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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How and Why The Right Went Wrong, September 10, 2007
This review is from: Conservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right (Hardcover)
In the last few years, there have been a number of books that note that the conservative movement and the Republican Party is not conserving what it used to. These books include Pat Buchanan's "Where the Right Went Wrong," Bruce Bartlett's "Impostor" and Richard Viguerie's "Conservatives Betrayed." All of these books are worth reading, but they are pretty much limited to listing certain issues that conservatives are supposed to support: opposition to illegal immigration, a national interest foreign policy, limited government, states' rights, judicial restraint, opposition to gay rights and abortion etc. and how the Republican Party, George W. Bush, and/or the conservative movement have failed to live up to these principles.

This is a worthy endeavor, but they have one major shortcoming: they say "Where the Right Went Wrong" but they don't do that much of "How and Why the Right Went Wrong". Most of these books claim there was some golden age of conservatism: usually under Reagan, in some cases up to the 1994 "Republican Revolution," and then things suddenly went sour. Other than criticizing the neoconservatives (to differing degrees,) and the corrupting influence of power, they offer few ideas as to why this once great movement was doing very little of value today. And with the exclusion of Buchanan, most of these men had been relatively silent about the problem until it was far too late.

Paul Gottfried's book begins where these books end. Anyone who is familiar with the Prof. Gottfried's work knows that he has long been critical of the Republican Party and the neoconservatives. While he still has no love lost for either, this book doesn't expend much energy on them, but rather how they became so respected among otherwise right thinking conservatives.

Gottfried goes after many of the sacred cows and premises of the conservative movement--particularly it opposition to German historicism as "moral relavatism" and it's insistent on the importance of abstract "values" as being at the root of many of the Right's problems. While Gottfried shows respect to thinkers like Russell Kirk, he does not think all the problems are the result of too few Republican hacks reading "The Conservative Mind," and in fact looks at how certain aspect of Kirk and other conservative hero's thinking may have led us to the mess we are in now.

This book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the state of the American Right and how it got there.
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