The Conservative Ascendancy

How the Republican Right Rose to Power in Modern America

Second Edition, Revised and Expanded

Donald T. Critchlow

Hailed as "perhaps the best scholarly overview of the conservative movement in print" (American Conservative), Donald Critchlow's The Conservative Ascendancy has depicted, as no other book has, the wild ride of the Republican Right. Newly updated and available for the first time in paperback, it continues to offer the best account of the conservative struggle to reverse the momentum of the New Deal.

In tracing the conservative revival, Critchlow chronicles how conservative beliefs were translated into political power. He shows how conservatives, from think tank theorists to grassroots mobilizers, gained control of the Republican party by defeating its liberal eastern wing only to find that the welfare state was not so easily dismantled. Looking back at the 1964 Goldwater debacle and the scandal-plagued Nixon years, he then revisits the triumph of the Reagan presidency and describes how George W. Bush injected into American politics a level of partisanship not seen since the nineteenth century.

“A well-written narrative [that] must be considered the definitive general history of the conservative movement.”

Journal of American Studies

“Critchlow helps frame the past [and] skillfully shows the connection among ideas, institutions, and the conservative ascendancy.”

—Michael Kimmage, New York Times Book Review

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Critchlow recounts the conflict between purity of principle and political practice for conservatives, and the dilemma of maintaining an anti-statist ideology in an era of mass democracy and Cold War hostilities. Throughout he delineates the intellectual foundations of the Right's positions—including the ongoing schism that separates social conservatives from libertarians—while plumbing America's increasing ideological divide.

This updated edition not only features a new preface and conclusion but also boasts an entirely new chapter covering the 2008 presidential election, the 2008 financial meltdown, the first two years of Obama's presidency, the emergence of the Tea Party, the 2010 midterms, and ongoing economic problems. Here Critchlow foresees a new epoch in which the old conservative-progressive divide is unable to address the problems caused by national debt, entitlement deficits, and a new global economy—a new reality sure to transform both parties.

As conservatives continue to wave the banners of limited government, individual responsibility, and free enterprise, Critchlow's book provides a clear guide to the country's most dynamic political movement and is essential reading for students and citizens alike as the political center continues to tack to the right.

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