The Right Nation is the definitive portrait of the America that few outsiders understand: the America that votes for George Bush, that supports the death penalty and gun rights, that believes in minimal government and long prison sentences, that pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol. America, argue John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, award winning journalists at The Economist, has always been a conservative country; but over the past 50 years it has built up a radical conservative movement unlike any other country. The authors tell the story of how these radicals took over the Republican Party, and they deconstruct the Bush White House, examining the many influences from neo-conservatism to sun belt entrepreneurialism. This quest takes the authors from young churchgoers in Colorado Springs to gay gun clubs in Massachusetts to black supporters of school vouchers in Milwaukee. And they drive to the heart of a question that is relevant to us all: why does America seem so different?
The question the authors set out to answer is, what is the cause of America's decided tilt to the right over the last thirty years. The answers suggested are many, and would behoove any thoughtful reader interested in politics or American culture to consider. For those on the right this book will show that the world of conservative thought did not begin with talk radio, that there existed, and exists today a very directed and active core of conservative intellectuals that in many ways serve as the ballast of what is now the conservative movement. People on the left will benefit to learn that the people whom they disagree are not all just a bunch of illiterate Bible thumpers - and why the those that are illiterate bible thumpers are so decidedly conservative.
Somehow authors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, a couple of Brits, have been able to more clearly understand the American political landscape than even we can. This is one book that will probably be read many years from now and will serve as a work to help future generations understand the political time in which we are living through now. Great book.
... and HERE is the prime reason why Europe does not understand the USA, and also why Democrats have gone from being Americans that lean left to Europeans that sometimes lean American!
"The Right Nation" shows that we are, indeed, a religious nation, both Democrat and Republican. They do a fantastic job explaining American conservatism and why it differs from European conservatism. This point cannot be discussed enough, really.
European conservatives are hidebound and rooted completely in Monarchic pasts, but American conservatism is and always has been a progressive conservatism. And now, the European right is becoming reactionary and racist which is just a reflection of a racism that has never been defeated in Europe as it has in the US.
This book is a must, even for Democrats, if you want to understand the reason Europe doesn't "get" the USA and why we Americans should be wary of becoming too much like Europe. Becoming more like Europe would be an abrogation of everything that has been and should be truly American in nature.
Get this book!
For me, one of the best books written on understanding the conservative nature of American politics.
The American definition of the Right and for that matter Liberalism is different from how one would view the same from an European standpoint. For this you have to read this snippet from pg 314 The US was designed from ground up to be a true democracy with the values of liberty and freedom enshrined in the constitution. Not like the parliamentary system of Europe which were retrofitted and re jiggered to into some sort of quasi democratic, socialistic humbug.
Here I quote "The rebels didn't just kick out the british; they kicked out the legal trappings of the feudal social order - primo-geniture, entail, titles of nobility, the established church and the rest of it".
Their main contentions that America's conservatism is innate due to our "recent" founding and lack of ties to "old" Europe, religiosity, and suspicion of the state are spot on.
Naturally, they spend a lot of ink on current foreign policy and some of their conclusions are being outdated by the minute as the surge gains more momentum in Iraq. However, their reasoning that Right Nation is distrustful of international institutions such as the UN, while correct, is lacking. They attribute it to the US's distrust of "states" in general and our "rugged individualism." The authors seems to overlook minor disgraces such as Oil for Food and don't seem to notice a somewhat concerted effort by America's enemies to use the UN as the only viable counterweight to American power. They rightfully mention the travesties such as Kofi Annan and Rwanda, and Cuba being on the Human Rights Commission, but seem to miss the narrative that the UN is basically out to thwart any values America holds dear.
That said, this is a great overview of how the USA became what it is. Having just traveled to Mexico and experienced anti-Americanism first had for the first time, I think this book would be a wonderful introduction for foreigners to help them learn just what is going on in the US's collective mind (should they be so inclined).