... superb ... [Continetti] brings an insider’s nuance and a historian’s dispassion to the ambitious task of writing the American right’s biography, and he adds a journalist’s knack for deft portraiture and telling details...His accuracy is impressive, too; in his 400-plus pages spanning 100 years, I found no claims to cavil with ... authoritative and entertaining.
Continetti seems less interested in the numbers of politics than in its ideas, and the tension between them is the driving force of The Right ... Continetti revisits [William F.] Buckley’s greatest hits: how he pushed out the fringe elements of mid-century conservatism; how he helped usher in 'fusionism,' the blend of economic and cultural conservatism that Frank Meyer articulated in National Review; and how he 'mainstreamed' American conservatism ... Yet to his credit, Continetti does not canonize Buckley ... [Continetti and another conservative author] not only write history; they take solace in it. Their works can illuminate the paths forward for party and movement, though only to a point. Their works can illuminate the paths forward for party and movement, though only to a point. History, after all, is not an interested party. But it can be an interesting one.
The Right: The Hundred Year War for American Conservatism paints a messier, and for that reason far more accurate, portrait of 20th- and 21st-century American conservatism ... Mr. Continetti captures beautifully the ad hoc, rearguard nature of American conservatism. Not until the end of the book does he make explicit what becomes clearer as the narrative moves forward: 'Over the course of the past century, conservatism has risen up to defend the essential moderation of the American political system against liberal excess. Conservatism has been there to save liberalism from weakness, woolly-headedness, and radicalism' ... The American right, Mr. Continetti’s account makes clear, has always had its cranks and dreamers.
Although Continetti steers clear of insider gossip, his description of life in the conservative machine has the feel of an eyewitness account ... Meaningful silences with respect to his old employer aren’t the only times when Continetti shades the narrative to place his subject in a softer light ... This, in short, is a book that gets a lot of things wrong. But it gets one big and important thing right. By illustrating how much today’s right-wing populists owe to yesterday’s establishment conservatives—their successes, failures, and all the compromises made along the way—Continetti demonstrates that there are no sharp breaks in the history of the Right, only partial victories in a constant struggle. Trump’s election wasn’t divine retribution for conservatism’s original sins. It was just politics, the result of both long-term structural trends and choices shot through with contingency. Which means the fate of the Right is still up for grabs. And so is American democracy.
Though Continetti overstates Trump’s successes and dubiously claims that 1960s leftists 'celebrated' the violence of the decade as 'just, necessary, and beneficial,' this is a worthy analysis of how free market policies and nativist populism make for a potent political mix.
Sturdy account of the many divisions within modern conservatism, divisions that have been growing over a century ... The author presents a convincing case for a brand of conservatism that checks overly ambitious progressives. He also clearly shows how the Democratic Party has moved to the left precisely in reaction to Trump and needs the restraint of a principled opposition ... Rational, well thought out, and impeccably argued—of interest to all students of politics.