The life of theologian Michael Novak is among the most storied in Post WWII history. Storied in the literal sense, in that he just has so many fascinating stories to tell. But also storied in that the narrative of his life tells the broader story of a very significant sub-set of the American people, the people who were once called the ‘Reagan Democrats’. I almost called them a sub-set of the American electorate, but electorate would have been the wrong word; they’re not just a political constituency and their story is not just a political story: it’s a cultural and a religious one as well. Michael didn’t just see it and live it, he participated in it at the highest levels as an advisor to the Kennedys, on through McCarthy and McGovern and eventually to friendship with Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul II. If one wanted to understand the beginnings, rise, and eventual denouement of the cold war from the vantage point of the victors, then Writing From Left to Write by Michael Novak offers some of the best seats in the house.
I spent a delightful hour or so with Michael, a man who I’ve interviewed on and off for two decades for radio, via skype from my home near McKeesport, Pennsylvania — Michael’s childhood home. McKeesport, you may note, was the site of an Obama campaign stop shortly before he was caught on tape in San Francisco referring to people who ‘cling to God and guns’ as a response to economic distress.
Below you will find the first of several transcribed sections of our in-depth discussion. These have been edited for clarity.
Jerry Bowyer: “Hi, I’m Jerry Bowyer. Thank you for joining us. I really appreciate you taking the time to listen to this conversation with Michael Novak. Michael Novak is the author of numerous books, more than one have had a huge impact on my thinking, but I think The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism stands out as a volume that changed my mind and the minds of many other people. Now he’s written a book that is not so much an explication of abstract ideas, but more of a memoir [or] to some degree an autobiography from the standpoint of ideas. The book is called Writing from Left to Right: My Journey from Liberal to Conservative, and Michael Novak (the author of that book) is with us today. Thank you so much for joining us, Michael.”
Michael Novak: “I’m really glad to be with you. Always love to touch base with Western Pennsylvania and it just makes me feel at home.”