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The Conservative Revolution: The Movement That Remade America from Robert Taft to Newt Gingrich
     

The Conservative Revolution: The Movement That Remade America from Robert Taft to Newt Gingrich

by Lee Edwards
 

The triumph of the conservative movement in reshaping American politics is one of the great untold stories of the past fifty years. At the end of World War II, hardly anyone in public life would admit to being a conservative, but as Lee Edwards shows in this magisterial work, in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, a small group of committed men and women began to chip

Overview


The triumph of the conservative movement in reshaping American politics is one of the great untold stories of the past fifty years. At the end of World War II, hardly anyone in public life would admit to being a conservative, but as Lee Edwards shows in this magisterial work, in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, a small group of committed men and women began to chip away at the liberal colossus, and their descendants would scale the ramparts of power in the 1980s and 1990s. Not even the fall of Newt Gingrich has changed the indisputable fact that the movement has truly rewritten the rules of American political life, and the republic will never be the same.

Edwards tells the stories of how conservatives built a movement from the ground up by starting magazines, by building grass-roots organizations, and by seizing control of the Republican party from those who espoused collaboration with the liberals and promised only to manage the welfare state more efficiently and not to dismantle it. But most of all he tells the story of four men, four leaders who put their personal stamp on this movement and helped to turn it into the most important political force in our country today:

* Robert Taft, "Mr. Republican," the beacon of conservative principle during the lean Roosevelt and Truman years

* Barry Goldwater, "Mr. Conservative," the flinty Westerner who inspired a new generation

* Ronald Reagan, "Mr. President," the optimist whose core beliefs were sturdy enough to subdue an evil empire

* Newt Gingrich, "Mr. Speaker," the fiery visionary who won a Congress but lost control of it

By their example and vision, these men brought intellectual andideological stability to an often fractions conservative movement and held the high ground against the pragmatists who would compromise conservative principles for transitory political advantage. And through their efforts and those of their supporters, they transformed the American political landscape so thoroughly that a Democratic president would one day proclaim, "The era of big government is over."

Political history in the grand style, The Conservative Revolution is the definitive book on a conservative movement that not only has left its mark on our century but is poised to shape the century about to dawn.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Edwards (The Power of Ideas) tells a rousing history of the American conservative movement since WWII from a true believer's standpoint. He provides concise portraits of the four iconic conservative figures whom he calls the Four Misters--Robert Taft (Mr. Republican), Barry Goldwater (Mr. Conservative), Ronald Reagan (Mr. President) and Newt Gingrich (Mr. Speaker). In recounting how conservatism reemerged from the shadow of the New Deal to successfully shift the center of American political debate rightward, Edwards sagely emphasizes those elements that have helped define conservatism as a movement rather than as just a wing of the GOP: magazines such as the National Review; organizations such as the Christian Coalition; single-issue groups such as the pro-gun lobby. There are, however, some flaws to his approach. The book lacks any deep analysis of the demographic trends that have helped the conservative cause, such as the growth of the South and suburbanization of the voting population. He gives short shrift to the divisions between fiscal and social conservatives, and he says almost nothing about the reemergence of liberal "Rockefeller" Republicans such as former Massachusetts governor William Weld and New Jersey's Christine Todd Whitman. Still, his partisan history is a worthwhile investment for general readers--even for liberal readers who enjoy gnashing their teeth. (Apr.)
Library Journal
With Republicans controlling both houses of Congress and a large majority of governors' offices, Edwards (The Power of Ideas, LJ 2/1/98) argues that a conservative revolution has occurred. As the author of biographies of Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater and a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, Edwards brings an unabashedly partisan bias to his interpretation of American political history since 1945, identifying four individuals who made significant contributions to the movement's development: Robert Taft, Goldwater, Reagan, and Newt Gingrich. This book is as much the truncated biographies of these four as it is a concise political history of contemporary America. As scholarly political history, it is far from objective (a better, if dated, choice is E.J. Dionne's Why Americans Hate Politics, LJ 4/15/91); it also falls short as an examination of American conservatism (again, a better, but dated, choice is Paul Gottfried's The Conservative Movement, Twayne, 1988). Edwards fails to define conservatism, instead confusing it simply with the Republican Party. For comprehensive political science collections.--Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, PA
Brooke Norman
Edwards may be premature in declaring a conservative victory, but as history this book will certainly do until the real victory comes along.
National Review
Joseph Shattan
He does convey a vivid and unapologetic sense of the world as seen through conservative eyes, and in America's prevailing climate that is indeed an eye-opener.
The American Spectator
Kirkus Reviews
An unabashedly ideological political history by a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. You would think that only people living under rocks for the last 20 years would be surprised to learn of conservative strength in recent American politics and that this success obviates the need for paranoia about liberal influence, but Edwards (Goldwater: The Man Who Made a Revolution, 1995, etc.) disagrees. In his view, liberal biases have prevented recognition of the triumph of conservatism, and he is out to set the record straight. His presentation is colored throughout by the assumption that politics is a battle of good (conservatives) vs. evil (liberals), with predictable results. Consider negative political campaigns, for example. Lyndon Johnson's ads attacking Barry Goldwater are denounced with the comment that for Johnson "extremism in the pursuit of the presidency was no vice"; George Bush's ads attacking Michael Dukakis are praised as "the most effective negative ads in presidential campaigning since the Democrats in 1964," with the Willie Horton ads downplayed as the work of an independent PAC. The loose chronological organization features three conservative heroes, Robert Taft, Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan, and a host of lesser figures, ranging from Joseph McCarthy to Newt Gingrich. Throughout the discussion, the critical steps in building the coalition that eventually put Reagan in the White House are noted, with no hint that there might be tensions between, for example, Goldwater's commitment to individual freedom and the moral agenda of social conservatives. The question that is addressed is whether or not conservative critics of government can govern effectively when inpositions of leadership, and Edwards's answer is, of course, yes. However, citing the strong record of conservative governors administering state governments leaves hanging the question of conservative leadership in Washington and constitutes a rather weak conclusion. Readers who share Edwards's assumptions and dislike subtle analyses that might challenge them will find this book an enjoyable read and an essential history of recent American politics. .

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780684835006
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
03/02/1999
Pages:
389
Product dimensions:
6.51(w) x 9.58(h) x 1.21(d)

Meet the Author

Lee Edwards teaches politics at the Catholic University of America and has written seven previous books, including biographies of Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater. A senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a senior editor of The World & I magazine, he lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

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