FACT: “In 1964, Ronald Reagan was co-chair of Barry Goldwater’s campaign in California. He spoke out frequently in support of Goldwater’s brand of conservative Republicanism. But Reagan’s big moment in the campaign, the event that would put him on a trajectory for the White House, came by accident. Shortly before the November election, Goldwater canceled a major Los Angeles fund-raising speech. The organizers asked Reagan to fill in. Reagan, though tailoring his remarks to promote Goldwater, gave the same basic speech he had been honing for years. However, few Americans outside of GE plants or what Reagan self-mockingly called the ‘mashed potato’ lecture circuit had ever heard it. The crowd of bigwig Republican donors was starstruck by Reagan’s performance. Especially as compared to Goldwater (but really as compared to any contemporary political figure), Reagan was, as soon would be said everywhere, a great communicator. A group of wealthy men asked Reagan to repeat the speech on national television. They would buy the airtime.”
The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism tells the gripping story of perhaps the most significant political force of our time through the lives and careers of six leading figures at the heart of the movement. David Farber traces the history of modern conservatism from its revolt against New Deal liberalism, to its breathtaking resurgence under Ronald Reagan, to its spectacular defeat with the election of Barack Obama.
Farber paints vivid portraits of Robert Taft, William F. Buckley Jr., Barry Goldwater, Phyllis Schlafly, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. He shows how these outspoken, charismatic, and frequently controversial conservative leaders were united by a shared insistence on the primacy of social order, national security, and economic liberty. Farber demonstrates how they built a versatile movement capable of gaining and holding power, from Taft’s opposition to the New Deal to Buckley’s founding of the National Review as the intellectual standard-bearer of modern conservatism; from Goldwater’s crusade against leftist politics and his failed 1964 bid for the presidency to Schlafly’s rejection of feminism in favor of traditional gender roles and family values; and from Reagan’s city upon a hill to conservatism’s downfall with Bush’s ambitious presidency.
The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism provides rare insight into how conservatives captured the American political imagination by claiming moral superiority, downplaying economic inequality, relishing bellicosity, and embracing nationalism. This concise and accessible history reveals how these conservative leaders discovered a winning formula that enabled them to forge a powerful and formidable political majority.
We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9119.pdf
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