Thursday, April 22, 2010

After the Hangover

By R. Emmett Tyrrell, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 272 pages.

Emmett Tyrrell tells the history and perspectives of the conservative movement in the US through the personalities involved. After the Hangover shows that these thinkers, originally a tightknit group fighting against the tide of big-government Liberals in the 1950s and after, changed the political landscape in the country, eventually leading to the Reagan years.

Readers get a strong sense of the major ideas of conservatives, including the belief in individual freedom, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. For conservatives, the human is a mixture of good and bad, perfectly capable of choosing virtue yet easily swayed in the other direction. Government cannot legislate virtue. If someone is forced to do good deeds, rather than freely from his heart, it is not virtue.

Tyrrell calls on conservatives to quit the careerism and backbiting that became pronounced, he argues, during the Second Bush years. As one way to avoid this, conservatives must continue to work at changing American culture, and not only politics. The author fears many of the projects, including Obamacare, that are currently remaking America. Yet he confidently believes that conservatives are in or near the center of American life, even if the Liberals control the media and universities.

Aside from a few swipes at conservative personalities such as William F. Buckley's son, which tend to be confusing rather than informative, Tyrrell offers a solid introduction of the main beliefs and characters of American conservatism from the mid-twentieth-century onwards.

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