SOCS 632
The Conservative Revolution in American Politics and Policy

Marc Eisner

Course Description

From the perspective of the 1960s and early 1970s, there was little to suggest that a profound shift in American politics and public policy was about to occur. A majority of the population identified with the Democratic Party, which was commonly presented as the “natural” party in American politics. The Democratic Party had retained control of both houses of Congress since 1955. Kennedy’s New Frontier and Johnson’s War on Poverty and Great Society all reflected a great optimism regarding the potential role of the state and public policy in eliminating pressing social and economic problems. The period witnessed a revolution in civil rights (e.g., the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act); a successful Keynesian policy and high levels of growth; the rapid expansion of the welfare state (e.g., the introduction of Head Start, Medicare, Medicaid, the liberalization of AFDC); and new social regulatory experiments in consumer protection, environmental protection, and occupational safety and health. Given these policy victories, the success of the anti-war movement, and the resignation of Richard Nixon, it appeared that all that was left was to write the obituary of the American Right.

From the perspective of today, things are strikingly different than they were in 1970. The GOP has controlled the White House for 25 of the past 37 years. The two Democratic presidents, Carter and Clinton, were southern centrists rather than representatives of the left wing of the Democratic Party. In 1981, unified Democratic control of the Congress ended, with unified Republican control taking its place after the 1994 midterm elections. Comparable shifts in partisan control occurred at the state level. These political victories have been accompanied by significant changes in macroeconomic management, tax policy, welfare policy, education, regulation, and foreign policy.

It is the core assumption of this seminar that one cannot understand contemporary politics without understanding the rise of conservatism and the principles underlying the arguments and reforms promoted by its key figures. This course is designed to explore whether we have witnessed a conservative “revolution” in American politics and public policy and American political development more generally. We are interested in understanding the debates within American conservatism, and their impact on politics and policy. To what extent are the internal divisions a source of strength and dynamism? To what extent do they place limitations on the future impact of American conservatism? Has the conservative movement run its course? Can it accommodate broader changes in American society, culture and public opinion?

Reading List

1. Gregory L. Schneider, ed., Conservatism in America Since 1930. (NYU Press, 2003). 0814797997

2. Dinesh D’Souza, Ronald Reagan: How An Ordinary Man Became An Extraordinary Leader. (Free Press , 1999). 0684848236

3. John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America. (Penguin Press, 2004). 0143035398

4. Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. (Owl Books, 2005). 080507774X

5. Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy. (Yale University Press, 2006). 0300119755

Course Requirements

Participation (10 percent)
The success of any seminar depends heavily on the quality of preparation and participation. You will be expected to attend class with knowledge of the core readings and evidence that you have reflected on the key debates and controversies.

Seminar Presentations (10 percent)
Each participant will be required to introduce a set of readings on two occasions during the semester. The presentation—not to exceed five minutes—should provide a brief critique of the readings and present questions for discussion. It should be accompanied by a 1 page written summary for distribution. Given the number of seminar participants, presenters will have the opportunity to divide up key readings.

Critical Essays (50 percent)
There are several questions posed in the appendix to this syllabus. Over the course of the semester, each participant is required to submit 3 short essays (not to exceed 5 pages) engaging his or her choice of questions. Essays will be graded on the basis of exhibited mastery of relevant course readings and quality of argumentation. All papers should be submitted via email as Word attachments (meisner@wesleyan.edu).

Final Essay (30 percent)
There is little question that American conservatives have realized great success in the past several decades. Write an essay that: 1. Explains the most important factors that shaped this success, and
2. Identifies the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary conservatism and how they may affect the long-term impacts of conservatism
This paper should not exceed 10 pages and is due at the final session. It should be submitted via email as Word attachments (meisner@wesleyan.edu).

Contacts

I am available by email (meisner@wesleyan.edu) which I check obsessively, and can meet with students before or after class. My office phone number is 860-685-2494. I use the IM username ProfEisner.

Course Schedule
January 23

1. Introduction

1.1 Background
John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge,
The Right Nation, introduction, chapter 1
Irving Kristol, “American Conservatism 1945-1995.”
Public Interest, Fall 1995. Download

1.2 Competing Camps
Paleo-Cons: American Conservative Union Statement of Principles (1964)
Download and Russell Kirk, “Ten Conservative Principles.” Download
Neo-Cons: Irving Kristol, “The Neoconservative Persuasion.”
The Weekly Standards (August 25, 2003). Download
Libertarians: David Boaz, “Key Concepts of Libertarianism,” from
Libertarianism: A Primer. Download

Recommended:
Peter Berkowitz, ed.,
Varieties Of Conservatism In America. (Hoover Institution Press, 2004).

January 30

Can the Left Make Sense of the Resurgent Right?

Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas?, entire.

February 6

Defining Conservatism in the New Deal Order

3.1 The Old Right
“Southern Agrarians and the Defense of Religion.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 9.
Seward Collins, “Monarch as Alternative.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 16.
Albert Jay Nock, “Radical Individualism: The State as Enemy.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 29.
“Conservatism Takes Shape.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 45.

3.2 Classic Liberalism/Libertarianism
F.A. Hayek, “Resurrecting the Abandoned Road.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 53.
Mont Pelerin Society, “Getting Together.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p.66.
Milton Friedman, “Defining Principles: Capitalism and Freedom.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p.68.
The Libertarian Review: Editorial Statement,” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 251
Murray N. Rothbard, “Why Be Libertarian?” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 253
Murray N. Rothbard, “What is Libertarianism?” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 262

3.3 Traditionalism
Richard Weaver, “The Quest for Order.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 95.
Russell Kirk, “The Conservative Mind.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 107.
Frank S. Meyer, “A Rebel in Search of Tradition.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 122.

3.4 Anticommunism
Whittaker Chambers, “A Witness.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 135.
Gerhart Niemeyer, “The Communist Mind.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 149.
William F. Buckley, Jr., “Khrushchev at the UN.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 161.
“The Hungary Pledge.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 167.

Recommended:
George H. Nash,
The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America, chapters 1-5.

February 13

Defining a Conservative Consensus
John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge,
The Right Nation, chapter 2.

4.1 Fusionism
Frank S. Meyer, “A Rebel Finds His Tradition.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 171.
Frank S. Meyer, “Libertarianism or Libertinism?” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 259.
Murray Rothbard, “Frank S. Meyer: The Fusionist as Libertarian Manqué.”
Modern Age, (Fall 1981). Download
F.A. Hayek, “Why I Am Not a Conservative.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 180.
William F. Buckley, Jr., “National Review: Statement of Intentions.” In Gregory L.Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 195.
William F. Buckley, Jr., “National Review: Credenda and Statement of Principles.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 201.

4.2 Making the Argument: the 1964 Election
Barry M. Goldwater, “The Conscience of a Conservative.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 211.
William F. Buckley, Jr., “The Young Americans for Freedom.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 226.
“The Sharon Statement.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 229.
Phyllis Schlafly, “A Choice, Not an Echo.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 231.
Barry M. Goldwater, “Extremism in the Defense of Liberty.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p.238.

Recommended:
George H. Nash,
The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America, chapters 6-8.
Rick Perlstein,
Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. (Hill & Wang, 2002).

February 27

The 1960s and the Triumph of Liberalism?

5.1 The Challenge from the Left
Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society, 1962
Download (skim)
Herbert Marcuse,
Eros and Civilization, Introduction to 1966 edition Download

5.2 Making Sense of the 1960s: The Origins of the Culture War
Russell Kirk, “The University and Revolution: An Insane Conjunction.”
The Intercollegiate Review, Winter 1969-70. Download
Murray N. Rothbard, “The Student Revolution.” From
The Libertarian Forum, May 1, 1969. Download
Patrick Buchanan's Speech to 1992 GOP Convention. Download
Gertrude Himmelfarb, “Democratic Remedies for Democratic Disorders.”
The Public Interest, Spring 1998. Download
Robert H. Bork, “Hard Truths about the Culture War.”
First Things, 54 (June/July1995): 18-23. Download
John Fonte Why There Is A Culture War: Gramsci and Tocqueville in America.”
Policy Review, December 2000-January 2001 Download

Recommended:
George H. Nash,
The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America, chapters 9-11.
Robert H. Bork,
Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline. (Basic Books, 1996).

March 6

The Conservative Counter Mobilization

6.1 Background
John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge,
The Right Nation, chapter 3
William A. Rusher, “An Emerging Conservative Majority.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 279.
Samuel Francis, “Message from MARS: The Social Politics of the New Right.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 300.

6.2 Business Mobilization
Irving Kristol, “Why Big Business is Good for America.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 318.
David Vogel, “The Power of Business in America: A Re-Appraisal.”
British Journal of Political Science, 13, 1 (1983): 19-43. Download
Kay Lehman Schlozman, “What Accent the Heavenly Chorus? Political Equality and the American Pressure System.”
The Journal of Politics, 46, 4 (1984): 1006-1032. Download

6.3 Republican Party-Building
Robert J. Huckshorn; John F. Bibby, “National Party Rules and Delegate Selection in the Republican Party.”
PS, 16, 4. (Autumn, 1983): 656-666. Download
David Adamany, “The New Faces of American Politics.”
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 486, Regulating Campaign Finance. (Jul., 1986): 12-33. Download

6.4 The Rise of the Religious Right
Phillip E. Hammond, “The Curious Path of Conservative Protestantism.”
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 480, (Jul., 1985), pp. 53-62. Download
Ronald E. Hopson and Donald R. Smith, “Changing Fortunes: An Analysis of Christian Right Ascendance within American Political Discourse.”
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 38, 1. (1999):1-13. Download

Recommended:
David Vogel,
Fluctuating Fortunes: The Political Power of Business in America. (New York: Beard Books, 2003).
William Martin,
With God On Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. (New York: Broadway Books, 1997).
Damon Linker,
The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege. (Doubleday, 2006).

March 27

The Reagan “Revolution”

7.1 The Reagan Presidency
Dinesh D’Souza,
Ronald Reagan, entire.

7.2 Conservatism and the Reagan Era
George Will, “Looking Back at the Gipper.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p.362.
Stephen J. Tonsor, “Why I Am Not a Neoconservative.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p.373
Dan Himmelfarb, “Conservative Splits.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 383

Recommended:
Murray N. Rothbard, “Ronald Reagan: An Autopsy.”
Liberty, March 1989. Download
Kenneth Hoover and Raymond Plant,
Conservative Capitalism in Britain and the United States: A Critical Appraisal. (Routledge, 1989).

April 3

The New Political Landscape

8.1 Background
John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge,
The Right Nation, chapters 4-7

8.2 Waging the War of Ideas
Andrew Rich, “War of Ideas: Why Mainstream and Liberal Foundations and the Think Tanks they Support are Losing in the War of Ideas in American Politics.”
Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2005. Download
National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy,
The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations (1997) (Note: follow links at the bottom of the summary to skim the report) Download

8.3 Resurgent Republicans and Democratic Centrists
New Gingrich, “Contract with America.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 424.
Jeffrey B. Gayner, “The Contract with America: Implementing New Ideas In the U.S.” Heritage Lecture #549 October 12, 1995.
Download
President William Jefferson Clinton, State of the Union Address, January 23, 1996
Download
Tod Lindberg, “Gingrich Lost and Found.”
Policy Review 94 (April & May 1999). Download

8.4 A Nation Divided?
James L. Guth, Lyman A. Kellstedt, John C. Green & Corwin E. Smidt, “America Fifty/Fifty.”
First Things 116 (October 2001): 19-26. Download
John C. Green, Corwin E. Smidt, James L. Guth, and Lyman A. Kellstedt, “The American Religious Landscape and the 2004 Presidential Vote: Increased Polarization.”
Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (February 2005). Download

Recommended:
Michael Meeropol,
Surrender: How the Clinton Administration Completed the Reagan Revolution. (University of Michigan Press, 2000).

April 10

Republicanism and Unified Control

Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Off Center, entire.

Recommended:
Thomas Edsall,
Building Red America. (Basic Books, 2006).
James Bovard,
The Bush Betrayal. (Palgrave MacMillan, 2005).

April 17

Contemporary Conservative Fault Lines

10.1 Foreign Policy: The Bush Doctrine
John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge,
The Right Nation, chapter 8
John T. Correll, “The Evolution of the Bush Doctrine.”
Air Force Magazine, February 2003, pp. 30-37. Download
Patrick J. Buchanan, “No End to War: The Frum-Perle prescription would ensnare America in endless conflict."
American Conservative (March 1, 2004). Download
Patrick Buchanan, “A Republic, Not an Empire.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 401.

10.2 Gay Marriage: From Prohibition to Privatization
Matthew Spalding, “A Defining Moment: Marriage, the Courts, and the Constitution.” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #1759
Download
Dr. James Dobson, “Eleven Arguments against Same-Sex Marriage.” Focus on the Family, May 23, 2004.
Download
Andrew Sullivan, “Here Comes The Groom: A conservative case for gay marriage.”
The New Republic (August 28, 1989). Download
Jonathan Rauch, “On Gay Marriage: Conservatives Betray Conservatism.”
The Public Interest (Summer 2004). Download
David Boaz, “Privatize Marriage: A Simple Solution to the Gay-Marriage Debate.”
Slate (April 24, 1998). Download

Recommended:
Ron Suskind,
The One Percent Doctrine. (Simon & Schuster, 2006).
Jonathan Rauch,
Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America. (Owl Books, 2004).

April 24

The Future of American Conservatism (24 April)

11.1 Background
John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge,
The Right Nation, chapters 9-15

11.2 In Search of Consensus (Once Again)
Samuel Francis, “Beautiful Losers: Why Conservatism Failed.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 414.
Paul Weyrich, “An Open Letter to Conservatives.” (In Gregory L. Schneider, ed,
Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 428
Policy Review,
“What’s Right.” In Gregory L. Schneider, ed, Conservatism in America Since 1930, p. 432.
Edwin J. Feulner, “The Future of Conservatism.”
Heritage Foundation, 2000. Download
W. James Antle III, “Conservative Crack-Up: Will Libertarians Leave the Cold War Coalition?”
The American Conservative, November 17, 2003. Download
Ryan McMaken, “The Return of Fusionism.” 2003
Download

Recommended:
Andrew Sullivan,
The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back. (HarperCollins (October 10, 2006).
Richard A. Viguerie,
Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause. (Bonus Books, 2006).

Appendix

The following questions are available for short essays in SOCS 632

1. To what extent is American conservatism conservative?

2. What are the core differences among competing schools of conservatism? What are the commonalities? Are the differences and the lively debates they engender a source of strength or weakness?

3. Hayek and others object to efforts to portray libertarianism as a variant of conservatism. Is libertarianism best viewed as a form of conservatism or something altogether different?

4. During the 1960s, some conservative intellectuals (most notably Frank S. Meyer) promoted “fusionism,” and attempt to integrate libertarian anti-statism and individualism with the mainstream conservative emphasis on traditional morality. Is fusionism possible? Is a failure of the fusionist project responsible for the deep divisions within the contemporary right?

5. Many claim that the right has won the war of ideas. At first glance, this seems paradoxical given the prevalence of the left in the media and institutions of higher education. How can one explain the right’s growing influence in policy and political debates after decades of liberal dominance?

6. Conservative claims of a culture war seem to be reinforced by the strong support that “people of faith” give to the Republican Party. How can one explain the connection between religiosity and conservatism? Can the Democratic Party succeed if it continues to embrace secularism?

7. History is often shaped by the actions of a single actor. Would the conservative successes of the past few decades have occurred without Ronald Reagan? Is conservatism and elite movement capable of mobilizing mass support or a mass movement?

8. In the midst of the Reagan presidency, George A. Panichas decried what he saw as the emergence of “a tinsel, opportunistic, and hedonistic conservatism” that was enamored of “endless ‘policy reviews’ and ‘policy studies,’” but lacked “a basic apprehension of the ‘permanent things’.” What are the tensions between conservatism as a philosophical orientation and as a governing ethos? Are the two compatible?

9. Conservatives in government have challenged (and in some cases reversed) many policies inherited from the New Deal and the Great Society. What were the common features of the conservative critiques of these domestic policies? Why were they effective?

10. In contemporary political debates, neoconservatism is often portrayed as being synonymous with conservatism as a whole. What is distinctive about neoconservatism and why do so many conservatives object to its influence in foreign policy?

11. George W. Bush dramatically expanded the size of the federal government, increased funding for the Department of Education, and has engaged in deficit spending and nation building. Is George W. Bush a conservative? If so, how would you characterize George W. Bush’s conservatism (e.g., is it neoconservatism, social conservatism, some heretofore unidentified synthesis)?

12. George W. Bush’s doctrine of preemption (the Bush Doctrine) has raised the concerns of many conservatives. Why were conservatives seemingly unified in support of the Reagan Doctrine and yet many have proven hesitant to embrace the Bush Doctrine?

13. Should gay marriage be a conservative idea? How can one reconcile the divisions within conservatism on this important issue?

14. Identity is developed though reference to another. Can conservatism continue to flourish without a viable American left?

15. Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America has been one of the more influential examinations of recent conservative victories. What’s the matter with Thomas Frank? Or is his interpretation persuasive?

16. Following the 2004 Democratic Convention, a number of party elites met to chart a new path for the Democratic Party. What, if anything, can the left learn from the victories of the right?

17. In response to the 2006 midterm elections, some pundits suggested that the GOP defeat constituted the end of American conservatism. How does one assess the implications of the Democratic victories?

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