Critchlow traces the travails of the conservative movement through the political battles involving Sen. Robert A. Taft, Sen. Barry Goldwater, President Richard Nixon and President Gerald Ford, all Republicans. Those who lived through those years will delight in the extraordinary detail produced by Critchlow's extensive research and his more than 500 footnotes, and those too young to remember will learn history they cannot get anywhere else.
Conservatives found their leader in Reagan, who fortified their resolve with his faith that the tide of history is moving in our direction and that it is morning in America. Critchlow skillfully shows how the Reagan victories of the 1980s depended on a coalition of fiscal conservatives left over from the 1964 Goldwater campaign, the alumni of the anti-Communist groups that had educated the grass roots about external and internal threats to our country, and the social conservatives who newly came into the political process in the campaigns against the Equal Rights Amendment and Roe v. Wade.
"Upstream: The Ascendance of American Conservatism" (Simon & Schuster, $26) by Alfred S. Regnery is a fascinating account of how conservative authors combined with conservative activists to shake off New Deal socialism of the 1930s and become the dominant ideology in America. As the author boasts, "We are all conservatives now."
Regnery's book leads us to know and understand dozens of conservative leaders from various walks of life, volunteer organizations that played a role in the movement, mail-order fundraising, and foundations. He puts the broad scope of the conservative movement in focus, including the importance that the courts play in our culture.
Regnery deftly explains the fundamental differences between conservatives and big business, and between conservatives and neoconservatives. Conservatives want limited government, but those two other groups seek an activist government to promote their particular agendas.
Regnery's book is based not only on his firsthand involvement with many icons of the conservative movement, but his face-to-face interviews with many who are still living and able to tell their stories.
Regnery ends his book by describing the unexpected conservative uprising (all the way from Bill Kristol to Pat Buchanan) against President George W. Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court. No doubt the author hopes that the success of that revolt shows that conservatives are still moving "upstream" and can maintain their identity apart from liberal-Republican and Bush mistakes.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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