Saturday, November 3, 2007

"The Conservative Ascendancy"

New from Harvard University Press: The Conservative Ascendancy: How the GOP Right Made Political History by Donald T. Critchlow.

About the book, from the publisher:

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.