Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism--From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond
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“Dionne's expertise is evident in this finely crafted and convincing work.” —The Los Angeles Times
From one of our most engaging political reporters and the author of Why Americans Hate Politics; the story of conservatism from the Goldwater 1960s to the present day Tea Party that has resulted in broken promises and an ideological purity that drives moderate Republicans away.
Why the Right Went Wrong offers a historical view of the right since the 1960s. Its core contention is that American conservatism and the Republican Party took a wrong turn when they adopted Barry Goldwater’s worldview during and after the 1964 campaign. The radicalism of today’s conservatism is not the product of the Tea Party, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne writes. The Tea Partiers are the true heirs to Goldwater ideology. The purity movement did more than drive moderates out of the Republican Party—it beat back alternative definitions of conservatism.
Since 1968, no conservative administration—not Nixon not Reagan not two Bushes—could live up to the rhetoric rooted in the Goldwater movement that began to reshape American politics fifty years ago. The collapse of the Nixon presidency led to the rise of Ronald Reagan, the defeat of George H.W. Bush, to Newt Gingrich’s revolution. Bush initially undertook a partial modernization, preaching “compassionate conservatism” and a “Fourth Way” to Clinton’s “Third Way.” Conservatives quickly defined him as an advocate of “big government” and not conservative enough on spending, immigration, education, and Medicare. A return to the true faith was the only prescription on order. The result was the Tea Party, which Dionne says, was as much a reaction to Bush as to Obama.
The state of the Republican party, controlled by the strictest base, is diminished, Dionne writes. It has become white and older in a country that is no longer that. It needs to come back to life for its own health and that of the country’s, and in Why the Right Went Wrong, he explains how.
economically. Tancredo’s mention of literacy tests, the phony devices developed in the Jim Crow years to disenfranchise African-American voters in the South, brought a certain brand of conservative politics full circle. Consider the political and social changes (and shocks) since the rise of the Goldwater movement. They include the increasing ideological homogeneity of the Republican Party, the country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity, the rising cultural fears of older white voters, the
Harwood, “10 Questions with Scott Walker,” cnbc.com (September 1, 2015), http://www.cnbc.com/2015/09/01/10-questions-with-scott-walker.html. His “Make Life Work” address: Representative Eric Cantor, “Make Life Work,” delivered February 5, 2013. “George it’s called management”: Carl M. Cannon, “Stupid Is as Stupid Says,” RealClearPolitics (September 13, 2015), http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/09/13/stupid_is_as_stupid_says_128055.html. “We are led” and “Look at that face!”: quoted
credentials, the campaign also featured an ad that included footage of the Massachusetts governor waving from a tank and wearing what the journalist Dorothy Wickenden diplomatically called an “unfortunate helmet.” Atwater gleefully said it made Dukakis look like Rocky the Flying Squirrel. The most emotionally resonant assault of the campaign involved the oldest kind of racial politics, conveniently tied to crime policy. The Bush forces assailed Dukakis for sponsoring a weekend prison furlough
smaller and mostly more conservative states: in principle, senators representing roughly 11 percent of the nation’s population can produce the 41 votes now required to block action. The importance of rural states in the Senate also means that Democratic majorities are not synonymous with liberal majorities. To win control, Democrats need to secure seats in more conservative states by nominating moderate and moderately conservative candidates. (Their losses in 2014 were concentrated in
talk—yet his sermons did not sound the least bit like those of Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell. At a juvenile justice center in Dallas that day, he pledged “to make sure that there are consequences for bad behavior in our state.” To a reporter for a local Spanish-language television station, Bush said—in Spanish—“Love and discipline go hand in hand.” At a rally at Collin County Community College in Plano, he touted his program to get all children to read and spoke of the one in five Texas kids