Many if not most conservatives in the United States have very little idea where the conservative movement originated and how it developed. This episode provides an extremely condensed summary of the founding of conservatism in the wake of World War II, as well as a bit about its history since then. Key points include:
· American conservatism is a modern political movement with postwar origins. It does not extend back to the founding, Edmund Burke, etc.
· Contrary to its stated commitment to timeless principles, the beliefs of conservatism have continuously and even radically changed over time.
· Conservatism was originally a tiny movement of people on the margins who achieved successes that were probably inconceivable to their founders.
· Conservatism was originally separate from the Republican Party, then one faction within, and now today has become indistinguishable from it. The Republican Party is monolithically conservative today.
· Social conservatives, as we understand the term today, were not originally part of the conservative movement and joined it much later in the 1970s and 80s.
Further reading for those interested in the history of conservatism:
George Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 (considered the canonical history of the movement up through the mid-1970s)
George Hawley, Right Wing Critics of American Conservatism (written by a University of Alabama professor)
Paul Gottfried, Conservatism in America (the "loser's history" from a paleoconservative, written on an academic press).