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The Right Talk:
How Conservatives Transformed the Great Society into the Economic Society
Mark A. Smith

Paperback | 2009 | $30.95 | £25.95 | ISBN: 9780691141008
32 pp. | 6 x 9 | 5 line illus. 8 tables.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400830718 |
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Political analyst Mark Smith offers the most original and compelling explanation yet of why America has swung to the right in recent decades. How did the GOP transform itself from a party outgunned and outmaneuvered into one that defines the nation's most important policy choices?

Conventional wisdom attributes the Republican resurgence to a political bait and switch--the notion that conservatives win elections on social issues like abortion and religious expression, but once in office implement far-reaching policies on the economic issues downplayed during campaigns. Smith illuminates instead the eye-opening reality that economic matters have become more central, not less, to campaigns and the public agenda. He analyzes a half century of speeches, campaign advertisements, party platforms, and intellectual writings, systematically showing how Republican politicians and conservative intellectuals increasingly gave economic justifications for policies they once defended through appeals to freedom. He explains how Democrats similarly conceived economic justifications for their own policies, but unlike Republicans they changed positions on issues rather than simply offering new arguments and thus helped push the national discourse inexorably to the right.

The Right Talk brings clarity, reason, and hard-nosed evidence to a contentious subject. Certain to enrich the debate about the conservative ascendancy in America, this book will provoke discussions and reactions for years to come.


"The Right Talk argues that during the last 30 years...the language and logic of the market have invaded almost every corner of society--to the right's great advantage...Smith's further point--important by itself--is that while Republicans shifted their rhetoric and arguments toward the logic of the market, Democrats made a different shift, to their own political disadvantage... The Right Talk [is] worth reading as [a provocation] to greater clarity about the still unanswered question of why Republicans keep winning."--Richard Parker, American Prospect

"Given the upcoming elections and the current economic climate, this is a timely book, and one that can be understood by nonspecialists."--S.L. Harrison, Choice

"The Right Talk is a brilliant, provocative, well-written, and well-argued scholarly work."--Philip C. Wander and Jay Busse, Rhetoric Review

"Smith's book adds, in a lucid and effective way, to our understanding of the conservative revival."--Earl Sheridan, Political Science Quarterly

"[A] provocative and persuasive account of the way the two major political parties in the United States have dealt with economic issues in the post-World War II period. . . . [T]his is a well-written and researched work of sound judgment, which should be of value to scholars in a wide range of disciplines."--Paul D. Moreno, Labor History

"The Right Talk provides a very valuable argument (and empirical evidence) that ideas and how parties present their arguments matter a great deal to voters. It is a book well-worth reading for those trying to understand contemporary American political dialogs."--Jeffrey M. Stonecash, Public Opinion Quarterly

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Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Introduction 1
Chapter 2: The Role of Rhetoric in the Formation of Policy 21
Chapter 3: Economic Insecurity and Its Rhetorical Consequences 47
Chapter 4: The Building of Conservatives’ Intellectual Capacity 73
Chapter 5: The Move to Economic Arguments by
Conservative Intellectuals 95
Chapter 6: The Rhetorical Adaptations of the Republican Party 123
Chapter 7: Democrats and the Long Shadow of Deficit Politics 151
Chapter 8: The Republicans’ Electoral Edge on the Economy 178
Chapter 9: The Broad Reach and Future Prospects of Economic Rhetoric 203
Notes 219
Acknowledgments 253
Index 255

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