More seriously, it dawned on me that a main reason Sullivan’s explanation of conservatism doesn’t quite click is that it is so bloody British (which would also explain why he and Derb are more sympatico in outlook than he realizes). The British constitution, for example, is a very different beast than the American. The philosophical requirements for supporting an unwritten constitution are significantly different than those needed for supporting a written one, particularly the American one. Sullivan’s Oakeshottian approach — which never really caught on America — is also, obviously, very, very British.
I’m not nearly up to speed enough on the subtler distinctions between British conservatism and American conservatism to go on much longer without thinking and reading more. But I think there’s more than a grain of truth here.