I am still going through and listening to this, but this is a very solid podcast so far. I’ll need to dig into that Gingrich piece.
I have some items I’d recommend for either Klepek or anyone else looking for follow-up reading on conservatism, partially (although not entirely) to potentially examine what Klepek refers to in this discussion about a lack of thought behind, er, ‘Gingrinchism’, I suppose.
I’d recommend any of Rick Perlstein’s historical works (Before the Storm, Nixonland, and The Invisible Bridge). I’ve preached their gospel before, but they are all first-class narrative histories that are imminently readable and a great source of analysis from a leftist historian about U.S. conservatism and the post-Goldwater pivot. I find Perlstein’s pitch on Goldwater’s centrality to the history of modern conservatism to be persuasive, but also, in some ways, a fascinating accompaniment to what it sounds like this piece is talking about – if Gingrich ‘broke politics’, he was building on a foundation that Goldwater started.
In the books, Perlstein sketches out a transformation of rhetoric from Goldwater, to Nixon, to Reagan (which is charted over the three books – and I hope a fourth is on the way). While Goldwater’s free-market libertarianism contained elements of racism, which his campaign occasionally embraced with a proto-‘law-and-order’ (which Nixon would perfect) angle, his animus was not the same as some of the Dixiecrats (like Strom Thurmond) who backed him and (Before the Storm argues) Goldwater, to an extent, limited those angles in his campaign. He was a genuine ideologue and not a winner-takes-all pragmatist – perhaps the opposite of Gingrich, based on this podcast.
Seriously, can’t recommend these enough – I’m sure y’all would enjoy them too.
My other recommendation is a (shorter) book I’m currently reading through, Corey Robins’ The Reactionary Mind, which seems like a pop-oriented analysis of conservative thought (as its subhead reads, ‘From Edmund Burke to Donald Trump’). I am early in it, but I do think there’s value in understanding the development of ideas. Even bleakest nihilism has a continuity and a history to it. This is a softer recommmendation, as I haven’t finished it, but it seemed worth mentioning.
- Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus
- Rick Perlstein, Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America
- Rick Perlstein, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan
- Corey Robin, The Reactionary Mind: From Edmund Burke to Donald Trump