Synopses & Reviews
Listen to a short interview with Donald Critchlow
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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.
Whatever the political future will hold, there can be no question that American politics has moved to the right over the past half-century. In The Conservative Ascendancy, Donald Critchlow tells how the Republican right moved from the political fringe to become, often, the dominant moving force in our politics. Michael Barone, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
This uncommonly thoughtful history by a major scholar convincingly depicts how intellectuals, politicians, strategists, activist networks, grassroots mobilization, and ideological media combined to radically shift the center of gravity in American political life. Ira Katznelson, author of < i=""> When Affirmative Action Was White <>
A central question of postwar American politics is how one public philosophy, associated with New Deal liberalism, was displaced by another, the 'conservative ascendancy.' Don Critchlow searches for an answer on an extended tour of postwar political history, guided throughout by the roller-coaster fortunes of the conservative intellectuals and grassroots activists who made up the Republican Right. Byron E. Shafer, co-author of < i=""> The End of Southern Exceptionalism <>
Once again Donald Critchlow has contributed an essential volume to the growing scholarship on conservatism in American politics. This is a judicious, discerning, and richly informative book. George H. Nash, author of < i=""> The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 <>
Critchlow's work is crucial to understanding the intellectual origins of modern conservatism, the fusion of the anti-communist and anti-government movements with the modern Republican party, and the impetus this fusion lent to the spectacular success of the American right during its 'ascendant' years-1966 to 2004. An indispensable history of the Republican Party and the new right. Thomas Byrne Edsall, author of < i=""> Building Red America <>
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
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. J. R. Dudas - Choice
Critchlow's book is perhaps the best scholarly overview of the conservative movement in print. Chattanooga Times Free Press
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. Daniel McCarthy - American Conservative
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. Phyllis Schlafly - World Net Daily
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. Godfrey Hodgson - Journal of American History
About the Author
Donald T. Critchlow is Professor of History at Saint Louis University.
Table of Contents
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