Rise of the Right Scholarship and Liberal Blind Spots

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 9:10 AM
Marriott Balcony B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Chad Pearson, Collin College
The study of the history of conservatism remains enormously popular.  Historians of this subject have taught us much about the ways in which conservative politicians, business leaders, religious figures, and others have campaigned, often effectively, against the liberal ideas and policies that found expression in the 1930s and 1960s.  Thanks to the work of dozens of historians, we know a great deal about the rise of the neocons, the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, the roles that evangelical Christians have played in shaping society, the rise of the sunbelt, and the impact that business organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have had on official politics.

But is the “right” the best unit of analysis?  How do the historians behind this burgeoning scholarship make sense of hawkish “liberals” or strikebreaking Democrats?  What do they say about the historical bipartisan support for anti-communism, the politics of law and order, tax cuts for the rich, austerity policies, free trade agreements, the so-called war against “terrorism,” or Israel?  This paper maintains that many de-emphasize or simply ignore areas where liberals and conservatives, including both thinkers and policymakers, agree.  Furthermore, such scholars, many of whom identify as liberals or centrists, not leftists, marginalize class divisions and minimize very real conflicts between liberals and the left over a host of issues related to both domestic and foreign policy.  This paper argues that the rise of this research offers evidence of a scholarly shift to the center.

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