The pseudo-amateur webzine Salon tries to wrap around the entire Conservatives vs. Alt-Right question, and invariably gets it wrong, in large part by projecting it’s own ideological framework. They blame the rise of the Alt-Right on conservatives being too ideological and failing due to too high of an ideological purity standard:
“What drives these continual metamorphoses of perception is that for the past 50 years, conservatives have been running on economic and fiscal platforms that are literally impossible to enact. While they have had some opportunities to enact their policy preferences regarding gun rights, taxes and foreign policy, the larger goals favored by the American right have never come to fruition.”
Salon, as does the Alt-Right, conflates policy positions by various and sundry conservatives (and pseudo-conservatives, with the ideological basis for conservatism. Conservatism, at its root in the Anglospheric vein, is not an invented ideology that mandates certain specific policies be enacted; it is the broader basis from which good policies arise.
Indeed, there is much diversity in actual policy proposals. The “Flat Tax” vs. “Fair Tax” debate is one of them. Neither is, strictly speaking, axiomatic “conservative” position. What makes the proposals conservative is that they are derived from the same moral and belief system that the government shouldn’t pick winners and losers, but rather have as little impact on people’s lives within the bounds that society is conducive towards that freedom.
This is not to say that there aren’t calls for conservative litmus tests, but such calls are not so much a question of insuring purity according to some per-conceived ideology, but it standing against those politicians who actively help the Left fundamentally transform America, or at the very least do not advance against said transformation when a solid opportunity arises to change things for the better.
Of course, Salon blames this ideological purity quest on conservatives losing due to their being increasingly ideologically narrow and limited in acceptability:
“Instead of adjusting their policy views to more closely track the public’s wants and needs, the conservative elite’s impulse has been to blame ‘the Republican Establishment,’ relying on the patently false pretense that the GOP’s structures of power in Washington are dominated by centrists like Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
“Conservative leaders tell their followers that these mythical Republican moderates are the true reason the federal budget hasn’t been slashed and burned. But the truth of the matter is that Republican voters, as Donald Trump proved irrefutably in this year’s GOP primaries, don’t particularly care for warmed-over bromides from Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged.’
“This downward purity spiral has made it difficult for Republicans to pursue their national policy goals. It has also virtually wrecked several conservative-dominated states like Kansas and Louisiana, where dramatic tax and spending cuts have yielded dire economic busts instead of booms. It’s has also meant that GOP nominees have won the national popular vote only once in the last seven presidential elections.”
This, of course, is a silly line of reasoning. The Left did not achieve what they did by eschewing ideological goals, but by moving stepwise and “boiling the frog“. Conservatives do not have the luxury of the method, in large part because many of the politicians who claim to “conservative” tend to support moving America to the Left or at least seem not to interested in stopping it. It is this betrayal, perceived or real, that drives many conservatives to demand that politicians explicitly state “true conservative” positions and even to demand they push them when not elect orally feasible. While it has been damaging for conservatives, such effect is due to the circumstances rather than some deep-seated ideology of absolute purity.
It is not because of an ideological drive to mould America into some desired form or function—for that is the modus operandi of both the Left and of libertarians —that drives conservatives, but a reaction to betrayal and weakness. It is a difference between intelligent design of society and the state via ideologically driven policy by the sundry Left and/or libertarians (as well as the Alt-Right), and an evolutionary approach whereby a free and virtuous society will lead to good policy, with policy goals being the perceived good policy thence derived.