Right from the Start
Conservative Populists and the Fight for America's Future
Populism and the Reclaiming of Conservatism
Conservative populism, often dismissed as an inconsequential sideshow, is a lively tradition that goes back to the founding of the Republic. In this eye-opening book, Declan Leary tells the full story of the American right—an account that is long overdue.
Shocked by the horrors of fascism and fearful of the rising menace of communism, postwar conservatives redefined themselves in libertarian terms. The best and the brightest of the American right now championed causes—free trade, economic deregulation, and the global reach of U.S. power—that were foreign to traditional conservatism.
But from the beginning of this transformation, there were resisters. Joseph McCarthy, an old-school nationalist, understood “peace through strength” and “America first” as two sides of the same coin. A few years later, Patrick Buchanan helped Richard Nixon harness the conservatism of the “silent majority” and turn the American middle class into a reliably Republican constituency.
With Buchanan’s own challenge to the GOP establishment in 1990s, the conflict between the populists and the establishment broke out into the open. Buchanan lost, but two decades of economic globalism and military adventurism would leave the country receptive to his message. Donald Trump, the new messenger, was no anomaly but the latest bearer of a conservative tradition that can be clearly traced—if we only open our eyes.
Published: June, 2024