Christmas may have just passed us by, but the new year is right around the bend — and you know what that means.
Resolutions. Resolutions that last a week, resolutions that last a month and, if you are truly strong-willed, resolutions that live out the entire year.
Your local gym, which will likely be absolutely packed on Jan. 1, just might be empty by February. A ghost town in the year’s opening weeks, the waiting area at McDonald’s may be seeing more traffic by March. And boy, do I feel for all the characters authored into their third or fourth chapter, then abandoned by April.
All right, I would be lying if I said this was anything but the hardest decision on this list. From “Brave New World” to “Atlas Shrugged,” there is simply more collectivist dystopian fiction in this world than one could possibly shake a stick at. Could I just group them all together? Who could blame me if I did? I mean, how could anybody choose just one?
Of course, when I finally caved and went to editorial with the dilemma, I found out how. In fact, I found out exactly which one everybody else would pick as well.
“1984,” said every Western Journal employee who outranks me, from the cat we keep downstairs to our editor-in-chief, George Upper, who called it the “most predictive” work of fiction of the bunch.
On reflection, he could not have been more correct. (And I would never say that just to get him off my case.)
George Orwell’s 1984 portrays a dystopian world where Big Brother reigns supreme.
Today, however, it reads more like a newspaper than a work of fiction.
— PragerU (@prageru) December 18, 2020
George Orwell’s unequivocal magnum opus, “1984” is a definitive work of fiction when it comes to the topics of individuality, censorship and the abominable nature of big government. In fact, he quite literally coined the popular anti-government epithet “Big Brother.”
And his brief, accessible story of global superpowers surveilling, curtailing and redefining speech in an effort to exhibit subconscious control over the general public is — as you have likely heard a thousand times — oddly reminiscent of the modern political and pop-cultural landscape, albeit it on a much smaller scale.
Main character Winston Smith’s tragic war against the Oceanian propaganda machine is an emotional must-read warning about the power of words and the immorality of shameless, all-encompassing authority.
On the flip side, it might also be best for modern conservatives to familiarize themselves with the bold words of “The Holy Bible.”
As the believers in our audience hopefully know, you can never spend too much time in the Word. We are often told, from the pews to the parables of Jesus, that the Word of God is a powerful seed. When watered well and cared for properly, it has a tendency to take root deep within the heart and bear fantastic fruit in every area of a believer’s life. Every page is ripe with revelations about God and man alike.
— Family Research Council (@FRCdc) December 10, 2020
From the flawed, yet faithful example of the Old Testament heroes to the hope that can be found in Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection, there is nothing in the Word that a believer cannot learn from and no excuse for missing an opportunity to read it more frequently this coming year.
None of this is to say that the Word is for Christian readers alone, however. In fact, there is no question that “The Bible” should rest high on any conservative reading list.
Time and time again, “The Bible” has gone down as the “most influential” piece of writing ever published. Western civilization was, quite literally, crafted by historical characters who held the work in high esteem, from the Roman and British empires to the American founding. The morality laid out within its pages shaped modern society — making it worth a read, if only to see where it is we come from culturally.
Who knows, it might even change your life.
‘The Federalist Papers’
It may also be worth dusting off a copy of the single most important work written at the time of the American founding.
No, we are not about to suggest the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution or even Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” — though a great number of Americans would likely benefit from brushing up on those as well.
Instead, take a step beyond the classic texts prescribed in high school civics this coming year and venture forth into the oft-cited pages of “The Federalist Papers.”
Penned by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay under the collective pseudonym “Publius,” the 85 collected essays were initially published in popular national periodicals between October 1787 and May 1788, with the hope of convincing American audiences the ratification of a broader federal system of government was necessary.
(1/3) Madison: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary… pic.twitter.com/A4OchtXEMJ
— Larry O’Connor (@LarryOConnor) May 9, 2020
All famed figures in the revolution, the three authors were among the first to come down in favor of such a system when the Constitutional Convention convened in Philadelphia in 1787 to revise the poorly respected Articles of Confederation, which left the states unequally represented and gave the national government little authority to act in matters of defense and diplomacy.
When arguments in favor of such institutions as an independent judiciary, bicameral legislature and Electoral College finally won out, the Constitution as we know it was drafted — and successful arguments in favor were collected for presentation to the educated public.
To this day, those 85 essays remain the strongest and most important defense of America’s treasured institutions, no matter what your misguided and misinformed peers post on Facebook or Twitter.
‘The Conscience of a Conservative’
It should almost go without saying that “The Conscience of a Conservative” is a book every American with even a shred of conservative instinct should read in their lifetime.
Of course, we aren’t talking about the coward’s guide to conservatism published by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona a year and a half before his 2019 departure from Congress. We are, instead, talking about the 1960s classic that kick-started the engine of modern conservatism.
Written by failed 1964 presidential candidate and Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, “The Conscience of a Conservative” is a moral masterclass at the peak of modern political philosophy.
Coming shortly after former President Dwight Eisenhower and former Vice President Richard Nixon’s efforts to emphasize fiscal responsibility as a core tenet of the Republican Party, Goldwater’s work is a brief, bellowing call for renewed social conservatism which resonated on to ignite the Reagan Revolution and recenter the cultural ideals of the American right.
“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” — Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, Republican Nomination Acceptance Speech (1964)
— Arizona Republican Party (@AZGOP) December 20, 2020
Belittling perennial claims that the conservative ideal was “out of date,” the roughly 100-page book effectively worked to “bridge the gap between theory and practice,” according to The Heritage Foundation, making traditional conservative positions on limited government, regulation, rights, welfare and education more palatable, where other figures from the era had simply hidden them.
In just four short years, the pithy print would in turn elevate Goldwater and his ideals to the national stage. And where the ideological achievement failed to move the nation on Election Day, it succeeded in moving social conservatives for more than a generation.
‘Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!’
Last on this list of must-read writings for the modern conservative is, admittedly, not a classic but a bombastic autobiography and political strategy guide from my personal idol, Andrew Breitbart.
Published in 2011, “Righteous Indignation” is a humorous and deeply humanizing look at Breitbart’s journey from “default liberal” drunkard to trench-fighting Tea Party conservative. It is a moving memoir that details every major moment in the late media legend’s life, from his lazy college years to his ideological awakening amid the Supreme Court confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas, his work with famed liberal blogger Arianna Huffington to the founding of the Breitbart news network.
Beyond all that, however, the book also serves as a deep dive into the mentality and ideological underpinnings of the American left, covering everything from the Frankfurt School to the “politics of personal destruction,” and even former President Barack Obama’s masterful adoption of community organizing.
— Sheila Gunn Reid (@SheilaGunnReid) February 21, 2015
Giving the left its due and seeking to analyze its winning strategy, Breitbart does what he always did best here: Think outside the box.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, attacking the left as foolish or suggesting a simple return to classical conservative thinking, Breitbart uses the pages of “Righteous Indignation” to encourage a more aggressive, small-government conservatism, as he breaks down for right-wing audiences the sound strategy of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals.”
The author’s only full-length work, “Righteous Indignation” is written for everyone from the media consumer to the conservative activist, and it’s well worth reading … and re-reading … and re-re-reading.
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