Brad DeLong has an interesting post about who counts as an "honest conservative." One must clearly be anti-Bush, and one's anti-Bushism must precede 2007. I think I agree with those criteria concerning other people.
What about myself? For some valences of the word, I think of myself as a "conservative." I think there is a human nature given by our biology, which is largely immune to social tinkering. As a result, I think incentives matter and kin matters. I think universalistic justice needs to be tempered by love of one's own, as well as the other way around. More concretely, I'm a monarchist and a firm constitutional conservative -- if there was one change I could make to our constitution, it would be to protect property rights and security of contract. I think government failure is more of a problem than market failure. I'm not against social insurance or redistribution of wealth in principle, but I think they need to take moral hazard into account. I like federations with weak central governments, and I don't see why the state needs more than 40% of the GDP. In Canadian terms, all of the above definitely puts me on the right.
I should say that I have never felt totally comfortable with the Canadian right, though, for a number of reasons. Many of them are atavistic and irrational. But one that I can't shake is a feeling that the Anglo-Canadian right is led by people suffering from oikophobia, a sense that Canada is an embarrassing provincial backwater. Of course, there is nothing more provincial than embarrassment at one's provincialness. And there is nothing less Tory than impatience at people's traditional loyalties.
I can honestly say that I never liked George W. Bush. No doubt part of it was purely discreditable prejudices inherited from my class. But not all. The Karla Faye Tucker thing convinced me he is a sadist. I was convinced by Paul Krugman that his fiscal plan was reckless. When I saw the first debate with Gore, I thought it was the most one-sided trashing (by Gore) I'd ever seen in politcs.
I may be one of the few people really shocked by Bush v. Gore, since I had a misplaced faith in Scalia and Thomas's integrity.
September 11 definitely shocked me, and the reaction of leftist and nationalist Canadians shocked me even more. I couldn't believe I had ever shared political opinions with them. I appreciated Bush's immediate response to anti-Muslim hysteria. Up to the Axis-of-Evil speech, I came to think that the Bush administration wasn't so bad after all. I didn't like the concept of a "war on terror", but I thought it was harmless hyperbole.
When war against Iraq was first mooted, I wasn't sure where I would stand. It seemed clearly irrelevant to dealing with Sunni extremism, and quite possibly counter-productive. On the other hand, I saw some point in using the opportunity to give the global non-proliferation regime some teeth.
The leadup to the war convinced me that the Bush administration wasn't genuinely interested in making non-proliferation work. The claim that Guantanomo was a space beyond any law at all went against what I thought of as core beliefs. And my knee-jerk patriotism was aroused by the attempt to slap Canada around. I've been a pretty firm unbalanced Bush hater ever since.
Readers, especially those of dextrous leanings, are invited to say when they decided Bush was "Worst.President.Ever" material. (I assume by now everyone thinks so?)