Conservatism in a Divided America: The Right and Identity Politics

Univ. of Notre Dame. Nov. 2022. 368p. ISBN 9780268203740. $45. POL SCI
Hawley (political science, Univ. of Alabama; Making Sense of the Alt-Right) is a careful, cautious internal critic of U.S. conservatism. He argues that partisan “identity politics” is pervasive among present-day conservatives, despite their insistence that liberals are the ones to politicize race, gender, and other aspects of identity. The author embarks on an intellectual history of American conservatism since the 1940s, focusing on the “respectable right,” but he struggles to salvage conservatism’s intellectual seriousness, which is increasingly marginalized under the influence of populists, Tea Party members, and Trump supporters. The author dedicates little space to right-wing radio and television hosts, even though he acknowledges their outsize impact on public opinion. He also soft-pedals the right’s pandering to white racial anxieties.
VERDICT A serviceable academic study of conservative identity politics, though it may turn off some readers with its approach to showing both sides and underwhelming analysis.
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