I've always been intrigued by the conservative mind set and I've always associated it with the older generation.( I do tend to paint with broad strokes). The whole idea of "young Republicans" on college campuses dressed in three piece suits always seemed to me a bit oxymoronic. . . sort of like "compassionate Republican" or "gospel truth". It's perfectly understandable that the "C" word would be attached to let us say more mature people— especially the ones that you can fool all the time. After all, they have seen the nation decline in so many ways in their lifetime (moral, economic, prestige etc). They want to hang on to the past while it keeps slipping away. They view liberalism as the agent of change but that change seems to occur for the worse. One has to give them credit. They get angry rather than apathetic because anger is a better motivator. I only wish more liberals would get angry but not in the nasty hateful manner of the neo-cons.
The more extreme forms of conservatism sometimes manifests itself in the form of reactionary fundamentalism, which can be seen being played out not only in the U.S. but around the world. Conservative factions of all religions are gaining popularity. Jews, Muslims, Christians, and even Hindus are moving toward the crazy end of the belief scale. How long it can sustain itself in a modern society is debatable but my guess is that we are witnessing it's last gasp. Think of a cornered animal how it inflates itself and bears its teeth! Even young evangelicals are rejecting the extreme views of many of the Religious Right.
Fundamentalists are notorious for overreaching. They overreached in 1925 with the Skopes Monkey Trial; they overreached in 1933 with the abolishment of prohibition; they overreached in 1964 with the Civil Rights Act; and in 1965 with the Immigration and Nationality Act and of course the Supreme Court's school prayer decision. They just don't like change. I think they are still trying to get over the invention of the wheel.
Psychologists have a term for this mind set. It's called cognitive dissonance — a reaction between dearly held beliefs and undeniable evidence in opposition to those beliefs. It is a characteristic of a rigid mind and expresses itself in anger — and it is dangerous. However, to be perfectly fair, it's not limited to conservatives. Those in progressive faith communities will have to take a stand against the fundamentalists lest the Judeo-Christian heritage becomes identified as narrow, exclusive, homophobic and at times hateful.
Albert Einstein, who definitely was not a conservative, sums it up this way: "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe"