Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

The American Intellectual Tradition: A Sourcebook, 2 Vols. (6Th ed.)/Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

The American Intellectual Tradition: A Sourcebook, 2 Vols. (6Th ed.)/Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan

Article excerpt

The American Intellectual Tradition: A Sourcebook, 2 vols. (6th ed.). David A. Hollinger and Charles Capper. (Eds.). New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Softcover. 592 pp. (vol. 1); 688 pp. (vol. 2). ISBN 978-0-195-39292-0 (vol. 1); ISBN 978-0-195-39293-7 (vol. 2).

Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan. Kim Phillips-Fein. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009. 356 pp. Hardcover. ISBN: 978-0393-05930-4.

After the defeat of Mitt Romney in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, there was much debate among Republicans about the reasons for their dispiriting loss, especially because well-funded independent super PACs associated with corporate leaders such as casino owner Sheldon Adelson and residentialconstruction magnate Bob Perry had entered the fray on their side. Some observers pointed to the vast superiority of Democrats' data-mining, dataanalytics, and social-media efforts, which resulted in precise identification of likely Democratic voters in key demographic sectors of battleground states. Others suggested that the incumbent president, Barack Obama, benefitted from positive media coverage after his prompt response to the needs of the victims of Hurricane Sandy, which struck New York City and New Jersey shortly before Election Day; in this regard, it did not hurt that the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who had been a staunch opponent of the president before the devastating storm, now praised Obama for his crisis-handling abilities. Still others faulted what they saw as Republicans' antiquated positions on social questions of vital concern to women and various minority groups, the very type of voters whom, according to yet another post-defeat hypothesis, had been lured into casting their ballots for Obama through craftily tailored policy proposals.1

Undoubtedly aware of how Republicans' underuse of digital technologies and Hurricane Sandy contributed to their electoral fate, David Brooks nonetheless insisted that the Romney campaign's ultimate failing was an overreliance on "Donor Base Republicanism," "the usual lobbyist-driven position[s]," and "members of the conservative political-entertainment complex." Most importantly, Romney was unable to articulate an inspiring conservative vision that could captivate the millions of Americans who might be searching for a guiding philosophy in difficult times. Simply put, his campaign lacked ideas that went beyond "a conventional set of arguments." And so Brooks felt that it would be intellectual firepower that would give much-needed new energy to a floundering conservative movement. He zeroed in on four interwoven strands that would form the basis of the coming conservative intellectual renaissance: paleoconservatism, defined as a suspicion of bigness in all its manifestations, such that its adherents are "dispositionally" more like "Walker Percy than Pat Robertson"; l ower-middle Reformism, an amalgam of "social conservatism, which reinforces families" and a "working-class" agenda that "supports upward mobility and social capital"; soft libertarianism, the notion that "being pro-market is not the same as being pro-business"; and Burkean revivalism, the belief in "an organic vision of society" as put forward by the Anglo-Irish politicianphilosopher Edmund Burke in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). He also invoked the names of mostly unfamiliar current writers such as Rod Dreher, Daniel Larison, Reihan Salam, Ramesh Ponnuru, Derek Khanna, Luigi Zingales, Adam J. White, and Yuval Levin as representatives of those four ideational currents, noting that they would be the vanguard of any future Republican success.2

Brooks's confidence in the power of ideas drew strength from a rich conservative intellectual tradition that, as Patrick Allitt showed in The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities Throughout American History (2009), reaches back to the Federalists and includes not only well-known figures such as Daniel Webster, John C. …

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