Acclaimed historian George H. Nash's "Reappraising the Right: The Past & Future of American Conservatism" should instead be titled "A Retrospective of George H. Nash's Right: Repeated Tributes to Herbert Hoover, Russell Kirk and Richard Weaver; Afterthoughts for Everybody Else."
With more original reappraisal and less recollection -- i.e., what I expected to read when I included Nash's present work in my long-delayed vacation reading earlier this month -- this volume would bookend nicely with Nash's worthy 1976 tome, "The Conservative Intellectual Movement Since 1945."
Instead, except for a previously unpublished essay on Benjamin Schultz and the McCarthy era, we get reprinted pieces extolling Hoover, Kirk and Weaver, reminding us of the profound energy and importance of William F. Buckley Jr., offering familiar thoughts on why Reagan was Reagan, and, finally, a brief, pre-Obama look at "the prospects for American conservatism."
Thus, the book's chief value is as a refresher for movement types who matured politically during and after the 1960s, and as a useful backgrounder for the Internet generation of the Right concerning the shoulders upon which they stand.
That's unfortunate, as the present times cry out for a comprehensive reappraisal of the Right's past and its prospects as Obama and the Left lash America to further progress in the Long March to Big Government's milk and honey. Nash suffers some blind spots, however, that could compromise his effort were he to attempt it.
I wonder, for example, what the irascible political philosopher Willmoore Kendall would make of the Tea Party movement. Kendall gets a somewhat respectful treatment in "Reappraisal" but it focuses excessively on his "brash combativeness" and "love of debate" without telling us much about his sterling defense of the Founders and the Constitution as profoundly conservative influences.
Kendall alone among the movement's founding generation looked mainly to the American experience from the Mayflower Compact forward as the defining context for the conservative movement and contemporary political issues, rather than to either the ancients preferred by the Straussians or the medieval figures who mostly inspired the predominantly Catholic intellects of the movement's early years.
For that reason, I suspect Kendall would cheer the Tea Partiers. It is no coincidence that his "Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition" (written with Georgetown University's George Carey) makes clear to the careful reader the stark inevitability of that groundswell of protest against Obama's Leviathan.
Similarly, all but invisible in "Reappraisal" is the "Don't Immanemtize the Eschaton" battalions of the movement exemplified by Eric Voegelin and M.E. Bradford. The former's "New Science of Politics" first made many thoughtful Americans aware of the Gnostic millenarianism at the heart of the Left's political vision.
And it was Bradford who most ably described that millenarianism's Puritan roots in the American order. Bradford also predicted the radicals' ascension in the present struggles occasioned by Obama's promise of "hope and change."
Yet Voegelin gets only a few footnotes from Nash, despite his acknowledgment in an essay on the late professor and North Carolina Sen. John East that East viewed Voegelin as one of the movement's founders.
As for Bradford, Nash can't see beyond Bradford's scathing critique of "Father Abraham" Lincoln (an admittedly politically problematic obstacle) to appreciate essential works like the Texan's "Original Intentions: On the Making and Ratification of the Constitution," which explicated the political context that birthed the jurisprudence. (Note: Bradford was my dissertation director in the Kendall Program of Politics and Literature at the University of Dallas).
In the end, though, we shouldn't be too hard on the New England-born Nash. After all, parochialism isn't really unique to Dixie. Nor should it be.
Mark Tapscott is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner and proprietor of Tapscott's Copy Desk blog on Mark Tapscott is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner and proprietor of Tapscott's Copy Desk blog on washingtonexaminer.com.