Ways to know can generally be classified as either evidence-based or faith-based. As something that can be argued for or against; or as something mystic that one can only accept or not. Most of conservatism consists of faith, a belief that truth is what conservatives assert it is. No opposing argument, no objective facts, are strong enough to penetrate this mysticism. It is very much like religious belief. One doesn’t have “proof” or “reason”; one has “belief” or “faith”.
There have been many nations and kingdoms with an official religious faith. If you live there, you must accept that faith. You must believe in that faith, or be labeled as an infidel, unfaithful. This has given rise to farcical situations in several parts of Europe where there was an official faith that was suddenly changed to another faith, and sometimes back again.
Consider this opening remark by Russell Kirk in his “Ten Principles of Conservatism”: “…conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.” But this is no longer true, if it ever was. Today’s conservative Republicans are completely closed to anything the threatens to contradict their mystic faith, their ideology.
Today’s conservatism is in fact the opposite of Kirk’s description. There is an official faith that one simply believes if one is to be a conservative. It is very much an ideology. The ideology has come into full flower since the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Reagan is considered a great man by conservatives, the president who saved the country from continued deterioration. But conservatives are completely blind not only to the crimes that Reagan committed, such as illegally arming a force to overthrow a democratically elected government, but buying the weapons to do it from an official enemy of the US. And the numbers aren’t there. Yes, the very rich are very rich, but everyone else’s lives have slowly deteriorated. We are worse off.
Reagan’s purpose was to wrest the people’s control of their own lives from them and put it into the hands of the rich. One of the most important ways he sought to accomplish this was to slowly destroy all regulation of industry, as well as union representation of workers. By the end of the George W. Bush presidency these had been well accomplished, and the most recent result was the financial collapse of 2008 and the impossible situation we find ourselves in now.
But no conservative can permit herself to understand what has happened, because it contradicts the faith. And so conservatives are unable to make reasonable statements about the direction government should take, because government has taken that direction. The result was disaster, only they are not allowed to understand that, because it contradicts the faith. All has been consolidated into a system of beliefs that no one is allowed to question.