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pscot's Journal
Posted by pscot in Editorials & Other Articles
Sun Mar 27th 2011, 04:08 PM
Professor William Cronon looks at the 40-year conservative effort to transform the country through legislation, culminating in the reactionary policies now being put in place by Republican governors from New Jersey to Arizona. In order to stop these people, we have to know who they are and what they are planning. The tour starts here:

http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/20... /

Iíll start by sayingĖa professorial impulse I just canít resistĖthat itís well worth taking some time to familiarize yourself with the history of the conservative movement in the United States since the 1950s if you havenít already studied the subject. Whatever you think of its politics, I donít think there can be any question that the rise of modern conservatism is one of the great turnaround stories in twentieth-century American history. Itís quite a fascinating series of events, in which a deeply marginalized political movementĖtainted by widespread public reaction against Senator Joe McCarthy, the John Birch Society, and the massively defeated Barry Goldwater campaign of 1964Ėmanaged quite brilliantly to remake itself (and American politics) in the decades that followed.

I provide a brief reading list at the end of this note because many people from other parts of the political spectrum often seem not to take the intellectual roots of American conservatism very seriously. I believe this is a serious mistake. One key insight you should take from this history is that after the Goldwater defeat in 1964, visionary conservative leaders began to build a series of organizations and networks designed to promote their values and construct systematic strategies for sympathetic politicians. Some of these organizations are reasonably well knownĖfor instance, the Heritage Foundation, founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, a Racine native and UW-Madison alumnus who also started the Moral Majority and whose importance to the movement is almost impossible to overestimateĖbut many of these groups remain largely invisible.

Thatís why events like the ones weíve just experienced in Wisconsin can seem to come out of nowhere. Few outside the conservative movement have been paying much attention, and that is ill-advised. (I would, by the way, say the same thing about people on the right who donít make a serious effort to understand the left in this country.)

Itís also important to understand that events at the state level donít always originate in the state where they occur. Far from it.

An important partner of ALECís, by the way, is the State Policy Network (SPN), which helps coordinate the activities of a wide variety of conservative think tanks operating at the state level throughout the country. See its home page at
http://www.spn.org /
Many of the publications of these think tanks are accessible and downloadable from links on the SPN website, which are well worth taking the time to peruse and read. A good starting place is:
http://www.spn.org/members /

Two important SPN members in Wisconsin are the MacIver Institute for Public Policy:
http://maciverinstitute.com /
and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI):
http://www.wpri.org
If you want to be a well-informed Wisconsin citizen and donít know about their work, youíll probably want to start visiting these sites more regularly. Youíll gain a much better understanding of the underlying ideas that inform recent Republican legislation by doing so.


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