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The Conservative Ascendancy: How the GOP Right Made Political History

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674026209
ISBN-10: 0674026209
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Editorial Reviews

Review

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 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 The End of Southern Exceptionalism

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

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 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 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 (New York Times Book Review 2007-11-18)

It is the 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...Critchlow traces the travails of the conservative movement through the political battles involving Sen. Robert A. Taft, Sen. Barry Goldwater, President Richard Nixon and President Gerald Ford, all Republicans. 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. (Chattanooga Times Free Press 2008-03-10)

Critchlow's book is perhaps the best scholarly overview of the conservative movement in print.
--Daniel McCarthy (American Conservative 2008-03-24)

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.
--J. R. Dudas (Choice 2008-04-01)

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.
--Phyllis Schlafly (World Net Daily 2008-03-07)

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.
--Godfrey Hodgson (Journal of American History 2008-06-01)

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.
--Kevin Mattson (Dissent 2008-06-01)

About the Author

Donald T. Critchlow is Professor of History at Saint Louis University.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (November 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674026209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674026209
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,036,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Edward Engler on July 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Whether you are Liberal or Conservative, Democrat or Republican, if you are a political junkie, you will like Donald T. Critchlow's "The Conservative Ascendancy: How the GOP Right Made Political History." This is a history of political maneuvering of individuals interested in countering Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and confronting Communism.

Critchlow documents how these ideas drew various interest groups, many of whom were not Republicans, together. It follows the nomination of Barry Goldwater for President of the United States, support of Richard Nixon, the first big Conservative triumph of Ronald Reagan and on to the election of George W. Bush.

This history covers the losses as well as triumphs of American Conservatives. It covers issues that brought them to power, that cost them elections and issues that divided the Republican Party itself. I think that anyone interested in politics will not be able to put this book down.
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Format: Hardcover
Critchlow uses most of his written resources tracing the electoral victories of Republicans while never defining the definition of conservatism and how one applies the term to presidents or elected officials. Nixon and HW Bush are reffered to as not representing conservatism yet Reagan is defined as a stalwart and unifier of conservatives. However, a view of his presidency would seem to invalidate the economic conservatism along with almost every record of a Republican President and even Republican intellectuals. Critchlow also cites European intellectuals as the influence of American Conservatism although few conservatives have read the works of Hayek, Mises, Rothbard, Kirk, Buckley etc who he cites. The first group of three would never dream to call themselves conservatives let alone Republicans and their economic theories are given no notice by most Republican leaning economists. The author also gives little credit to the movement of the Tea Party and gives a mixed judgement on W.'s conservatism although I think Republican let alone conservatives few praises would seemingly provide an answer.

The book overall gives little account of actions taken by Republicans undermining the supposed conservative sentiments they possess (Financial Crisis, regulations, Entitlement Programs) The few debates are portrayed as anti-New Deal vs. pro New Deal and sectional conflict between factions of the Republican Party. Pages are spent on the 2008, 2004, 2000, 1968 elections which in retrospect were not years that are significant to the expected thesis of the book.

The author possesses a wealth of knowledge on electoral history but does not match his book's title to his work.
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