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Book Review: The Death of Conservatism

41SoJL9eqwL._SL160_By Sam Tanenhaus
Random House ©2009 | Hardback 144pgs
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Russ Imamura

Sam Tanenhaus’  book whose title is written in a combination of cursive red letters and black bold letters on the cover – The Death of Conservatism tells us that the obituary of Conservatism may have already been written. Throughout his excellent book which covers the evolution of conservatism and even liberalism – from the New Deal, LBJ’s Great Society, the Nixon years Reaganism, Clinton, both Bushes and the present Obama era – the conclusion is that conservatism, i.e., real conservatism today is on life support. And there is a possibility, if it gets back to its real roots, it may start breathing on its own and even flourish again.

Tanenhaus focuses in on the cycle of the Left and Right dominance throughout the past. He also covers many conservative and liberal organizations of the past, i.e., SDS, YAF, the Birchers and their influence upon their respective parties. He highlights the fact that the Left has followed a similar self-destructive path in the past that the Right is treading on right now (i.e., the Left’s anti-establishment passions of the sixties and its opting for the extreme elements of its party) and that the Right should learn from that era.

But the emphasis of the book is that the Right has strayed from its main values. Those values were exuded by such pragmatic individuals such as Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and others. During their time they spoke deeply about the issues of culture and society. They were not so preoccupied with power, “basics” and “principles”. Because of this preoccupation, the party has become split between those centrist politicos who are, for the most part, all-inclusive and believe in the existing political order and government which has a vital role in society and those people who generally are not inclusive and are distrustful of government to the point of recommending that it be abolished.

We see this in the current events today – in the health care debate where generally one party views government as vital to ameliorate the living conditions of all Americans and the other party distrusting government and letting the typical American fend for him or herself. We also see this in the current financial crisis where usually one party thinks that business and the financial markets should have free rein in doing what it pleases even to the point of destroying the livelihood of the average American – and the other party which thinks that there is a dearth of safety mechanisms to prevent such institutions from wreaking havoc on the American people and that government has inherent role to curb such activities.

This book gives you a very good grasp of the development of both the Right and the Left and how each played off each other.  I found it, at times, tedious especially when the author recounted the various political organizations in the past and the development of Patrick Moynihan’s views. I highly recommend this book for all Americans regardless of their political background. However, I believe it is a must for those who call themselves conservatives – for the sake of resurrecting their party and for the sake of the welfare of all Americans. I believe the pulse of the real Right is still beating; there still is hope.

Special thanks to guest contributor Russ Imamura.

Already read the book? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think.

  1. Dan
    December 10th, 2009 at 00:45 | #1

    Sounds like a good book to read about the right & left-wing politics.

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