No Right Turn: Conservative Politics in a Liberal America

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Overview

Few question the “right turn” America took after 1966, when liberal political power began to wane. But if they did, No Right Turn suggests, they might discover that all was not really “right” with the conservative golden age. A provocative overview of a half century of American politics, the book takes a hard look at the counterrevolutionary dreams of liberalism’s enemies—to overturn people’s reliance on expanding government, reverse the moral and sexual revolutions, and win the Culture War—and finds them largely unfulfilled.

David Courtwright deftly profiles celebrated and controversial figures, from Clare Booth Luce, Barry Goldwater, and the Kennedy brothers to Jerry Falwell, David Stockman, and Lee Atwater. He shows us Richard Nixon’s keen talent for turning popular anxieties about morality and federal meddling to Republican advantage—and his inability to translate this advantage into reactionary policies. Corporate interests, boomer lifestyles, and the media weighed heavily against Nixon and his successors, who placated their base with high-profile attacks on crime, drugs, and welfare dependency. Meanwhile, religious conservatives floundered on abortion and school prayer, obscenity, gay rights, and legalized vices like gambling, and fiscal conservatives watched in dismay as the bills mounted.

We see how President Reagan’s mélange of big government, strong defense, lower taxes, higher deficits, mass imprisonment, and patriotic symbolism proved an illusory form of conservatism. Ultimately, conservatives themselves rebelled against George W. Bush’s profligate brand of Reaganism. Courtwright’s account is both surprising and compelling, a bracing argument against some of our most cherished clichés about recent American history.

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Editorial Reviews

American Prospect

There is much to admire here...No Right Turn is a wonderful read. Courtwright engagingly profiles figures from Clare Boothe Luce to Johnny Carson. He has gone to all the archives, interviewed all the right people, and thought deeply about his findings...He tells his story with plenty of fresh twists and turns.
— Laura Kalman

Bookforum

Unlike many historians of conservatism, who stop with the election of Ronald Reagan as if it were the end of the story, Courtwright takes us up to today. His book makes the case that there has been no real conservative revolution in American politics.
— Kim Phillips-Fein

New Republic online

Marvelously idiosyncratic.
— Alan Wolfe

Choice

As a critique of U.S. politics and culture since the 1960s, No Right Turn is both thorough and a lively read.
— M. N. Green

James Morone
A first-rate book--energetic, insightful, and a treat to read. Courtwright describes how moral conservatives joined with economic conservatives to form a powerful Republican coalition, only to discover a fundamental illusion: the Republican bus headed to market square with only an occasional detour (drugs, crime, welfare) to church street. This well-told story does the fantastic subject full justice.
Gil Troy
Crisply written, colorful, and often out-of-the-box original, this is a bold, sweeping look at the last four decades of American history.
Andrew Hartman
Professor Courtwright's book is quite simply the best political history of the era from Nixon to the present. In lively prose, armed with a mountain of fresh research, including several interviews with key players, Courtwright convincingly argues that American political culture since the 'sixties' is nothing if not perplexing. He demonstrates that, although the 'moral right' entered the political arena with a vengeance, it failed to reshape the national culture due to the pervasiveness of countercultural values, which had been sopped up by the unstoppable forces of consumer capitalism. Yet, Courtwright also shows that where the moral right failed, the economic right succeeded--that contemporary American life is dominated by both cultural and economic libertarianism, the twin legacies of the boomer generation.
American Prospect - Laura Kalman
There is much to admire here...No Right Turn is a wonderful read. Courtwright engagingly profiles figures from Clare Boothe Luce to Johnny Carson. He has gone to all the archives, interviewed all the right people, and thought deeply about his findings...He tells his story with plenty of fresh twists and turns.
Bookforum - Kim Phillips-Fein
Unlike many historians of conservatism, who stop with the election of Ronald Reagan as if it were the end of the story, Courtwright takes us up to today. His book makes the case that there has been no real conservative revolution in American politics.
New Republic online - Alan Wolfe
Marvelously idiosyncratic.
Choice - M. N. Green
As a critique of U.S. politics and culture since the 1960s, No Right Turn is both thorough and a lively read.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674046771
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,450,875
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

David T. Courtwright is John A. Delaney Presidential Professor at the University of North Florida.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 28, 2010

    recommendatory to all real conservatives

    I loved the book, it was highly informative and still enjoyable.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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