Micklethwait and Wooldridge, respectively the U. Their book offers more than a survey of the rise of Ronald Reagan or the policies of George W. Bush--although it contains much of that. Instead, The Right Nation is part social analysis, part history of ideas that examines how conservative ideology became such a defining feature of American life. Like Edmund Burke before them, the authors argue that America has always been a "fundamentally conservative nation" whose revolution, unlike the one in France, was about the limitations on government power.
But since World War II, conservative ideology has become a reactive and, more recently, preemptive force that has shunted liberalism to the sidelines. Indeed, the authors argue that today's liberalism, in the hands of Bill Clinton or John Kerry, is merely a pale, centrist echo of conservative thought. Micklethwait and Wooldridge never show their own political cards. But they clearly take conservative ideas seriously, and they examine both the popular appeal and the intellectual weaknesses of those ideas, from Russell Kirk's to Paul Wolfowitz's. Conservatism in the United States, they conclude, is another example of American exceptionalism.
In the war between the Dynamo and the Virgin, as Henry Adams characterized the battle between progress and tradition, most American conservatives are on the side of the Dynamo. They think that the world offers all sorts of wonderful possibilities. And they feel that the only thing that is preventing people from attaining these possibilities is the dead liberal hand of the past. Eliot did , the Republicans ever since the s have played the populist card.
Bush presented himself as a defender of all-American values against the Harvard Yard liberalism of Michael Dukakis. In , George W. As a result, modern American conservatism has flourished not just in country clubs and boardrooms, but at the grass roots—on talk radio and at precinct meetings, and in revolts against high taxes, the regulation of firearms and other invidious attempts by liberal do-gooders to force honest Americans into some predetermined mold.
We hasten to add that there are numerous exceptions to this exceptionalism.
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Some religious conservatives would happily put the Good Book at the center of government. Visit a Southern landed aristocrat and you will hear familiar stories of military exploits, riding horses and ancestors killed in duels. All the same, the fact that the Right is such a broad church—that it includes a hefty dose of liberal heresy along with the traditionalism—yields both weaknesses and strengths. On the positive side, it helps to explain why it is such a big and vibrant movement.
American conservatism cannot help but contain contradictions because it contains so many vital elements. There are thousands of conservative activists, hundreds of conservative think tanks, a small army of conservative intellectuals. Yet the broad church also means that people are often worshipping different gods. But how can you trumpet a strong military and a vigorous foreign policy and then insist on small government?
How can you celebrate individualism but then try to subject those individuals to the rule of God? Wherever you go in the Right Nation, you discover similar contradictions. More articles. Previous articles. America has produced a more potent conservative movement than any other country. Most Popular. By David French. I'd urge everyone to read my colleague Jim Geraghty's post on the thuggery this weekend in Portland. It was appalling to watch masked Antifa thugs attack Andy Ngo, and it was also appalling that the police weren't immediately present to arrest his attackers.
Antifa's propensity to violence is well known, and Read More. By Jim Geraghty. Kat Timpf explains why a year-old Maryland girl shouldn't be charged with child-porn distribution after making a video of herself. White House. Making the click-through worthwhile: The Antifa thugs take over the streets of Portland again, a disturbing report that the Trump administration is considering accepting the North Korean nuclear program, and the lesser-known Democratic candidates start feeling the pressure.
Thuggery Comes to Portland in the Form A heartland radical perhaps sees more clearly than two English converts to conservative ideology what that populist patrician, Theodore Roosevelt, saw years ago: that America "will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in.
The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America by John Micklethwait
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