- The parties are tough on terrorism, extremism, and international disorder. David Cameron has defined the security threat facing the U.K. as not only “violent extremism”—the Obama formulation—but all ideological movements that reject democracy and equal rights, “whether they are violent in their means or not.” And while making clear that the West has no quarrel with Islam and its believers, Cameron, unlike Obama, has been willing to state explicitly that the extremism that threatens Western democracies is, obviously, “Islamist extremism.” Stephen Harper and Tony Abbott have been especially firm and consistent supporters of Israel. As Chris Pyne, one of the many strong friends of Israel in the Australian cabinet, said during last year’s Gaza War, “Whenever there has been a congregation of freedom-loving nations versus non-freedom-loving nations, Australia has always been prepared to be in the fight and always on the right side. And that’s how we view the State of Israel—that we are on the right side.” Harper has been a forceful advocate within NATO for the defense of Ukraine. When Harper encountered Vladimir Putin at last year’s G-20 meeting, I’m told he said, “I have only one thing to say to you: Get out of Ukraine.” Putin replied, “I’m not in Ukraine.” Harper retorted, “And it’s because you say things like that that I have nothing to say to you.”
Unlike their U.S. counterparts, these conservatives don’t fetishize the music, fashion, or religious practices of some of their voters in a way that prevents them from reaching all of their potential voters. Unlike their U.S. counterparts, they accept that healthcare security actually supports—rather than inhibits—the entrepreneurial risk-taking of a dynamic free-market economy. Unlike their U.S. counterparts, they have found ways to both enforce immigration laws and to make immigrant populations feel at home politically.
Of course, these conservatives differ among themselves in important ways. And their success is conditional; all face political challenges at home, including a tough re-election for Stephen Harper in Canada later this year. But what they all show their American counterparts is that the fear of a “tipping point” beyond which a state plunges into socialist dependency is utterly misplaced. Countries with universal health coverage, for instance, can be hospitable to conservatives—if conservatives can resist the impulse to repeal that coverage. It’s the resistance to the program, not the program itself, that sinks conservative hopes. Politics doesn’t tip. It evolves. And winning conservative parties evolve with it.