cover image Conservatism in a Divided America: The Right and Identity Politics

Conservatism in a Divided America: The Right and Identity Politics

George Hawley. Univ. of Notre Dame, $45 (368p) ISBN 978-0-268-20374-0

University of Alabama political scientist Hawley (The Alt-Right) scrutinizes in this nuanced treatise the conservative movement’s relationship with identity politics. Arguing that “self-described conservatives who vote Republican can be just as tribal as their political opponents,” he traces the right’s professed antipathy to identity politics to the influence of classical liberalism—with its focus on individualism and the natural rights of man—on American conservatism. However, Hawley writes, an “implicit white identity” has been baked into the conservative movement since the mid-20th century, when Southern segregationists opposed to the civil rights movement appealed to conservative intellectuals like William F. Buckley Jr. through “the language of federalism and limited government.” Further evidence of the identitarian elements baked into conservatism is provided in analyses of the “gender essentialism” espoused by right-wing opponents of the feminist revolution and how fears that whites would lose their majority status in the U.S. provoked a faction of Republicans to demand an “enforcement first” approach to immigration. Though some readers may disagree with Hawley’s claim that it’s possible to “draw a line between white nationalism and American conservatism, even while acknowledging the degree to which conservatives have benefited from, and sometimes contributed to, white racial anxieties,” he builds a scrupulous case. This has the power to change minds. (Nov.)