Pure individualism is not conservatism, much as though people who call themselves conservatives like to think it is. They’ll tell you the American Dream is individuals becoming super rich. But the more traditional definition is one of equal opportunity and justice for all. A shared belief in the social contract and a sense of society as a moral economy. So says historian Sarah Churchwell whose new book is “Behold, America: The Entangled History of ‘America First’ and ‘the American Dream.’” Her research revealed that the conservative American Dream was “opposed to economic inequality and laissez faire capitalism,” and that “a hundred years ago billionaires were considered un-American.” The phrase “America First” however has no similarly benign roots. It’s always been a fig leaf for racism. The KKK used it as a slogan, and it still means the same thing. Can we still recover the conservative American Dream? We need liberals to do that.

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