Just how powerful, unified, and successful was and is American conservatism? Arguably, the conservative movement has been one of the most powerful and successful uprisings in twentieth-century American history and perhaps the whole of US history. However, reassessing its sixty-year trajectory raises serious questions about its past, present, and future trajectories. In retrospect, this juggernaut looks fragmented, disjointed, and contested. Moreover, the movement and the Republican Party that houses it also seems fractured since conservatives have struggled to govern in the past, are struggling now, and will most likely struggle in the foreseeable future. As such, there is currently a need to reexamine persistent historical myths about conservatism’s rise as well as liberalism’s supposed fall in order to best understand how the American experiment has and will continue to unfold.
Abraham Lincoln yearned to leave a permanent legacy. It is doubtful, however, that Lincoln, even when Confederates surrendered, appreciated just how far he had stirred hearts and minds at home and abroad. Yet his death, just days after Lee laid down his arms at Appomattox, prompted a quite extraordinary explosion of mourning around the world.