Rebels All! A Short History of the Conservative Mind in Postwar America

Kevin Mattson, Author . Rutgers Univ. $21.95 (171p) ISBN 978-0-8135-4343-7

This slim, scathing study of the right’s trajectory argues that conservatives co-opted the utopian radicalism of the left to brilliantly position themselves as political underdogs, while efficiently consolidating power. With a little cheekiness and ample research, Mattson (When America Was Great ) contends that today’s conservatives, marked by their “aggressive, confrontational” style, their populism, “pizzazz and brashness,” are the true inheritors of the ’60s’ “rebel spirit.” The author skillfully links the invasion of Iraq with the new conservative utopianism (“a new city on the hill in the Middle East”) and identifies conservatism’s ideological family tree, detecting the echoes of Bill Buckley in Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. He enriches his familiar analysis of the birth of the “neocons” by reviewing how conservatives learned to define themselves more sharply, using the radical style of their liberal counterparts, and demonstrates how populism was fused with neoconservatism to sire the politics of “uncivil debate.” Passionately, unapologetically partisan, the author’s incendiary argument only cools when he champions liberalism as the “middle of the political spectrum,” perhaps proving that he—like the conservatives he so effectively skewers—is best on the offensive. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 06/23/2008
Release date: 06/01/2008
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