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Review: Lee Edwards New Book 'Just Right' on Conservatism

Image: Review: Lee Edwards New Book 'Just Right' on Conservatism
Lee Edwards (The Heritage Foundation)

By    |   Tuesday, 05 December 2017 12:01 AM

Author/historian Lee Edwards has been dubbed "the unofficial historian of 20th century American conservatism" by no less than Newsmax contributor and unrivaled Ronald Reagan biographer Craig Shirley. That makes the expectations sky-high for any memoir chronicling Edwards' life, which has been spent waging the war of ideas in the political arena.

Fortunately, Edwards' latest contribution to the bedrock of conservative history manages to surpass even those lofty expectations. His new book "Just Right: A Life in Pursuit of Liberty" documents his life of not only chronicling the conservative movement, but indeed playing a key, insider role at virtually every turn in its development. When conservatism was still in its cradle, Edwards was there to give it a tender caress.

An instinctive antipathy to Communism as a young man in his 50s launched Edwards on his conservative odyssey. Having witnessed the depravations of Marxism from afar, "I resolved that for the rest of my life I would do whatever I could to resist communism and fight for freedom."

That passionate commitment led him to found Young Americans for Freedom, play a key role in supporting the presidential campaigns of first Sen. Barry Goldwater, and in the later emergence of his "favorite president," the great conservative champion Reagan.

Among Edwards' many accomplishments, was his role as founding editor of the influential Conservative Digest. He was also hailed as "the 'voice' of the Silent Majority' by The New York Times.

Remarkably, in his early 50s Edwards traded in his political activism to pursue a PhD, becoming a teacher and authoring over 25 books. As conservative fund-raising icon Richard Viguerie himself acknowledges, with the passing of Phyllis Schlafly, Edwards has been the driving force behind conservative thought and activism longer than any other figure in the United States.

Given that extraordinary resume, Edwards is one of a very few American conservatives whose lives and careers are inextricably intertwined with the movement's history. Perhaps this is what saves "Just Right" from the indulgent, self-congratulatory tone of so many memoirs: His insider accounts and anecdotes always transcend his own considerable significance,

Among the book's gems that will have conservative devotees flipping pages as if they were reading the latest James Patterson novel:

  • His discovery that Reagan was actually a dedicated conservative intellectual well steeped in the philosophies of Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek.
  • Priceless excerpts from his half-century long correspondence with William F. Buckley, who published Edwards' first article in National Review.
  • His singular, behind-the-scenes account of Goldwater's trail-blazing 1964 campaign.
  • His key role in the establishment of the Victims of Communism memorial in the Nation's Capital.
  • Details of his influential role as both a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and as a professor of politics at Catholic University.

Beyond being eminently readable, Edwards' memoir, rooted as it is in the historical evolution of conservatism, is an invaluable resource for any conservative trying to find the way forward in the era of Donald Trump.

As Edwards notes, the conservative movement and the Republican Party are separate institutions — and in some ways, the movement is stronger than the party that represents it.

All of which makes "Just Right" must reading for any conservative.

As Reagan biographer Shirley notes, "All of us walk in the shadow of Lee Edwards, the first and most important historian of the American conservative movement. Lee lived it, Lee led it, Lee wrote it, Lee inspired it."

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Author/historian Lee Edwards has been dubbed "the unofficial historian of 20th century American conservatism" by no less than Newsmax contributor and unrivaled Ronald Reagan biographer Craig Shirley.
lee edwards, book, conservatism
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2017-01-05
Tuesday, 05 December 2017 12:01 AM
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