One of the reasons why you know conservatives have limited political authority is that taking a public stand on key conservative issues will sometimes damage your economic standing, whereas taking anodyne stands on certain key progressive points will improve your economic standing and access to key networks of financing and influence.
We’re mostly familiar with the affirmations of progressive beliefs that all applicants to prestigious universities must complete. We know that membership within relatively right-wing institutions is neutral at best, and a major negative at worst, when seeking to climb the establishment status system. Many institutions labeled as conservative are radically progressive by early 196os standards, so even climbing up those ladders is likely to make someone just a sluggish progressive with bad comprehension of doctrine.
Striver progressives usually believe in the ideology, but might not have a full grasp of the theoretical framework. They might be able to name-check terms like “the open society,” but are more likely to draw a blank if you mention Karl Popper. They should know what “social justice” means, but they will probably draw a blank if you ask them about Rawls, unless they are unusually good students. When phrases like ‘counter-cyclical stimulus’ are in the press every day, they will know that it is a good thing, even if they don’t know who wrote the “General Theory.”
Because being a progressive is synonymous with being true to the state religion, progressives are good citizens loyal to a state with an insane and self-destructive ideology which is not terribly capable of self-correction. It’s also quite wrong to think that an appeal to self-interest can convince a striver progressive to change their views. Especially their publicly held views. If they did that, they could be ruined socially, so they must be inflexible and deaf to persuasion.
Where conservatives tend to be mistaken is in believing that the old values of free speech and open inquiry are still widely-held, especially in the upper echelons of the educated public. Because conservatives themselves tend to be quite distant from the centers of power, understanding travels slowly, sometimes 20-30 years behind schedule or more. They may still have vestigial beliefs from previous American eras that held that maintaining an informed, questioning public along with serious public debate were necessary to maintain the health and values of the American republic.
This is basically not the case in the American power centers. In these centers, there is a correct, scientific view, which is the American progressive viewpoint. Some small points are open for debate on occasion, but it’s the moral and material obligation of the educated class to transmit the truth of progress to the rest of the country and to the world. The framework of progressivism is not open to debate or questioning, and anyone who does that outs themselves as a person not fit for good society.
Thinking that these progressive leaders and opinion-shapers are themselves amenable for opinion-shaping is to make a mistake. Even speaking to such a person in a confrontational way is often interpreted by progressives as akin to a physical attack, and certainly not to be permitted from one of the little people, who are there to be shaped, rather than to do the shaping themselves.
For the right to progress, it has to promote a better understanding of the social structure of the professional left, the way that it maintains power, and why the typical political methods employed by conservatives are routinely neutralized at little cost to the professional structure of the left.