This Is Conservatism?

“Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

—Ernest Hemingway

There are two fictions that most American conservatives have taken to heart.  First, that the Republican Party stands for conservative ideas and principles; second, that there has been a conservative renaissance in the last several decades, a resurgence that culminated with the Reagan presidency and continues into the present.  These two false premises form the foundation of Jonathan Schoenwald’s A Time for Choosing.  Schoenwald examines the rise of the conservative movement since World War II and argues that, by the early 1960’s, it had articulated a political agenda and created an organizational structure that would eventually make it the dominant force in American politics.  What this book, like most that chronicle the history of American conservatism, fails to recognize is that conservatism is far more than a political movement: It encompasses economic, social, cultural, and theological questions.  These aspects of conservatism are thoroughly omitted from Schoenwald’s analysis.  His book reads like a piece of Whig history, a tract that showcases prominent personalities, competing factions, and powerful organizations that created a political movement to compete against liberalism.  Yet the conservatism that Schoenwald describes...

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