The Conservative Ascendancy: How the GOP Right Made Political History

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Overview

Listen to a short interview with Donald Critchlow

Host: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane

Despite significant losses in the 2006 midterm elections, the Republican Right remains a powerful and defining force in American politics. Donald Critchlow, a leading historian of American conservatism, shows that time and again the GOP Right appeared defeated, only to rebound with explosive force. The ascendancy of the GOP Right was not preordained, nor was its political triumph inevitable. Rather, the history of the postwar Right was one of fierce political warfare as moderate Republicans battled right-wing Republicans for control of their party, and conservatives battled liberals for control of government. In the struggle against the dominant New Deal state, conservatives gained control of the Republican party, but their advance against liberalism and the Democratic party proved less steady. At each point the accident of historical circumstance precluded a predictable outcome.

In this provocative history of the Right in modern America, Critchlow finds a deep dilemma inherent in how conservative Republicans expressed their anti-statist ideology in an age of mass democracy and Cold War hostilities. As the Right moved forward with its political program, partisanship intensified and ideological division widened—both between the parties and across the electorate. This intensified partisanship reflects the vibrancy of a mature democracy, Critchlow argues, and a new level of political engagement despite its disquieting effect on American political debate.

The Conservative Ascendancy boldly captures the twists and turns of the GOP Right over the last sixty years, offering a story of how deeply held beliefs about the nature of the individual and the good society are translated into political power.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
Critchlow offers a valuable overview of how the contemporary American conservative movement gained control of the Republican Party over the course of the 20th century. Critchlow's analysis is especially strong early in the book, where he details the intellectual roots of the ongoing distrust between the social conservative wing of the GOP, which insists that government should stimulate flagging traditional values and practices, and the libertarian wing, which calls for less governmental intrusion into American life...The Conservative Ascendancy provides important context for understanding the continuing, and arguably growing, rightward drift of American politics.
— J. R. Dudas
Dissent
Critchlow tells a story of fierce determination, of infrastructure growing around that fierce determination, and of conservatives consistently engaging in a project of purifying the Republican Party and pushing it to the right.
— Kevin Mattson
Journal of American History
Critchlow has written a careful narrative of how the new conservatism has achieved a qualified and perhaps now fragile ascendancy...[T]his is a readable and fair-minded, as well as a scholarly and useful, account of one of the most important themes in American politics over the last third of a century.
— Godfrey Hodgson
World Net Daily
An indispensable scholarly account of how a small unorganized band of writers and an equally unorganized collection of grass-roots activists launched a counteroffensive against the prevailing economic and political order of the 1930s and 1940s, and by the 1980s became the dominant force in U.S. politics...Those who lived through those years will delight in the extraordinary detail produced by Critchlow’s extensive research and his more than 500 footnotes, and those too young to remember will learn history they cannot get anywhere else.

— Phyllis Schlafly

Michael Kimmage
Critchlow, a professor of history at St. Louis University, skillfully shows the connection among ideas, institutions and the conservative ascendancy. His previous books include a monograph on the activist Phyllis Schlafly, and in this survey he draws on her biography to impressive effect.
—The New York Times
American Conservative
Critchlow's book is perhaps the best scholarly overview of the conservative movement in print.
— Daniel McCarthy
Chattanooga Times Free Press
It is the indispensable scholarly account of how a small unorganized band of writers and an equally unorganized collection of grass-roots activists launched a counteroffensive against the prevailing economic and political order of the 1930s and 1940s, and by the 1980s became the dominant force in U.S. politics...Critchlow traces the travails of the conservative movement through the political battles involving Sen. Robert A. Taft, Sen. Barry Goldwater, President Richard Nixon and President Gerald Ford, all Republicans. Those who lived through those years will delight in the extraordinary detail produced by Critchlow's extensive research and his more than 500 footnotes, and those too young to remember will learn history they cannot get anywhere else.
New York Times Book Review
Critchlow skillfully shows the connection among ideas, institutions, and the conservative ascendancy...Critchlow's study helps frame the past. The right revived the fortunes of the postwar Republican Party, offering ideas, institutions and grassroots organization to create an effective coalition, while the radical left, from the 1930s on, has been a burden to the Democratic Party. Coming after Reagan, Bill Clinton captured (and kept) the White House by banishing the far left and moving his party to the right. In this sense, the conservative ascendancy has made bipartisan history.
— Michael Kimmage
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674026209
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2007
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald T. Critchlow is Professor of History at Saint Louis University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

1. European Intellectuals and Conservative Firebrands

2. Triumph and Travail in 1964

3. Trust and Betrayal in the Nixon Years

4. The Power of Ideas and Institutions

5. The Accident of History

6. Forward to the Promised Land

7. The Reagan Decade

8. Democrats Rebound

9. Americans Divided

Notes

Acknowledgments

Index

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2012

    Ninja

    Yu here angelica

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