From The Washington Free Beacon, Matthew Continetti writes Crisis of the Conservative Intellectual. This is an excellent summary of the history of the conservative movement in American Politics, and should be read in its entirety.
The 1964 election also empowered President Johnson to enact his Great Society. Legitimized and in some respects expanded by the Supreme Court, LBJ’s program involved the federal government much more deeply in aspects of civil society—the city, the town, the school, the family, the church—that it had previously ignored. The results were mixed at best. Crime surged. Inflation accelerated. Welfare rolls increased. Riots broke out. Women, gays, and African Americans revolted against discrimination. The ability of parents to determine where their children went to school, and what they learned once they got there, was severely diminished.
This “great disruption” of American politics, culture, and society provoked a reaction. Shortly after Goldwater’s defeat, Buckley helped found the American Conservative Union to promote the cause. In 1965, Richard A. Viguerie formed a direct-mail solicitation firm to collect signatures and donations and rally citizens outraged at the direction in which America was headed. As Alan Crawford writes inThunder on the Right, “the leaders of the New Right have mastered the art by taking their message directly into the living rooms of their constituents via their mailboxes. Through the accumulation of lists of supporters, they have built a national following to which they can appeal for money to bankroll their organizations and which they can mobilize for political action.”
That all this was happening outside the traditional institution of the political party was crucial. The New Right did not necessarily see itself as Republican or Democrat. Indeed, the voters filling Viguerie’s pockets were typically Southerners and blue-collar workers in Northern cities who had voted for FDR, Truman, and Kennedy. “But the focus of political debate shifted in the 1960s, when the Democrats became the party of social engineering,” writes Robert W. Whitaker in The New Right Papers.
What is social engineering?
Social engineering is a massive manipulation of a society’s structure and values, aimed at bringing about desired ‘social change’ in the direction considered best by a small elite. It is carried out through programs to achieve racial balance, ‘progressive’ education, the discrediting of traditional values and parental authority, and imposition of a new ideology and morality. The opponents of social engineering are fittingly referred to here as social conservatives.