(UG16 3670 HIST)

The Conservative Movement in America


Steven P. Miller, Ph.D.


Fall 2008, T 6:30-9:00 p.m., Eliot 213


Email: spmiller@artsci.wustl.edu (the best way to reach me)

Phone: 314-853-5495 (for emergencies only; no calls after 8:30 p.m., please!)

*** I will be on campus approximately one hour before each class meeting. 

Contact me to arrange a meeting. ***


Course Description and Themes

Over the last several decades, the conservative movement has grown into an influential force in American society.  How did this come about?  What do we now mean by “conservatism,” and how does this differ from what was called “conservatism” fifty years ago?  This class traces the evolution of the many forms of American conservatism from the 1930s to the present, looking at political thought, grassroots activism, and electoral politics.  Along the way, the course addresses such topics as isolationism and opposition to the New Deal (1930s-1940s); Cold War anticommunism (1950s); “law and order” (1960s); the new social issues, featuring St. Louis’ own Phyllis Schlafly (1970s); the Reagan Revolution (1980s); the culture wars (1990s)—and, of course, the presidency of George W. Bush.  We will close the course by analyzing the future of conservative politics in light of recent history, including the 2008 presidential election. 


Required Books/Readings

1.)    Schneider, Gregory L., ed.  Conservatism in America since 1930.  New York: New York University Press, 2003 (paperback).

2.)   Schrecker, Ellen, ed.  The Age of McCarthyism, 2nd edition.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002 (paperback).

3.)   Heilbrunn, Jacob.  They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons.  Doubleday, 2008.

4.)   Weekly readings (usually posted on Telesis; otherwise, handouts).


Class Structure and Expectations

Classes consist of both lectures and discussions.  Lectures outline critical themes, provide important factual information, and frame key questions for subsequent discussions.  Fruitful discussion requires close engagement of the readings, listed just below each class date. 


Since this is a once a week course, you are advised to attend every session.  Please clear foreseeable excused absences in advance.  In the event of emergencies—e.g., illness—please notify me of your absence as soon as is convenient.


If you require accommodations for exams or for lectures, please contact Cornerstone: the Center for Advanced Learning, located in Gregg Hall (935-5970, www.cornerstone.wustl.edu).  Cornerstone serves as the official University resource for approving and arranging students’ accommodations.  All information is treated as confidential.  I will provide accommodations for which you qualify as long as I receive the appropriate documentation from Cornerstone. 


I encourage you to take advantage of the many resources offered by the Writing Center: www.artsci.wustl.edu/~writing; email: writing@artsci.wustl.edu.



  • Participation, including weekly written summaries (20% of final grade)
    • Quality participation reflects engagement with the assigned readings.  Raising important questions represents one valuable way of contributing to discussions.  The participation component may also include extemporaneous in-class assignments. 
    • Prepare a 1-2 page written response to the weekly readings (except The Age of McCarthyism and They Were Right).  While the response should provide a brief summary of the reading(s), its main purpose is to serve as a starting point for in-class discussion.  It is intended as a first draft interpretation of writings that we will “unpack” together in class. 


  • In-class quiz & writing assignment on The Age of McCarthyism (10%), 9/23


  • In-class midterm exam (25%) 10/21.  I will provide a study guide beforehand.


  • Response essay on They Knew They Were Right (15%), 12/9


  • Take home essay for final exam (30%).  We will discuss your responses during our final class meeting on 12/16.


Grading Scale:              A         93-100           C+       77-79

A-        90-92             C          73-76          

B+       87-89             C-        70-72

B         83-86              D         60-69

B-        80-82             F          0-59 


Academic Integrity and Plagiarism
As you know, students at Washington University are expected to adhere to the highest standards of behavior.  Plagiarism, copying from other students, and other forms of cheating will not be tolerated.  It is dishonest and a violation of student academic integrity if you plagiarize, cheat on an examination, copy or collaborate on assignments without permission, fabricate or falsify data or records, or engage in other forms of deceit or dishonesty.  Complete information about the University’s Academic Integrity Policy may be found at http://artsci.wustl.edu/~college/Policies/; click on “Academic Integrity Policy.”  All violations of standard rules of academic integrity will be reported to and investigated by the Dean of University College.  If it is determined that you have acted dishonestly, or even if you have admitted the charges prior to a formal investigation or hearing, an appropriate sanction will be imposed, including automatic failure of the assignment or course, or in the case of serious or repeat violations, suspension or expulsion from the University.  Withdrawing from a course will not prevent the Dean from imposing or recommending sanctions.  If you observe another student violating this policy, you have a responsibility to confront the student, report the misconduct to the instructor, and/or seek advice from the appropriate dean or academic integrity officer.  For additional information, definitions of plagiarism, guidelines for writing and research, examples of proper citation, and practical tips on avoiding conventional and Internet plagiarism, please visit the following Web sites:
www.plagiarism.org and http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~writing/plagiarism.htm.  Note that citation standards apply as equally to Internet-based materials as to printed materials.  Please let me know if you have any questions about proper citation, attribution of sources, collaboration with other students, or any other related aspect of academic integrity and plagiarism.


Course Schedule


9/2  Introduction: Putting American Conservatism in Context

Dan T. Carter, “The Rise of Conservatism Since World War II” (2003) (in class)


9/9  Ideas Matter: Libertarian and Traditionalist Conservatism

Conservatism in America since 1930 (Conservatism): 1-4; 49-51; F. A. Hayek, 53-65; Mont Pelerin Society, 66-67; 91-94; Russell Kirk, 107-121; and Frank S. Meyer, 122-129.


9/16  The Transformation of Post-World War II Conservatism

Sara Diamond, from Roads to Dominion (1995)

Conservatism: Human Events, 45-47; Whittaker Chambers, 135-148


9/23  McCarthyism

Ellen Schrecker, The Age of McCarthyism (main text + document chapters TBA)



9/30  Race and the Right

“Declaration of Constitutional Principles” (Southern Manifesto), New York Times, 12 March 1956, pg. 19

William D. Workman, Jr., from The Case for the South (1960)

David L. Chappell, from A Stone of Hope (2004)


10/7  Building a Viable Movement

Conservatism: 169-170; William F. Buckley, 195-205; 207-210; Barry M. Goldwater, 211-225; Sharon Statement, 229-230


10/14  The Influence of Barry Goldwater

Conservatism: Phyllis Schlafly, 231-237

Lisa McGirr, from Suburban Warriors (2001)


10/21  Conservatism in Transition


Goldwater on Goldwater (in class)

10/28  Law, Order, and Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon, “What Has Happened to America?” (1967)

Dan T. Carter, from From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich (1999)

11/4  Issues of the 1970s: The New Right and the Tax Revolt

Richard M. Scammon and Benjamin J. Wattenberg, from The Real Majority (1970)

Jerome Himmelstein, from To the Right (1990)

Bruce J. Schulman, from The Seventies (2002)


11/11  Issues of the 1970s, II: The Christian Right and Gender

William Martin, from With God On Our Side, 191-220 (1996)

Donald Critchlow, “Conservatism Reconsidered: Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots

            Conservatism” (2003)

Scott Flipse, “Below-the-Belt-Politics: Protestant Evangelicals, Abortion, and the

            Foundation of the New Religious Right, 1960-75” (2003)


11/18  The Reagan Revolution

Conservatism: 337-340; Ronald Reagan speeches, 341-361; and George Will, 362-372


11/25 Conservatism After Reagan

Conservatism: Stephen J. Tonsor, 373-378; Dan Hilmmelfarb, 383-393; 395-399; and Contract with America, 424-427

David Brock, “Living with the Clintons” (1994)


12/2  Popular Conservatism and Neoconservatism

Heilbrunn, They Knew They Were Right (Prologue and “Exodus”)


12/9  Conservatism in Crisis?  Or Conservatism on the Comeback?  (consideration of 2008 elections)

Heilbrunn, They Knew They Were Right (finish)




12/16  FINAL EXAM (Discussion of exam essays)