American Conservatism 1945-1995

By Kristol, Irving | The Public Interest, Fall 1995 | Go to article overview

American Conservatism 1945-1995


Kristol, Irving, The Public Interest


The Public Interest was born well before the term "neoconservative" was invented, and will - I trust - be alive and active when the term is of only historical interest. That time may even be now, as the distinction between conservative and neoconservative has been blurred almost beyond recognition. still, the distinction has not yet been entirely extinguished - it still turns up when Jeane Kirkpatrick's views on foreign policy are mentioned - so this may be a suitable moment to look back and define the role that neoconservatism, and The Public Interest specifically, has played in the history of American conservatism since the end of World War I). (A quite different, but equally useful, essay could be written on its role in the history of postwar liberalism.)

In that half-century, as I see it, American conservatism has gone through three stages.

First there was the renewal of what might be called traditional conservatism, centered around William F. Buckley's National Review and having the goal of reprogramming the Republican publican party into a solidly conservative political instrument. This led to the nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964 and the ensuing electoral debacle. That debacle, however, had the result of consolidating and expanding conservative influence within the Republican party. This is not as paradoxical as it appears. After all, the comparable debacle of McGovern's defeat in 1972 resulted in the left wing of American liberalism, whose candidate he was, gaining effective control of the Democratic party. Inner-party dynamics can be far more important than election results, on which the media and public attention naturally focus.

Second, there was the influence of the neoconservative impulse. Originally, this impulse looked to the Democratic party for political expression, but by the mid-1970s that was obviously an expectation difficult to sustain, and a gradual, often reluctant, shift toward the Republican party got under way. where are still quite a few Democratic neoconservatives, most of whom by now quietly vote Republican.) The Public Interest was the focal point of this neoconservative impulse, though much of its impact was the result of its influence on the younger men and women who were ensconced in the editorial and "op-ed" departments of the Wall Street journal. Neoconservatism differed in many important respects from traditional conservatism, but had no program of its own. Basically, it wanted the Republican party to cease playing defensive politics, to be forward-looking rather than backward-looking. Some of us actually dared to suggest that the party should be more "ideological," although "ideology" is not a term pleasing to American ears. in the end, the notion of an activist "agenda" has become ever more integral to Republican political thinking, doing the work of "ideology" though in a peculiarly pragmatic American way. The substance of any specific agenda may not have much to do with neoconservatism, but the moving spirit does.

Third, there has been the emergence, over the past decades, of religion-based, morally concerned, political conservatism. in the long run, this may be the most important of all. Though the media persist in portraying the religious conservatives as aggressive fanatics, in fact their motivation has been primarily defensive - a reaction against the popular counter-culture, against the doctrinaire secularism of the Supreme Court, and against a government that taxes them heavily while removing all traces of morality and religion from public education, for example, even as it subsidizes all sorts of activities and programs that are outrages against traditional morality. The religious faith behind this reaction has been steadily gaining in both intensity and popularity, especially among Protestant evangelicals, and may well now have a dynamism of its own. It is not at all unimaginable that the United States is headed for a bitter and sustained Kulturkampf that could overwhelm conventional notions of what is and what is not political.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

American Conservatism 1945-1995
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.