Rick Perlstein: Historians Failed to Understand American Conservatism

Diane Ravitch's blog

Rick Perlstein is a historian who has written about American conservatism. He says, “we got it wrong.”

In this very interesting and provocative article, he reflects on why American historians failed to understand the persistence of the radical fringe right or anticipate its rise from the fringe to the mainstream of American politics.

Since most historians are liberal, they tended to believe that America was steadily evolving towards an enlightened, progressive future. They saw conservatism either as the highly intellectual, principled ideology of William Buckley or as the discredited John Birch Society, Ku Klux Klan, and McCarthyism.

Perlstein argues that what they did not anticipate was the rise of the Alt Right, which encapsulated white nationalism and a sense that the country was overrun with Others who did not belong here.

This is well worth reading.

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