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The Vanishing TraditionPerspectives on American Conservatism$
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Paul Gottfried

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501749858

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501749858.001.0001

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The Right in Changing Perspective

(p.1) Introduction
The Vanishing Tradition

Paul Gottfried

Cornell University Press

This introductory chapter provides a background of the American conservative movement. The conservative movement grew out of a once-isolated sect of anti-Communist activists; and as it moved beyond its parochial starting point, it gained in both sophistication and moderation. Today at its best, it supposedly advocates for civility in American politics and for the application of “values” to common life. Although the conservative movement, which has expanded as a media presence, admits to having changed over the years, it still offers a problematic self-portrait. Two developments are critical for understanding the direction in which the conservative movement has gone, particularly since the 1980s. One is the rise of the neoconservatives as the dominant force within the movement. The other development that would shape the movement, and one related to the neoconservative ascendancy, has been a growing flexibility on social questions. Over the years, one encounters different forms of “American conservatism,” some of which have vanished over time and others of which have been stifled or weakened by better-funded groups claiming the conservative label.

Keywords:   American conservative movement, American politics, neoconservatives, American conservatism, anti-Communist activists, civility, values

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