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It’s year two of the Donald Trump presidency, a midterm year and a year which will be filled with plenty of controversy, thanks to a Supreme Court pick that the Democrats are determined to obstruct in every possible way — and that’s not even counting the possibility of the Mueller investigation reaching some sort of conclusion. There’s no doubt that 2018 will go down as one of the most consequential years for conservatives in years — and, as always, a good conservative will want to arm themselves with the best knowledge they can get their hands on. And while we’d like to think we do a pretty good job of that here, the best way you can stockpile mental ammunition is through books — and 2018 has had more than its fair share of titles that conservatives should be devouring. Here are five of our favorite conservative books that have come out so far this year (as well as one that’s kind of cheating — but that we think you’ll appreciate anyway).
1.”The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics” by Salena Zito and Brad Todd.
If you’re still wondering why Donald Trump won the 2016 election or why so many people from reliably Democrat-leaning demographics walked away (or is that now #WalkedAway?) from the ticket, you could do far worse as primers go than “The Great Revolt.” Zito, a CNN contributor and Washington Examiner writer, along with GOP strategist Brad Todd, looks to the people to find out why so many experts misread the tea leaves up until the moment when it became clear that our next president would be Donald Trump.
“The history of the American electorate is not a litany of flukes; instead it is a cycle of tectonic plate–grinding, punctuated by a landscape-altering earthquake every generation or so. This movement is not dissimilar to that of any other American consumer category; it should come as no surprise that electoral choices float and change in the same manner as other voluntary behaviors in the most open and dynamic market in the world,” Zito and Todd argue.
“Political analysts across the spectrum have given Trump credit for being a category killer, reshaping Republican politics in his image. But the characteristics of his rise and the unique new coalition he fused in the Rust Belt argue that he should be viewed as a category builder, the first success of a coalition that is not likely to soon separate.”
To catalog this, Zito and Todd criss-cross America, talking to Trump supporters in swing counties that, in a bygone era, would have been considered so reliably Democrat that most pollsters wouldn’t even think twice about putting them in Hillary’s column. They aren’t “angry white men” or “the uneducated.” They include a former Democrat government apparatchik, a Michigan store owner, the CFO of a small business, the CEO of an Iowan employment nonprofit and other sundry types. Along the way, they work out what the media has tried to explain away via Russian interference, James Comey, sexism and fake news: How Hillary Clinton ended up losing an election everyone thought was hers.
2. “Discrimination and Disparities” by Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell is a bit like Radiohead or Kanye West: Anytime he drops something new, you can bet it’s going to end up on the best-of-the-year lists, at least if you’re talking about conservative books. And even though he’s entered semi-retirement, the legendary economist doesn’t disappoint this year, either. In “Discrimination and Disparities,” he looks at — well, like most of Sowell’s books, the title rather says it all.
“The fact that economic and other outcomes often differ greatly among individuals, groups, institutions and nations poses questions to which many people give very different answers,” Sowell writes at the beginning. “At one end of a spectrum of explanations offered is the belief that those who have been less fortunate in their outcomes are genetically less capable. At the other end of the spectrum is the belief that those less fortunate are victims of other people who are more fortunate. In between, there are many other explanations offered. But, whatever the particular explanation offered, there seems to be general agreement that the disparities found in the real world differ greatly from what might be expected by random chance.”
“Yet the great disparities in outcomes found in economic and other endeavors need not be due to either comparable disparities in innate capabilities or comparable disparities in the way people are treated by other people. The disparities can also reflect the plain fact that success in many kinds of endeavors depends on prerequisites peculiar to each endeavor — and a relatively small difference in meeting those prerequisites can mean a very large difference in outcomes.”
Instead, Sowell offers a number of explanations that might seem counterintuitive — unless, of course, you’re already an initiate to the economist’s work, which deals specifically with how unexamined liberalism and sentiment often leads us far astray from the actual answer to social quandaries. Sowell looks at prerequisites, how discrimination can take different forms (and how not all of them are as bad as we might want to think, surprisingly) and how “discussions of economic and social disparities to end with ‘solutions’ — usually something that the government can create, institutionalize, staff and pay for with the taxpayers’ money” tend to end so badly.
3. “Outrage, Inc.” by Derek Hunter.
Are you the type that cringes at the word “microaggressions?”
If reading that feigned outrage made you roll your eyes, just imagine encountering it for real. Or perhaps you have — as people in the media, academic and scientific often do on a daily basis. Those are some of the fields which Derek Hunter, a contributor to several conservative publications, argues have been taken over by cultural liberalism in his new book, “Outrage, Inc.”
Hunter looks at the manufactured outrage we’ve seen over the last few years, particularly since the election of America’s 45th president. Not only does Hunter find the spectacle entirely lacking in actual political efficacy, he notes that it’s effectively been astroturfed by liberal organizations that are trying to hide their partisanship and enabled by a press too lazy to do actual work and simpatico to the causes these organizations espouse.
“This is a book about what happens when one political faction claims exclusive domain over the truth and works to prevent any further discussion on the concept,” Hunter writes. “Since the media have long had a liberal bias, that’s been easy to miss or misunderstand. However, when you look at the virtual industry created to churn up outrage, it becomes clear that conservatives have been elbowed out of journalism — and science and pop culture. Under the guise of saving these institutions, making them ‘more progressive,’ they have actually destroyed them.”
Hunter saves especial contempt for figures and institutions like Bill Nye (“a celebrity, if not a scientist, who could parrot talking points with the best of them, making him perfect for television activism for liberal causes”), Kim Kardashian (“From that one tape, which is the most viewed adult video in history, and with no discernible talents (outside of what is seen on the tape), the Kim Kardashian name rakes in tens of millions of dollars per year by simply existing in a way that gets people to pay attention”) and Evergreen State College, the infamous school, which organized a “day of absence” in which non-minority students were sent off campus and then drummed out a professor which disagreed with it (“Who wouldn’t want to spend upwards of $24,000 per year to send their child to Evergreen? The greatest lessons the school teaches now are how not to act and how not to lead. Seems as though a prison documentary could instill the same lessons for the cost of a Netflix subscription.”).
It’s funny and thoughtful at the same time — provided, of course, you’re not the kind of person who uses words like “ally” and “safe space” in an unironic fashion.
4. “Three Days in Moscow” by Bret Baier.
In 1988, the last full year of Ronald Reagan’s time in the White House, many commentators had written the Gipper off. Within the previous few years, his presidency had endured Iran-Contra, the Black Monday stock market dip and the defeat of Robert Bork’s Supreme Court nomination in the Senate had slowed Reagan’s momentum a bit and you wouldn’t be forgiven for thinking that his biggest achievements may have been behind him.
It was in this environment that Reagan made “what could be the most significant diplomatic trip of his presidency,” as Baier, the longtime Fox News host, describes it. Years ago, Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” Now, he told reporters “that was another time, another era” and he urged Soviets — then in the midst of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika movement — to embrace freedom.
The visit culminated in a speech at Moscow State University — the finest school in the Soviet capital and Gorbachev’s alma mater — which Baier believes is one of Reagan’s most underrated addresses. In it, he predicted the technological revolution that would make despotisms like the Soviet Union nearly impossible and exhorted a new generation of students to embrace change.
“Standing here before a mural of your revolution, I want to talk about a very different revolution that is taking place right now, quietly sweeping the globe without bloodshed or conflict,” Reagan said. “Its effects are peaceful, but they will fundamentally alter our world, shatter old assumptions, and reshape our lives. It’s easy to underestimate because it’s not accompanied by banners or fanfare. It’s been called the technological or information revolution, and as its emblem, one might take the tiny silicon chip, no bigger than a fingerprint. One of these chips has more computing power than a roomful of old-style computers.”
He concluded that “(w)e do not know what the conclusion will be of this journey, but we’re hopeful that the promise of reform will be fulfilled. In this Moscow spring, this May 1988, we may be allowed that hope: that freedom, like the fresh green sapling planted over Tolstoy’s grave, will blossom forth at last in the rich fertile soil of your people and culture. We may be allowed to hope that the marvelous sound of a new openness will keep rising through, ringing through, leading to a new world of reconciliation, friendship, and peace.”
Baier paints an evocative picture of one of Reagan’s final acts as president, one that would help set up the fall of communism and secure Reagan’s legacy as the author of European freedom. For fans of the Gipper, it’s a must read — one that’s both entertaining and educational.
5. “Things that Matter,” by Charles Krauthammer.
All right, so perhaps I’m cheating a little bit here. And by a little bit, read a lot: “Things that Matter” hails from 2013, which is five years ago. However, the legendary Charles Krauthammer — doctor, policy-maker, pundit and writer — passed away suddenly in June, and if you haven’t read what’s the most thorough collection of his varied writings, now is as good a time as any to avail yourself of them.
In case you’re not familiar with Krauthammer, who died of cancer after a long hospitalization, he managed to make it through Harvard Medical School in spite of being paralyzed in a diving accident during his first year there. He would later go on to be a health policy adviser to the Carter administration. He later underwent a conversion to conservatism and became one of America’s most respected pundit.
Yet, in spite of a career as a public intellectual that lasted more than thirty years, not many collections of Krauthammer’s work have been published. In fact, “Things that Matter” is the only complete survey of Krauthammer’s rather eclectic passions, political and otherwise — hence the title.
“What matters? Lives and the good and the great, the innocence of dogs, the cunning of cats, the elegance of nature, the wonders of space, the perfectly trown outfield assist, the difference between historical guilt and historical responsibility, homage and sacrilege in monumental architecture, fashions and follies and the finer uses of the F-word,” Krauthammer writes in the introduction. “These are the things that most engage me. They fill my days, some trouble my nights. They give me pause, pleasure, wonder. They make me grateful for the gift of consciousness. And for three decades they have occupied my mind and commanded my pen.”
It isn’t just politics, which Krauthammer notes, although the former Washington Post writer says that it “is the moat, the walls, beyond which lie the barbarians. Fail to keep them at bay, and everything burns.”
Alas, these thoughts no longer occupy Krauthammer’s great mind or command his pen, at least here on this earth. We miss you, Mr. Krauthammer. Your last column may have been written, but if the passing of one of the great political minds of the 20th and 21st centuries gives you the opportunity to discover or rediscover his work, at the moment at which it’s most needed, perhaps
And keep in mind, this is without some titles that probably would have made this list had it come out later on. Dinesh D’Souza, Tucker Carlson and others. It’s set to be a huge year when it comes to conservative books.
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