Dionne contrasts this Russell Kirk/Edmund Burke variety of conservatism with the "pseudo-populism" of the Tea Party, which has given itself to the libertarian utopian vision of a diminished, if not eviscerated, government. And no one seriously believes that vision will become reality short of armed revolution. Dionne also points out that traditional conservatism was/is not enthusiastic about an unlimited free market, unlike the much more libertarian Tea Party. "Big business is as dangerous as big government," as the traditionalist conservative Rod Dreher says.
Dionne is describing what I call (though I'm sure the term isn't original to me) "the conservative temperament". It's the way I described myself for most of the last decade. Not all those with the conservative temperament are mainstream conservatives (see: paleocons) and we certainly know that not all mainstream conservatives have the conservative temperament (see: neocons). Temperamental conservatism is a political attitude, not a political affiliation. It has no platform per se. It does not accept something as true even if a so-called conservative says it. It is suspicious of all utopian schemes.
But Lee is correct when he says that
American conservatism has never been limited to this modest version. Since at least the post-World War II era, conservatism has had a positive agenda of dismantling, or at least radically limiting, the welfare and regulatory state; expanding the national security and military apparatus; and defending “traditional” values against all comers. The relation between this movement and conservatism as Dionne describes it has been tenuous at best.The conservative temperament doesn't have to be limited to political conservatives. Lee, again:
Any sane liberalism will take note of the fact that policies can have unintended consequences, that ingrained social habits can’t simply be pulled up by the roots without sacrificing certain values, and that it’s not within the power of government to radically change human nature, as Marxists may have imagined.For that reason I doubt many conservatives would be satisfied with having their political beliefs reduced to those three principles. On the other hand, I do wish more conservatives - particularly those affiliated with or in sympathy with the Tea Party - would reacquaint themselves with the the Burke/Kirk tradition. There is a lot of wisdom there, even for those of us who don't consider ourselves conservatives.