Modern American conservatism dates from the founding of National Review by William F. Buckley in 1955.  And the death of modern conservatism probably dates from last week when the presumptive Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump, called National Review a “failing publication that has lost its way … its circulation is way down with its influence being at an all time low”, after the publication called for his defeat.

Today’s political conservatism is dying from the same self inflicted wounds that brought down earlier versions in American history: it is negative and resentful, not positive and uplifting.  Negativity is not the American way.

Before Buckley, conservatism had a sordid past.  In the 1920s, it was blatantly anti-Catholic.  National Prohibition, the great conservative cause of that era, targeted drunken Irish.  The Ku Klux Klan remade itself in the 1920s as a virulent anti-Catholic organization with support from prominent conservatives, and in 1928 the nation was treated to an orgy of anti-Catholicism in the assaults on Catholic presidential candidate Al Smith.

In the 1930s, conservatives replaced anti-Catholicism with anti-Semitism.  Wall Street and the big banks were all Jewish run and had caused the Depression.  A Catholic priest of all people named Father Charles Coughlin railed against President Roosevelt and Jewish conspirators on his popular radio show.  In his last major speech for the conservative isolationist group America First, Charles Lindbergh blamed the Jews for trying to trick America into the Second World War.

The war ended all this and by the late 1940s conservative political thinking was dead as a doornail.  Intellectuals of the day like Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and James MacGregor Burns insisted that big government was the answer to America’s problems; the bigger the better, and big federal government was the best government of all.  Internationally, America had to be the world’s policeman spreading democracy in the image of Woodrow Wilson.

This pay-any-price bear-any-burden liberal internationalism died in the jungles of Vietnam, and big government soon became clunky government, dedicated not to making people’s lives better, but to redistributing their wealth.  Conservatism enjoyed a spectacular rebirth, led in part by National Review, that culminated in Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II bringing down the Soviet Union.

And then in the past 15 years conservatism has sadly reverted to its past.  A group of neo-conservatives in the George W. Bush Administration resurrected the worst of Wilsonian internationalism with their follies in the Middle East, trying to make Iraq safe for democracy with disastrous consequences and thousands of lost American lives.

The so-called conservative Bush Administration turned out to be one blunder after another.  Bush applied the favored conservative economic policy of big tax cuts but instead of stimulating the economy they led to huge budget deficits; his wars were never paid for, so much for fiscal conservatism; and he left his successor the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

And in the Obama years conservatism has regressed to little more than a hollow echo chamber.  Obamacare: of course we hate it but we have nothing to replace it with; Islamic terrorism: of course we hate it but we have no policy for fighting it beyond calling Muslims names; the budget deficit: of course we hate it but don’t expect us to make any real cuts or raise any real taxes.

But the worst of all is the new found conservative disdain of immigrants, which in many ways reverts back to their dislike of Catholics and Jews in an earlier age.  The bigotry against today’s immigrants finds the same things wrong with them that were wrong with Catholics and Jews; they are “different”, not in the American mainstream, and they threaten the existing economic and cultural order.

In their lengthy screed against Trump National Review’s editors found fault with Trump’s immigration policy in this way:” Trump says he will put a big door in his beautiful wall, an implicit endorsement of the dismayingly conventional view that current levels of legal immigration are fine.”  The editors go onto say Trump advocates “increased legal immigration” through the H-1B program for high skilled immigrants like engineers.

So National Review’s problem with Trump on immigration is not that he is a racist bigot, but by God he can’t be allowed to bring more highly educated South Asian engineer into Silicon Valley.

Take out the word “immigrant” or “Mexican” or Muslim” and put in the words “Catholic” or “Jew” and you’ll see how today’s conservatives have become modern Father Coughlins with immigrant-hating talk radio, and modern Charles Lindberghs with their blame of immigrants for America’s economic ills.

Ever since the anti-immigrant Know Nothings of the 1850s, this has been a losing political strategy.  We are a nation of immigrants, but since 2013, National Review and similar conservative publications have been the leading voices in opposing immigration reform, feeding the resentment and racism Donald Trump has so brilliantly exploited.

It ill behooves them now to complain so loudly about Trump; after all, they helped create him.  In their strident opposition to immigration reform over the past four years, conservatives and the politicians who follow them set boiling the pot Trump is now stirring.

Today’s conservative politicians who rail against immigration are not ”native Americans”, their ancestors all came to these shores on rickety boats or in chains on slave ships like all other Americans.  Trump himself is the son of an immigrant from Scotland; his closest rival Ted Cruz is a foreign born immigrant from Canada.

And now having helped create this monster, it would appear conservatives will have no ability to stop Trump from being the Republican nominee, even though he will be the least conservative GOP nominee since Wendell Willkie in 1940.

Gone from today’s conservatism are the sunny uplands of Ronald Reagan’s morning in America.  Instead it is almost Hobbesian in its approach to the political debate; cruel, brutish and with an increasingly short political half life.  For conservatives, this year is shaping up to be a first class disaster.