Prominent conservatives speak out about their movement’s convictions, history and heroes.
Originally delivered as guest lectures for a seminar on the Conservative Intellectual Tradition in America run by professor and editor Factor (International Politics and American Government/The Citadel; Shadowbosses: Government Unions Control America and Rob Taxpayers Blind, 2012, etc.), this collection kicks off with an overarching piece by publisher Alfred S. Regnery on “The Pillars of Conservatism.” Regnery identifies some of the themes—liberty, tradition and order, rule of law, belief in God—thinkers—Locke, Hume, Burke—and texts—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution—that inform conservatives. He emphasizes the post–World War II American conservative movement, invoking names like William F. Buckley Jr., Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. His observations serve as appropriate launching pads for the authors who follow, each with a special expertise that fleshes out a topic or offers new insight into a particular strand of conservatism. A few of these essays transition awkwardly to the page—e.g., Newt Gingrich’s too-colloquial remarks on the American Revolution, Rand Paul’s tossed-off observations on bending conservatism in a libertarian direction, and a gassy afterword by Haley Barbour on party-building and winning elections. On the other hand, there are some gems: Michael Barone’s thoughtful essay on Tocqueville and ordered liberty, historian David Norcross on the centrality of Edmund Burke, economist Yaron Brook on three seminal, conservative economists, journalist David Keene on Buckley’s political vision, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith’s personal history of neoconservatism and organizer Ralph Reed’s stout defense of social conservatism. No surprise to find Donald Rumsfeld (on the war on terror) and Edwin Meese (on the Reagan Revolution) among the contributors here, but there’s room, too, under Factor’s big tent for former CIA Director—and Democrat—R. James Woolsey to comment on national security.
An uneven but useful handbook for those looking to understand the roots of conservatism and the contours of the contemporary movement.