How did Donald Trump capture both the Republican Party and the presidency?

In “The Right: The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism” (Basic Books, 2022), AEI Senior Fellow Matthew Continetti explains the political atmosphere of the present moment by looking to the conservative movement’s past. In a sweeping history that takes us from the 1920s to the present, Continetti chronicles the triumphs and struggles of the intellectuals, activists, and politicians who brought the right from obscurity to the heights of American government. Tracing the intersecting lives of figures such as William F. Buckley, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, Continetti shows how conservative ideas have fared in the political struggles of the 20th and 21st centuries.



Since its ascent, American conservatism has been torn between the need to appeal to the political mainstream and the pull of extreme impulses. Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, Pat Buchanan, and Ron Paul all anticipated Trump’s rise with populist challenges to the conservative establishment. From the John Birch Society to January 6, conservative intellectuals have struggled against the presence of conspiracy theories and violent fringes in the movement.


While the conservative movement may find itself divided intellectually and politically by the Trump presidency, its past nonetheless suggests it has a future. The defense of the American experiment in limited, constitutional self-government remains an enduring theme of American conservatism at its best. Liberalism’s idealism and populist radicalism’s emphasis on repudiating institutions will remain consistent political temptations that must be opposed.

“The Right” argues that if conservatism is to find its way, it must once again defend the essential moderation of the American political system against these excesses.

Throughout the 20th century, conservatism accomplished this on the grandest scale, solving crises such as urban crime and inflation while playing a decisive role in defeating the Soviet Union. As American values continue to be challenged today, a conservative affirmation of those ideas remains more essential than ever.



Continetti blends intellectual and political history to reimagine the mainsprings of conservative success, with populism serving as a source of energy for conservatives as well as a threat to the high principles that many of them hold dear. His engaging history moves at a brisk pace, presenting brief portraits of key figures and connecting them to major events and trends. With a combination of workmanlike prose and fresh thinking, Continetti has written what could become one of the great books of conservative self-definition, deserving shelf space beside the likes of The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America by George H. Nash and The Conservative Sensibility by George F. Will.

John J. Miller

(Director of the journalism program at Hillsdale College)

“Matthew Continetti has earned his luminous reputation as the foremost contemporary chronicler of American conservatism’s path to today’s problematic condition. He traces conservatism’s rich intellectual pedigree, from the founders’ classical liberalism through twentieth-century conservatives’ responses to the challenges of progressivism. The result is a thinking person’s map for the road ahead.”
George F. Will

(Washington Post columnist & author of “The Conservative Sensibility”)

“A sturdy account of the many divisions within modern conservatism. . . . Rational, well thought out, and impeccably argued — of interest to all students of politics.”
Kirkus Reviews

(Review for “The Right”)

“Matthew Continetti has written an instant classic, sure to become the essential one-volume history of modern American conservatism. Balanced and subtle, it offers an engaging combination of intellectual and political history that makes sense of the immensely complicated story of the Right.”
Yuval Levin

(Director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and author of “A Time to Build”)

“Deft and authoritative, Matthew Continetti illuminates conservatism’s present through its long and often tumultuous past. ‘The Right’ isn’t just an engaging history and incisive analysis of the intra-conservative debate, but an essential contribution to it.”
Rich Lowry

(Former editor in chief of National Review)



Matthew Continetti is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where his work focuses on American political thought and history, with a particular focus on the development of the Republican Party and the American conservative movement in the 20th century.

A prominent journalist, analyst, author, and intellectual historian of the right, Continetti is the founding editor of The Washington Free Beacon. Previously, he was opinion editor at The Weekly Standard.

Continetti is also a contributing editor at National Review and a columnist for Commentary magazine. He has been published in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, among other outlets. He also appears frequently on Fox News Channel’s “Special Report” with Bret Baier and MSNBC’s “Meet the Press Daily” with Chuck Todd.

Continetti is the author of two previous books: “The Persecution of Sarah Palin: How the Elite Media Tried to Bring Down a Rising Star” (Sentinel, 2009) and “The K Street Gang: The Rise and Fall of the Republican Machine” (Doubleday, 2006).

He has a BA in history from Columbia University.


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