Conservatism in the US: 1976 to the Present
BY ROBERT HEINEMAN
Dr. Heineman is author of Authority and the Liberal Tradition: Hobbes to Rorty, 2nd, revised edition, Transaction Publishers, 1994.
(The Author gratefully thanks Choice and the American Library Association for permission to reprint this review article which originally appeared in Choice in May 1997. The Secretary of The Philadelphia Society has added a * by the name of those individuals who are or have been members of the Society.)
At the conclusion of the 20th century, US conservatives find themselves in general agreement about certain basic propositions, although they often differ as to details. First, conservatives of all stripes are critical of the idea that activist government can promote either moral or material progress. Some conservatives place responsibility for such improvement on individuals acting autonomously; others rely more heavily on traditional practices and associations within society. Second, conservatives uniformly accept the importance of private property and the need to allow individuals wide discretion in its use. Third, conservatives retain a strong current of religious belief and unwavering support for the maintenance of moral and cultural standards. All the authors cited in this essay, whatever the interpretive nuances to which they subscribe or the differences they pick with one another, ultimately base their positions on some combination of these core beliefs.
Despite the enormous influence the ideas of conservatives have had on US politics and culture, George H. Nash's* The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America, since 1945 remains since its publication in 1976 the most comprehensive treatment. This classic was republished in an updated edition in 1996 with a brief epilogue and a bibliographic postscript. The present essay reviews the major works on or by conservatives that have appeared since the original publication of Nash's book. The proliferation of analysis and theory in the intervening years, greatly aided by the appearance of numerous policy study groups (think tanks) across the country, has engendered a powerful ideological presence in public dialogue. The perspective here will be that of conservatives themselves as they have contested with each other, struggled to define conservatism in more detail, and advocated particular policy positions in the wider maelstrom of public debate. In order to maintain some semblance of manageability, this discussion will confine itself to domestic US policy issues and to US writers. Hence, the large volume of literature on the US involvement in the Cold War, for example, receives little attention here.
To a great extent, contemporary conservative thinkers have built on the foundations laid by the intellectual standard bearers covered so ably by Nash. In this respect, Jeffrey O. Nelson's* Ten Books That Shaped America's Conservative Renaissanceoffers an excellent, brief, pocket-sized introduction to some of the classics in the American conservative tradition. John P. East's The American Conservative Movement: The Philosophical Founders provides in-depth analysis of the ideas of seven major foundational thinkers: Russell Kirk*, Richard M. Weaver, Frank S. Meyer*, Willmoore Kendall*, Leo Strauss, Eric Voegelin*, and Ludwig von Mises.
Other general treatments trace conservatism from its beginnings to the current era. Charles W. Dunn and J. David Woodward in The Conservative Tradition in America ably follow the history and contemporary contours of conservatism and include a 25-page bibliography divided into subject areas. Brad Miner's The Concise Conservative Encyclopedia is an exceptionally fine reference for the 200 ideas, individuals, and institutions included. Miner is particularly strong on current networks and institutions, with which he is obviously very familiar. More superficial, but at the same time far more comprehensive in coverage, is The Quotable Conservative: The Giants of Conservatism on Liberty, Freedom, Individual Responsibility, and Traditional Virtues, compiled by Rod L. Evans and Irwin M. Berent. This short work contains one or two quotations by each conservative, but its real value stems from the brief introductions to each entry. These quickly locate the authors, from Edmund Burke to Rush Limbaugh, chronologically and in terms of their contributions.
Two anthologies that are generally considered the standard overviews of conservatism are The Portable Conservative Reader, ed. by Russell Kirk*, and Keeping the Tablets: Modern American Conservative Thought, ed. by William F. Buckley Jr*. and Charles R. Kesler*. The Kirk anthology proceeds chronologically beginning with Edmund Burke and includes representative essays by both Europeans and Americans. The Buckley and Kesler collection is organized topically-e.g., the tradition, freedom, critique of rationality, economics, and foreign policy.
Three autobiographies by individuals who were at the heart of conservatism for decades are useful in describing the development of conservative ideas. Russell Kirk's The Sword of Imagination is written in third person and often humorous style by one who was a dominant figure in postwar US conservative intellectual circles. Henry Regnery's* Memoirs of a Dissident Publisher provides insight into the world of conservative publishing, largely prior to 1970, in which the Regnery Press has been a leader for decades. Also autobiographical in nature is William A. Rusher's The Rise of the Right. An important figure in the early years of the National Review and the Goldwater presidential campaign, Rusher carries his narrative through the early years of the Reagan administration in the 1984 edition. A later edition (1993) contains a short additional chapter on conservatism during the Reagan and Bush administrations. Although only Kirk's book extends into the 1990s in any detail, these three works taken together provide students of US conservatism a solid grounding in the movement.
Schools of Thought
US conservatism in the second half of the 20th century has been characterized by a continuing tension between those who see themselves as traditional conservatives and those who take a libertarian position. More recently these two views have been challenged and conservatism rendered more variegated by the emergence of neoconservatives and populists.
Traditional conservatives trace their lineage to Edmund Burke, and although they do not necessarily oppose government action, they rely heavily on religious authority, traditional practices, and the sanctity of private property as the foundations for order in society. Traditional conservatives maintain that civilization requires moral constraints on the actions of individuals. Russell Kirk's The Roots of American Order is a forceful interpretation of ideas, from Mt. Sinai through mid-19th century, by the US's most important proponent of traditional conservativism.
The southern agrarians have been an important indigenous component of the traditional conservative school. These scholars draw heavily on the values of civility and order that they associate with the finer aspects of southern culture. M.E. Bradford's* The Reactionary Imperative: Essays Literary and Political illustrates the author's deep attachment to the cultural values of the South. This collection also contains a critique of Norman Podhoretz, a leading neoconservative, and Bradford's controversial reservations about Lincoln. Eugene D. Genovese's The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism is a recent short, sympathetic treatment of the southern agrarian perspective.
In The Conservative Movement, Paul Gottfried discusses the personalities, institutions, and political infighting of the conservative movement from a traditional perspective that is generally critical of neoconservatism and gives a flavor of the antipathy between the two camps. For many traditional conservatives the interaction between their ideology and their Catholicism has been one of mutual reinforcement. Patrick Allitt's Catholic Intellectuals and Conservative Politics in America, 1950-1985 is an excellent examination of the positions of Catholic conservatives, showing how their faith and their political beliefs have evolved. In particular his chapter on John Lukacs and Thomas Molnar explains the ideas of two conservatives who have written much but whose views have rarely been explored in detail. Modern Age, the First Twenty-Five Years, ed. by George A. Panichas, is a selection of articles from that journal that represent generally the axioms of traditional conservatives.
Libertarians advocate first and foremost individual liberty from government; this liberty often extends across economic lines to social issues such as drugs and abortion. Thus, libertarians differ fundamentally from traditional conservatives in their disregard of intangible general moral standards and in their high regard for individual liberty. Murray Rothbard's The Ethics of Liberty offers a thorough statement of the libertarian position by one of the US's most noted libertarians. A fine recent treatment of libertarianism that clearly and easily relates theory to current policy questions is David Boaz's Libertarianism: A Primer. The Austrian school of economists, represented prominently by F.A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, have had an exceptionally important influence on many US libertarians.
The alliance between the libertarians and traditional conservatives has always been uneasy and with the end of the Cold War, which provided them a common enemy, their differences have become more marked, a basic division rendered more complex by the rise of various other strands of conservatism. William F. Buckley Jr. and what might be labelled the National Review conservatives have tried, with mixed success, to provide some sense of unity. An indication of the role of this journal is provided in The Joys of National Review, compiled by Priscilla L. Buckley, a collection of the most influential articles published during the first 25 years of the flagship journal of the conservative movement.
The neoconservatives, centered on the East Coast and focusing heavily on specific policy issues, have been much less willing to harmonize with other conservatives. Gary Dorrien's The Neoconservative Mind and Mark Gerson's The Neoconservative Vision: From the Cold War to the Culture Wars together constitute the definitive treatment of the neoconservative viewpoint. Dorrien's book is the more objective, scholarly, and thorough of the two. However, Gerson does an excellent job of narrating the battles of the neoconservatives from their Cold War struggles against the communists to their current differences with the traditional conservatives, seen by Gerson as paleoconservatives and National Reviewconservatives. Gerson has also edited an anthology of neoconservative articles titled The Essential Neoconservative Reader. This collection casts a broad net in terms of those included, but it accurately reflects the neoconservatives' attention to policy issues and their strong defense of Israel, and draws heavily on the neoconservative journals Commentary and The Public Interest. It is particularly useful because it includes three articles that have been highly influential: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "Defining Deviancy Down"; Jeane Kirkpatrick, "Dictatorships and Double Standards"; and James Q. Wilson and George Kelling, "Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety."
Exceptionally important and fairly recent additions to US conservatism have been the populist, grassroots efforts stemming from the movement of fundamentalist religious leaders into the political arena and the emergence of state and local public leaders who insist on more control over policy decisions at their levels of government. Since the 1970s, Christian fundamentalists have become organized politically and especially influential in the Republican party. In Listen America!, Jerry Falwell explains the reasons for his call to political action and outlines the strategy of the Moral Majority. Another widely read spokesperson for the religious Right has been Cal Thomas, whose The Death of Ethics in America presents in careful, thoughtful fashion his concerns about US values. Ralph Reed's Active Faith: How Christians Are Changing the Soul of American Politics provides background to the movement of the religious Right into politics and a clear statement of its positions.
Moving to the world of applied policy, William D. Eggers and John O'Leary's Revolution at the Roots: Making Our Government Smaller, Better, and Closer to Home describes in sympathetic terms efforts by Republican governors and others at the state and local levels to limit government and to increase privatization. In a related respect, E.S. Savas's Privatization: The Key to Better Government provides a good treatment of approaches to privatizing many government services. A cautionary view of local government autonomy from a libertarian perspective is Clint Bolick's Grassroots Tyranny: The Limits of Federalism. Bolick argues that, through regulations and the domination of vested interests, local governments can be oppressive to entrepreneurial activities.
In recent years, the emerging differences among conservatives as well as disappointment with the Reagan and Bush administrations have engendered pessimism among some conservative writers. At the top of the list in this respect is R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.'s The Conservative Crack-Up. Written in his usual acerbic, no-holds-barred style, Tyrrell is particularly disappointed in the failure of conservative thinkers to stand up to the compromises foisted on the movement by their elected leaders. In a more dispassionate, analytical manner, David Frum in Dead Right agrees with Tyrrell that conservatives faltered when given the opportunity to cripple big government; at the same time he provides a good summary of what he sees as the three main streams of contemporary US conservatism.
The Policy Arena
Partially because they have become increasingly responsible for government decisions, in the last two decades conservatives have written extensively about public policy issues. An excellent sourcebook in this respect is the Heritage Foundation's annual Guide to Public Policy Experts, edited by Thomas Atwood*. The standard reference, this publication lists conservative policy specialists by area of expertise, by state, and alphabetically. It also provides comprehensive lists of conservative think tanks, state policy groups, and conservative periodicals. More up-to-date information can be obtained through the Town Hall Web site instituted by the Heritage Foundation and National Review (http://www.townhall.com).
A number of important works have challenged the assumptions behind arguments for activist government and have provided conceptual frameworks for conservative proposals. Several influential conservative scholars have invoked history to support their criticisms of contemporary government policies. In Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, Robert Higgs examines the causes of expanding government under both Republican and Democratic administrations in what he sees as an ineluctable movement toward the oppression of private rights. Marvin Olasky's The Tragedy of American Compassion concludes that America's social welfare programs have ignored the historical importance of personal involvement and responsibility and have created a culture of dependency. In a somewhat different vein, George Will suggests in Statecraft as Soulcraft: What Government Does that conservatives should encourage government support of basic community values and welfare services and focus on limiting government in other areas.
A seminal work that criticized more directly the effects of the welfare efforts of the Great Society and argued that many of those programs worsened the plight of the poor was Charles Murray's Losing Ground. First published in 1984, a tenth anniversary edition contains an added chapter in which Murray examines how his ideas have fared over the intervening decade. James Q. Wilson has also established himself as an able critic of big government. His Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It illustrates his knowledge of the constraints and incentives that work to prevent government employees from being optimally effective. The New Promise of American Life, edited by Lamar Alexander and Chester E. Finn, is a compilation of essays by a group of scholars who are working with the Hudson Institute and are concerned about rebuilding community values and institutions in the face of encroaching "governmentalism." In his recent The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy, Thomas Sowell takes direct aim at the elitist assumptions of those in government and education who believe that their positions qualify them to show average citizens through government programs what is best for them.
In terms of the direct policy impact of conservative ideas, two documents will undoubtedly retain historical salience. The first, Mandate for Leadership: Policy Management in a Conservative Administration, edited by Charles L. Heatherly* of the Heritage Foundation, served as the blueprint for many of the programmatic initiatives of the first Reagan administration. The contributors provide brief backgrounds to targeted problem areas in the major agencies, then offer recommendations for both short-term and long-term initiatives. The second, "The Contract with America," functioned as a campaign platform for Republicans in the 1994 congressional elections and as a policy program for those elected to the House of Representatives. The document has been published with accompanying narrative in Contract with America, edited by Ed Gillespie and Bob Schellhas. Dan Balz and Ronald Brownstein's Storming the Gates: Protest Politics and the Republican Revival is an excellent discussion of how the "Contract" fit into the political scene and of the forces that propelled the Republicans to victory in 1994.
With regard to specific policy issues, there seems hardly a topic on which a conservative perspective has not been published. Often these analyses are in book form, but many are policy reports from think tanks, which underwrite book-length studies as well. The major think tanks also publish journals that contain the best thought of their people and other conservative scholars. There are easily several hundred policy study groups across the nation. Among the most prestigious are The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, all in Washington, DC; the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, New York, NY; the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, Stanford, CA; the Hudson Institute, Indianapolis, IN; the Rockford Institute, Rockford, IL; and The Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, Claremont, CA.
In the field of economics, US writers have drawn heavily on Austrian thinkers in addition to developing original positions of their own. R. M. Hartwell's A History of the Mont Pelerin Society is a useful source for information about the interaction of US conservative economists with those of other nations. Hartwell essentially summarizes the minutes and correspondence of the society and provides little discussion of the substantive ideas at play, but offers a glimpse into where, when, and how the networks among conservative economists developed.
The Chicago School economists were quite active in the Mont Pelerin Society. Foremost among these scholars has been Milton Friedman*. Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman's Free To Choose: A Personal Statement summarizes in nonspecialist terms the essentials of Friedman's philosophy, which places tremendous weight on the free play of market forces. A fellow Nobel Prize winner and former colleague of Friedman's, James M. Buchanan was a pioneer in the field of public choice theory, which draws on Austrian economic ideas in applying individualistic economic principles to government actors. Buchanan's What Should Economists Do? is a collection of his essays that offers a good general introduction to his positions. A short, easily read primer on basic economics from the perspective of two members of the Mont Pelerin Society is James D. Gwartney and Richard L. Stroup's* What Everyone Should Know about Economics and Prosperity.
A largely original US contribution to economic theory has been supply-side economics. Jude Wanniski's The Way the World Works is often cited as the source of supply-side economic doctrine. In turn, George Gilder's Wealth and Poverty must receive credit for popularizing supply-side economics and explaining its relationship to public policy. Moving into the political realm, Paul Craig Roberts's The Supply-Side Revolution: An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington provides a good historical treatment of those who fashioned the supply-side position and tries to explain the failure of the Reagan administration to adhere rigorously to its axioms. A more optimistic analysis that encompasses the entire tenure of the Reagan administration is Robert L. Bartley's The Seven Fat Years: And How to Do It Again.
Other conservatives have tried to give the capitalist economic model some normative content. Irving Kristol's Two Cheers for Capitalism renders support for the prosperity and freedom produced through capitalism while expressing doubts about the moral vacuum that can be left by the unalloyed pursuit of wealth. Taking a somewhat different perspective, Michael Novak's highly regarded book The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism attempts to demonstrate that the Judeo-Christian ethic contributes importantly to democratic capitalism.
The Reagan Era
Although many conservatives were disappointed in what they saw as the aborted goals of the Reagan administration, Ronald Reagan remains their preeminent public champion. One of the most thorough studies of the Reagan administration by one who was on the White House staff until 1982 is Martin Anderson's Revolution: The Reagan Legacy. Another narrative on the Reagan years by someone who knew the President well and survived the entire eight years of his administration is Edwin Meese's* With Reagan: The Inside Story. David A. Stockman's The Triumph of Politics describes the machinations within the Reagan White House from the perspective of a disappointed conservative who played an important role in the administration's early budget battles. In more general terms, J. David Hoeveler's Watch on the Right: Conservative Intellectuals in the Reagan Era is an excellent in-depth study of eight conservative thinkers (William F. Buckley Jr., George Will, Irving Kristol, Hilton Kramer, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Robert Nisbet, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., and Michael Novak) who contributed significantly to the intellectual climate of the Reagan administration.
In this area the Federalist Society, Washington, DC, has been especially active, and The Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, distributed three times annually to Society members, provides solid conservative legal analysis in a law review format.
An ongoing controversy within conservative circles has been the proper interpretative approach to the Constitution. Some, like Robert Bork in his The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law, take a strict construction, or "originalist," position, arguing that judges must be bound by the wording and meaning of the constitutional document as intended by its authors and should refrain from reading abstract normative presuppositions into its text. Others (prominently Harry V. Jaffa*, a student of Leo Strauss) contend that the equality promoted in the Declaration of Independence permeates the US political tradition and the Constitution should be interpreted in this light. Jaffa spells out his position in Original Intention & the Framers of the Constitution: A Disputed Question, which includes the views of three other scholars, and in more detail in Storm over the Constitution: Jaffa Answers Bork, which also contains the first chapter from the former book.
A moderate, thoroughly historical interpretation that carefully considers the complexities of the framers' intellectual context is Forrest McDonald's* Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution. McDonald is widely regarded as the conservatives' premier US historian, and his The American Presidency: An Intellectual History is a magisterial study of the historical and legal influences on that office. Also useful as a conservative historical perspective on the Constitution is M. Stanton Evans*, The Theme Is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition. A wide-ranging intellectual history of the development of constitutional ideas in the West, Evans's book stresses the importance of both limited government and the Judeo-Christian heritage of US government.
Two thinkers who deal more specifically with how the law should impact Americans' daily lives are Richard Posner and Richard A. Epstein. Posner has moved the economic assumptions of the Chicago School into legal doctrine, and his The Economics of Justice is an early but comprehensive explanation of this approach. Epstein has written numerous books criticizing government regulation and judicial intervention into private relationships, and his most recent book, Simple Rules for a Complex World, outlines the assumptions from which he has been proceeding.
The World of Science
As scientific interpretations of the world have become increasingly politicized, conservatives have acted to defend their basic positions. At the most fundamental level, Stanley L. Jaki, a Catholic priest and physicist, has written a number of books that attempt to reconcile his religious beliefs with the methodologies and conclusions of science, especially those of physics. An early work of his, The Road of Science and the Ways to God, is a rigorous philosophical defense of his belief that a single epistemology underlies religious conviction and scientific investigation. In a more applied vein, Julian L. Simon in The Ultimate Resource was one of the first to argue from scientific grounds that those warning of impending scarcities of raw materials and food and of increasing pollution and overpopulation were wrong. Dixy Lee Ray and Louis R. Guzzo focus their criticisms against the environmentalists in Environmental Overkill: Whatever Happened to Common Sense? Perhaps the most consistent exploder of misleading assertions claiming scientific validity has been Michael Fumento. In Science under Siege: Balancing Technology and the Environment, he takes aim at a number of popularized environmental risks that in his view have been seriously distorted.
Race and Gender
As they have moved to the forefront of national debate, race and gender have gained the attention of conservative writers. With regard to abortion, traditional conservatives, with their strong Catholic flavor, and the Christian Right, which is heavily Protestant, have stood shoulder to shoulder in opposition. Conservatives have also been critical of much in the feminist movement. Christina Hoff Sommers's Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women, for example, demonstrates convincingly that some of the claims made by feminists and hyped by the media were simply false. Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge's Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women's Studies examines the problems posed for women in American society by some of the radical women's studies programs on college campuses. In a broader sense, Allan C. Carlson* of the Rockford Institute examines the importance of the nuclear family to social stability. In Family Questions: Reflections on the American Social Crisis, Carlson describes the encroachment of the state into family relationships and systematically critiques the assumptions of those who suggest that the demise of the family unit is inevitable. Although not as scholarly as Carlson's effort, Maggie Gallagher's The Abolition of Marriage is a more recent, fast-paced, hard-hitting description of how the law, economic pressures, and social analysts have rendered marriage less legitimate and of the social dysfuntionality that results from marital breakdown and unwed motherhood.
Discussions of race revolve largely around the issue of affirmative action, although the work of Thomas Sowell remains more nuanced in this respect. Sowell utilizes history and culture to illustrate the multitude of factors other than race that can influence an individual's capabilities and behavior. His Race and Culture: A World View is a good example of this approach. One of the most thoroughly researched and logically argued conservative attacks on affirmative action policies is Dinesh D'Souza's The End of Racism: Principles for a Multiracial Society. Associated closely with the issue of racial preferences has been that of immigration, and Peter Brimelow's* Alien Nation: Common Sense about America's Immigration Disasteradvocates tighter immigration controls. In an afterword to the paperback edition, Brimelow summarizes the responses to the hardcover edition, making clear that conservatives are divided over the immigration question.
One of the continuing topics of discussion for conservatives has been the condition of American culture. An especially telling salvo in this dialogue was fired by Allen Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Improverished the Souls of Today's Students. Bloom criticized the atrophy of serious, rigorous standards in higher education in particular, but his concerns reflected doubts about the moral health of society at large. Joining battle on higher education was Roger Kimball, whose Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education delivers a scathing attack on the ahistorical relativism espoused by the postmodern journals and deconstructionists in academe. The condition of higher education has been a primary focus for the National Association of Scholars, whose The Dissolution of General Education: 1914-1993 is an empirical study of the decline of rigorous undergraduate curriculum standards and for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which publishes Campus: America's Student Newspaper and other, more scholarly journals.
Other scholars have focused on the deterioration of moral standards as a threat to social and cultural stability. An exceptionally able philosophical argument for universal moral principles is Hadley Arkes's First Things: An Inquiry into the First Principles of Morals and Justice. In The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America, a widely cited work, Richard John Neuhaus examines the failure of religion to play a more important role in public dialogue and traces this partially to the "debilitating ambivalence" of mainline religious leaders about the truth of their beliefs. In an even more widely cited work, The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama questions the consequences of a liberal democratic world that lacks the deeper foundations of normative meaning that have been so necessary to civilization. In a narrower fashion, Gertrude Himmelfarb, a noted historian of the Victorian era, has tried to illustrate the utility of moral standards to healthy societies. She does this especially well in The De-Moralization of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values.
Moving into contemporary America, Michael Medved has been one of the most articulate critics of Hollywood's effects on society. His Hollywood vs. America: Popular Culture and the War on Traditional Values argues that political ideology and a craving for fame have motivated movie producers in their trashing of traditional values. Robert Bork's recent Slouching Towards Gomorrah discusses the deterioration of values and standards across a wide range of policy topics and at the same time provides a good summary of recent conservative ideas. William J. Bennett has attempted a different approach toward countering the decline of moral values. His best-selling The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories introduces stories and poems from a variety of eras that illustrate the importance of fundamental virtues such as self-discipline, compassion, honesty, and loyalty in what he sees as an effort to upgrade the "moral literacy" of the young.
As the 20th century nears its close, the US conservative tradition has attained the status of a legitimate school of thought that provides frameworks for public policy and interpretive perspectives on society generally. Today few public issues exist without accompanying conservative analysis and commentary. In their struggle to become important players in the public dialogue, US conservatives have drawn on European influences but also have relied heavily on indigenous ideas and cultural forces. Although the end of the Cold War has shattered much of the surface unity that once existed across various conservative schools, the continuing diversity and vigorous debate among contemporary conservatives both tend to confirm the basic ideological strength of their position and serve as stimuli for more creative approaches to public issues.
[The author acknowledges with gratitude the invaluable assistance preparing this essay provided by Toni P. Olshan and Francis R. McBride, reference librarians at Herrick Memorial Library, Alfred University.]
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