April 14, 1999
"The Conservative Revolution: The Movement That Remade America" Offers First Detailed History of Modern Conservatism
WASHINGTON, APRIL 14, 1999- Liberal pundits may claim the conservative reorientation of American politics in 1994 was an accident. They couldn't be more wrong. The movement that ran roughshod over the prevailing liberal orthodoxy is alive and well, says Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Lee Edwards, author of the just-published "The Conservative Revolution: The Movement that Remade America" (April 1999, Free Press, New York).
One of the nation's leading conservative historians, Edwards analyzes the conservative events, ideas and personalities that have shaped the current political landscape and will chart the country's political future.
The author of seven books, including biographies of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, Edwards explains how the conservative movement's triumphs rest on the five essential elements of political success: a consistent philosophy, a national constituency, a solid financial base, mass media savvy, and charismatic, principled leadership.
A sixth factor that contributed to conservative success these past 20 years is, Edwards says, an atmosphere of crisis. "In 1980, Americans were sharply aware that the nation required leaders who could cope with critical problems like inflation, unemployment, and the Soviet empire, and in 1994, they demanded that something be done about out-of-control government programs like health care and welfare," he says.
Today's conservative victories can be traced back to four key figures, men Edwards calls the Four Misters: Robert Taft, "Mister Republican," the beacon of conservative principle during the lean Roosevelt and Truman years; Barry Goldwater, "Mister Conservative," the flinty Westerner who inspired a new generation; Ronald Reagan, "Mister President," the optimist whose core beliefs were strong enough to subdue the Soviet Union; and Newt Gingrich, "Mister Speaker," the fiery visionary who won a majority in Congress.
These men, Edwards says, carved their indelible mark on conservative politics and transformed the conservative movement from a timid minority to a political majority.
The left helped, Edwards says, noting that American liberalism "lost its way between the New Deal and the Great Society, between Korea and the Sandanistas, between Harry Truman and Michael Dukakis. Liberals went into a free fall, their swift descent marked by a telltale shift from concern for the common man and Middle America to preoccupation with minorities and special interests."
But liberals won't admit defeat, he says. Quite the contrary - today's liberal mantra claims credit for conservative ideas while arguing that conservatism is a passing fad. That claim "never made much sense," Edwards says, "and in the wake of the defeat of communism and the continuing rollback of the welfare state, it now makes no sense at all. The conservative revolution is here to stay."