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Ten Must-Read Books for a Conservative Winter of Discontent

Chris Christie isn't too popular among conservatives in the wake of his response to Hurricane Sandy last week, but the above clip from Ann Coulter is illustrative of where the conservative movement and the Republican Party was less than two years ago. Republicans lost, and they lost decisively last night with Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket. The recriminations have already started - was Romney too moderate or did the GOP establishment sell out too much to please the conservative base? - but the more immediate question at hand is what will the GOP do with the levers of power at its disposal and what kind of positive agenda will they lay out for the future.


The media is going to breathlessly focus on how the Republican party can "fix its demographic problem," but it's important to remember that most pundits' analysis can be boiled down to "politicians should do more of what I like." Most pundits have no clue what the median swing voter thinks like or is concerned about. Responsible advice usually has an element of sub-optimal policy offered because no single pundit's genuine agenda would perfectly align with a persuadable American voter.

In lieu of strategic advice, what-ifs involving other candidates or lists of GOP candidates to focus on for the future, here's a reading list of diverse sources - most of whom I have major disagreements with - who nonetheless have sophisticated critiques to be made of the current Republican Party and conservative movement as well as positive agendas that should be palatable for conservatives in the future:

Conservative Survival in the Romney Era by Philip Klein. An indictment of the team-player mentality of some of the conservative movement and a struggle with how to come to grips with a Republican Party that so often must settle on sub-optimal candidates, Conservative Survival in the Romney Era by the Washington Examiner's Phil Klein is valuable even though the Romney Era is, for all intents and purposes, over.

From Poverty to Prosperity, by Nick Schulz and Arnold Kling. A non-ideological look at what creates economic development across different countries, this book is a must-read for economic policymakers. (It's on my list to re-read as well; I could use a refresher course on its insights.)


Righteous Indignation by Andrew Breitbart. I disagree with Andrew Breitbart about a great many things, but he has crafted a powerful and cohesive criticism of the modern media. Faced with an industry dominated by liberals who treat conservatives unfairly, Breitbart explicitly advocates treating the media and the left the same way. It's a powerful critique that rests upon the radical intractability of the moern media, and Andrew Breitbart was its most effective advocate.

Grand New Party by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam. Published in 2009 but possibly more relevant than ever, Douthat and Salam put together a platform that they believe holds the key to a demographic realignment of the parties; one that holds more appeal for working-class Americans and could be the key to a new and long-lasting GOP coalition.

A Capitalism for the People by Luigi Zingales. Conservatives too often get caught up on the defense against progressive criticisms of capitalism. Zingales lays out the case that capitalism can and should be most beneficial for the people progressives purport to care about - the poorer and less fortunate. It's more impotant for conservatives to make the positive case for capitalism as the best welfare program in human history rather than be put on the defensive about corporate profits and inequality.

A Time for Governing, edited by Yuval Levin and Meghan Clyne. National Affairs has become, in the Obama era, one of the foremost journals of right-leaining public policy solutions. Too few politicians embrace what has been written about in its pages - but perhaps more of them should. This best-of compendium is an excellent introduction to the journal for those who have not previously been exposed.


After the Fall: Saving Capitalism from Wall Street - and Washington by Nicole Gelinas. One of progressivism's long-lasting critiques of conservatism is that a conservative policy idea may have made sense in a pre-2008 financial crisis world but no longer. The Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas has one of the best accounts of how the government helped to precipitate the crisis and how its response has only made the Wall Street-Washington nexus worse. Conservatives have sometimes unfortunately confused being pro-market with being pro-business; a conservative policy agenda for the future will have to make the hard distinction between the two.

Obamanomics by Tim Carney. Carney has been exposing crony capitalism for a very long time, but his work on the Obama Administration is incredibly important and serves for important lessons for the GOP. Again, he emphasizes the distinction between pro-market and pro-business, and how Washington politicians either don't know or don't care. While Obamanomics focuses on the current White House's cozy relationship with big business, its lessons are equally applicable to the Republican Party.

Coming Apart: The State of White America by Charles Murray. Murray is a titan of the conservative intelligentsia, and Coming Apart - released in January - is a revealing account of the problems that face the GOP's current demographic base and the inherent disconnect between elites and average Americans that afflicts and distorts beltway thinking.


The Age of Abundance by Brink Lindsey. His new book Human Capitalism is important read as well - perhaps after you finish The Age of Abundance - but Lindsey's 2009 work provides a good account of the current state of American policy and the trends that will shape the problems that America faces in the future.



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