Big Tent evolved from the editor's "Conservative Intellectual Tradition in America" course for Citadel students. It is an examination of the basic principles of Conservatism from the point of view of fifteen of the great minds that drove the movement.
Michael Barone's recap of de Tocqueville's impression of our nation in the early years ends with the hopeful statement that Americans can and do fight against socialism and “soft despotism” when pushed too hard in that direction.
Reagan's Attorney General Edwin Meese defines what makes a statesman: "a bedrock of principle; a moral compass; a vision of where that leader wants to go; and the ability to communicate that vision and gain adherents." He explains the mess Reagan inherited and how with optimism, cheerfulness, and an iron will, he healed the nation and changed the world.
Douglas J. Feith explains why former liberals joined the conservative ranks. Before critics ruined the term "neocon," it described Democrats who realized that, particularly in the area of foreign policy, "ideas have consequences"; they embraced the Conservative idea of "peace through strength."
Daniel J. Mitchell calls for a return to the economic policies of Reagan and Clinton, who he says revised "private- and public-sector growth." As opposed to what is happening today, Mitchell says recovery will happen when "the private economy" grows "faster than the government."
Burton W. Folsom offers an historical perspective of New Deal Progressivism. He claims our choice today is: "Either we can follow Roosevelt, or we can follow those who came before and after him. We can prosper, or we can increase government and lose our liberty and prosperity."
Phyllis Schlafly writes that relevant social and moral issues must remain at the forefront of politics because they are intertwined with fiscal issues and foreign policy. She and her Eagle Forum grassroots activists still lead the fight for pro-family causes, while speaking out against amnesty, Common Core, and other misguided liberal policies.
In the Afterword, former Gov. Haley Barbour claims that the future of Conservatism rests with the Republican Party, rather than any third party. He points out that Reagan had to compromise to get anything done because he faced a Democrat Congress. Barbour has a point, but compromise only succeeds when skilled negotiators are at work. What Barbour fails to report is that the Republican Party of today sometimes seems to misinterpret "compromise" and offer instead total "concession" to Democrats.
(Broadside Books, 2014, 418 pp., $26.99)