Exit Right: The Peo­ple Who Left the Left and Reshaped the Amer­i­can Century

  • From the Publisher
February 8, 2016

Exit Right: The Peo­ple Who Left the Left and Reshaped the Amer­i­can Cen­tu­ry offers a provoca­tive, inti­mate, and fresh look at the evo­lu­tion of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics through the lives of six promi­nent fig­ures — Whit­tak­er Cham­bers, James Burn­ham, Ronald Rea­gan, Nor­man Pod­horetz, David Horowitz, and Christo­pher Hitchens — who did just that: they aban­doned the left and joined the right. And in doing so, they reshaped the con­tours of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics in the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Weav­ing togeth­er the past century’s most impor­tant his­tor­i­cal moments to reveal the roots of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics — with a focus on the left and the right — Daniel Oppen­heimer asks pro­found ques­tions about why and how we come to believe what we do.

Exit Right is the lat­est in a series of recent works from Amer­i­can intel­lec­tu­als that have trans­formed our under­stand­ing of the roots of mod­ern Amer­i­can con­ser­vatism. These include Sam Tanenhaus’s biog­ra­phy of Whit­tak­er Cham­bers; Rick Perlstein’s tril­o­gy of his­to­ries on the move­ments behind the rise of Gold­wa­ter, Nixon, and Rea­gan; Corey Robin’s The Reac­tionary Mind; and Kim­ber­ly Phillips-Fein’s Invis­i­ble Hands: The Mak­ing of the Con­ser­v­a­tive Move­ment from the New Deal to Rea­gan.

Begin­ning with Whit­tak­er Cham­bers and con­clud­ing with Christo­pher Hitchens, Exit Right encour­ages read­ers to ques­tion the degree to which their polit­i­cal beliefs are the prod­uct not only of pure rea­son and delib­er­a­tion but also of birth, acci­dent, fam­i­ly, com­mu­ni­ty, his­to­ry, emo­tion — all the messier things in life. If the six fig­ures that Oppen­heimer pro­files, all of whom believed in their pol­i­tics intense­ly and thor­ough­ly, could change their minds so rad­i­cal­ly, what it does say about our beliefs? What does it say about the dis­tance that real­ly lies between those of us on the left and the right?

Vis­it­ing Scribe: Daniel Oppenheimer

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Discussion Questions