Gang of Five: Leaders at the Center of the Conservative Crusade

Nina J. Easton, Author
Nina J. Easton, Author Simon & Schuster $27 (464p) ISBN 978-0-684-83899-1
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-7432-0320-3
Open Ebook - 464 pages - 978-0-7432-1164-2
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Already a capable chronicler of conservatism, Easton (co-author with Ronald Brownstein of Reagan's Ruling Class) returns to the history of the Right with a cautionary political tale in the form of intersecting biographies of five ""third generation"" conservative leaders. Her subjects--Weekly Standard publisher Bill Kristol, Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed, antitax lobbyist Grover Norquist, Congressman David McIntosh and constitutional lawyer Clint Bolick--all came of political age on the college campuses of the early to mid-1970s, when the Left was strong and the Right irrelevant. But the combative nature of this ""gang,"" Easton argues, soon changed the landscape of American politics. Appropriating both the irreverence and confidence of their leftist antagonists, these five individuals made conservative politics not only interesting but also almost hip. Their view of politics as a Manichean duel in which there could be no compromise soon came to define conservative politics. Easton traces the public careers of her subjects from the Right's halcyon days in the Reagan era to the present; she also notes how many Americans--including Clinton, who, in 1996, said ""The era of big government is over""--came to embrace many of their anti-statist, free-market ideas. But the public didn't embrace the gang itself, Easton contends, because its members were too arrogant, too vitriolic in their rhetoric; they had passion but seemed to lack compassion. Easton wonders, in the end, if her subjects truly want to lead or merely fight. Neither an impassioned defense nor a rabid attack, this book delivers a thoughtful account of a crucial aspect of recent American politics. (Aug.)
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