I knew reading this book would make me angry. I had no idea it would also open my eyes to ways in which conservative politics have been hijacked that even I was unaware of. John Dean lays out the startling transformation of the conservative movement by a minority of radicals over the past few decades in Conservatives Without Conscience, a book guaranteed to anger you even if you are a conservative. A real conservative. If there exists such a thing anymore.
Dean, former White House counsel to Nixon and himself a “Goldwater conservative” who was instrumental in breaking the Watergate scandal, is just as disturbed by the trend that has led to today’s brand of right wing extremism. This book provides a real insightful background into the historical move to the far right over the last half century, focusing on the authoritarian leadership style responsible for turning conservative politics upside down. The names are familiar ones - Bush, Cheney, Newt, Frist, DeLay, Robertson - and Dean lays out their beliefs, as well as their crimes, showing how the entire Republican party is being controlled by manipulators and those who seek to exploit politics to further their religious and philosophical ideas…no matter how hypocritical and extreme.
What makes this such a stunning book, even as it enrages (and true Republicans who believe in privacy rights, less government and balanced budgets will be just as enraged) is the scientific research Dean uses to show the movement towards authoritarian and empirical thinking – how it happened, why, and when. And it didn’t just occur on Capital Hill, but on K Street and Wall Street and beyond, where the power brokers of the right slithered into every base of control they could find.
Dean originally conceived of this book during meetings with the late Senator Goldwater. One has to wonder what Goldwater would think of conservative politics today could he see the drastic swing towards corruption and coldness Dean documents here. Although accusatory in tone in many cases (personal lives of Newt and Pat get a close peek), you get the feeling Dean has a right to accuse. The people he is writing about are responsible for a whole lot of death, destruction, greed, crime, corruption and moral bankruptcy (even as they claim to love Jesus! Yeah, right). But the tone is again balanced with real solid thought and serious study into this whole “dominance-oriented” brand of authoritarianism, making this a book everyone from all sides of the spectrum can get a lot out of. Including anger.