A Time for Choosing

A Time for Choosing : The Rise of Modern American Conservatism

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How did American conservatism, little more than a collection of loosely related beliefs in the late 1940s and early 1950s, become a coherent political and social force in the 1960s? What political strategies originating during the decade enabled the modern conservative movement to flourish? And how did mainstream and extremist conservatives, frequently at odds over tactics and ideology, each play a role in reshaping the Republican Party? In the 1960s conservatives did nothing less than engineer their own revolution. A Time for Choosing tells the remarkable story behind this transformation. In the first decade after World War II, two broad branches of organized conservatism emerged: mainstream or electoral conservatism and extremist conservatism. By the end of the 1950s, both groups had grown dissatisfied with the Republican party, yet they disagreed about how to create political change. Looking to private organizations as a means of exerting influence, extremists tapped the reserves of conservative discontent and formed maverick factions such as the John Birch Society. Mainstream conservatives, on the other hand, attempted to capture the GOP, seeking reform through the electoral and party systems. They "drafted" Barry Goldwater as their presidential candidate in 1964, and though he suffered a devastating defeat, the campaign electrified millions of Americans. Four years later, American conservatism, a perennial underdog in national politics, was firmly in the ascent. A Time for Choosing, making unprecedented use of archival material to document the strategies and influence of grassroots citizens' groups, provides the fullest picture yet of the way conservatism's two cultures combined to build a triumphant political movement from the ground up. Where previous accounts of conservatism's rise tend to speed from 1964 through the start of the Reagan era in 1980, A Time for Choosing explores in dramatic detail how conservatives took immediate action following the Goldwater debacle. William F. Buckley, Jr.'s 1965 bid for Mayor of New York City and Reagan's 1966 California governor's campaign helped turn the tide for electoral conservatism. By decade's end, independent "splinter groups" vied for the right to bear the conservative standard into the next decade, demonstrating the movement's strength and vitality. Although conservative ideology was not created during the 1960s, its political components were. Here, then, is the story of the rise of the modern conservative movement. Provocative and beautifully written, A Time for Choosing is a book for anyone interested in politics and history in the postwar era.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 348 pages
  • 152.4 x 231.14 x 20.32mm | 498.95g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195157265
  • 9780195157260

Review quote

Amid the many recent books on the rise of American conservatism in the 1960s and 1970s, Jonathan Schoenwald's volume stands out for its depth of research, clarity of writing, and-above all-for its admirably balanced understanding of the dilemmas and divisions that confronted conservatives in those years. * James T. Patterson, Brown University * Carefully argued, well researched, and far ranging, A Time for Choosing successfully reconceptualizes the rise of the modern conservative movement. Jonathan Schoenwald has clearly demonstrated that the conservative capture of the Republican party in 1964 was only the beginning of a dynamic process of taming extremists, attracting moderates, and integrating grassroots organizations into a viable electoral alliance that would eventually vanquish the New Deal coalition of President Franklin Roosevelt. * Robert Alan Goldberg, University of Utah * Jonathan Schoenwald has given us a well-researched and thoroughly fair account of the growth of the modern conservative movement from 1950 to 1972, centering on the struggle between its more responsible protagonists and its extremist fringes. In so doing, he is leading the way in giving the movement the serious historical attention it has long deserved. Future students of the movement will find his book indispensable. * William A. Rusher, The Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy * Elegantly written and persuasively argued, A Time for Choosing is destined to become a standard work in the study of modern conservatism. It is required reading for anyone wishing to understand the decline of liberalism and the dramatic shift to the right since 1960. * Steven M. Gillon, University of Oklahoma * The book does ... have considerable merit, because Schoenwald doesn't allow his own liberalism to stand in the way of a reasonable and plausible thesis. He argues that in the 1960s, conservatives gained their foothold in the Republican party- and in the American mainstream- by reining in the fringe groups (such as the John Birch Society) that had defined their movement in the previous decade * National Review * In a nutshell, the Buckley-Welch feud is the story of conservatism - and the story told in Jonathan Schoenwald's admirable narrative ... In this crowded field, he has accomplished a remarkable feat: rooting around the boxes in the conservative attic and recovering some of the more forgotten moments and figures from the movement's past. He's especially strong when describing the far right * Washington Monthly * The story of the rise of American conservatism has been told often ... but his [Jonathan Schoenwald's] version has a unique focus ... He writes at length on the influence that extremism gained, and the trouble it caused in the house of conservatism during the Cold War * Washington Post *show more

About Jonathan M. Schoenwald

Jonathan M. Schoenwald is a Lecturer in the Humanities at Stanford University. Previously he taught at the College of Wooster.show more

Table of contents

Introduction ; 1. The Birth of Postwar Conservatism ; 2. The Cold War Hits Home ; 3. A New Kind of Conservatism: The John Birch Society ; 4. The Case of Edwin A. Walker ; 5. Creating Conflagration: Barry Goldwater and the Republican Party ; 6. Buckley for Mayor ; 7. A New Kind of Conservative: Ronald Reagan ; 8. Passing the Torch: Organizations and Issues, 1968-1972 ; Conclusionshow more

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