The American Pageant (12th Edition)

Chapter 41 – Page 976

Our Critique

976 “‘It’s morning in America’ was the slogan of Republican candidate Ronald Reagan in his 1980 presidential campaign. Certainly the 1980s were a new day for America’s conservative right. Census figures confirmed that the average American was older than in the stormy sixties and much more likely to live in the South or West, the traditional bastions of the ‘Old Right,’ where many residents harbored suspicions of federal power. The conservative cause drew added strength from the emergence of a ‘New Right’ movement, partly in response to the counter-cultural protests of the 1960s. Spearheading the New Right were evangelical Christian groups such as the Moral Majority, dedicated believers who enjoyed startling success as political fund-raisers.”

This opening paragraph in the chapter is gobbledygook. It does not explain conservatism and its historical roots. It omits the founders of the conservative movement, such as William F. Buckley Jr. and Russell Kirk. And the textbook refuses to discuss the ideas that form the basis of conservative thought. Instead the text gives a confusing picture of a vague “Old Right” and “New Right” somehow merging. The textbook suggests that this new conservatism was not so much a set of beliefs, but a reaction—these conservatives “harbored suspicions of federal power” and they opposed “the countercultural protests of the 1960s.” We are also told, at the end of the paragraph, that they “enjoyed startling success as political fund-raisers and organizers.” In other words, conservatives were merely reactive money-raisers who were suspicious of federal power and the counterculture.