the new conservatism as a sure bet to lose the battle of the generations. In Britain, surveys showed the youth were most opposed to Brexit, seniors most in favour. In the correctly named Grand Old Party, the appeal under Mr. Trump is primarily to aging, less-educated voters. Stephen Harper's Conservatives played mostly to the old-age demographic as well. Millennials being the voice of the future, what are these parties thinking?
A hallmark of the new conservative way is anti-immigrant, nativist appeal. It was a major force in the Brexit vote and, in the U.S., Mexicans and Muslims are targeted by Trump Republicans with barely disguised bigotry. Harper Conservatives, realizing there was much support to be had with a multicultural appeal, steered clear of this kind of thing. But in their later years in office, other less tolerant instincts took over, particularly with regard to their policies toward Muslims.
Though angry-man populism has just registered a big, though not necessarily enduring, triumph in Britain, its prospects are dubious in the U.S. Barack Obama's approval ratings are above 50 per cent, indicating that the level of discontent in that country is exaggerated. In Canada, the Harper brand of conservatism failed when the Liberals finally found a popular leader.
In the nascent Conservative leadership campaign there is little to suggest the party is prepared for a directional overhaul. There's a consensus that they need to change the tone and move away from the polarizing, undemocratic approach of the Harper years. But there is no candidate hitting out hard at the conservatism overtaking Britain and the U.S. and aspects of it that were witnessed here. Traditional moderate Tories still can't find a platform.
What are they waiting for? Given the popularity of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, given the protectionist xenophobia of the Brexit vote, given the Trumpian outrages, the timing for a rejection of retrograde conservatism is ripe. It's a choice between the future and the past.