THE CONSERVATIVE REVOLUTION by Lee Edwards

THE CONSERVATIVE REVOLUTION

The Movement That Remade America

KIRKUS REVIEW

An unabashedly ideological political history by a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. You would think that only people living under rocks for the last 20 years would be surprised to learn of conservative strength in recent American politics and that this success obviates the need for paranoia about liberal influence, but Edwards (Goldwater: The Man Who Made a Revolution, 1995, etc.) disagrees. In his view, liberal biases have prevented recognition of the triumph of conservatism, and he is out to set the record straight. His presentation is colored throughout by the assumption that politics is a battle of good (conservatives) vs. evil (liberals), with predictable results. Consider negative political campaigns, for example. Lyndon Johnson’s ads attacking Barry Goldwater are denounced with the comment that for Johnson “extremism in the pursuit of the presidency was no vice”; George Bush’s ads attacking Michael Dukakis are praised as “the most effective negative ads in presidential campaigning since the Democrats in 1964,” with the Willie Horton ads downplayed as the work of an independent PAC. The loose chronological organization features three conservative heroes, Robert Taft, Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan, and a host of lesser figures, ranging from Joseph McCarthy to Newt Gingrich. Throughout the discussion, the critical steps in building the coalition that eventually put Reagan in the White House are noted, with no hint that there might be tensions between, for example, Goldwater’s commitment to individual freedom and the moral agenda of social conservatives. The question that is addressed is whether or not conservative critics of government can govern effectively when in positions of leadership, and Edwards’s answer is, of course, yes. However, citing the strong record of conservative governors administering state governments leaves hanging the question of conservative leadership in Washington and constitutes a rather weak conclusion. Readers who share Edwards’s assumptions and dislike subtle analyses that might challenge them will find this book an enjoyable read and an essential history of recent American politics.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-83500-2
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1999




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