Founding editor of the Washington Free Beacon and American Enterprise Institute Fellow Matthew Continetti gives a sweeping account of movement conservatism's evolution, from the Progressive Era through the present. He tells the story of how conservatism began as networks of intellectuals, developing and institutionalizing a vision that grew over time, until they began to buckle under new pressures, resembling national populist movements. Drawing out the tensions between the desire for mainstream acceptance and the pull of extremism, Continetti argues that the more one studies conservatism's past, the more one becomes convinced of its future.
... 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.