Most of the elements making up America's self-image of a divinely favored nation still survive, even though the trauma of a great economic depression in the 1930s, the burdens of world governance in the 1950s, and increasing doubts over social injustice and corruption at home and exploitation abroad have had disillusioning effects upon the meaning of the American mission. Yet with all these doubts, the connection between God's special favor and the American way of life remains part of nationalism. And, for all its flaws, the virtues associated with the record of American nationalism suggest distinctive qualities not found in other national experiences.
In the decade before Gottfried arrived at Yale, postwar conservatism was born in a “fusionism” that brought together southern and religious traditionalists, Libertarians, and other disparate groups who shared a commitment to aggressive anti-Communist policies. It evolved as “a series of movements rather than the orderly unfolding of a single force,” Gottfried wrote in his 1986 history, The Conservative Movement . Not all the movements got along, and not long after they came together, the conservative establishment, led by the influential magazine National Review and its editor, William F. Buckley, started kicking people out. The so-called purges started with the John Birch society, radical right-wing anti-Communists and conspiracy theorists—think Alex Jones followers—whom Buckley excommunicated from the movement in 1962. After the Birchers, conservatives, again led by National Review , eventually pushed out white supremacists and anti-Semites, including some of Gottfried’s friends. These are major events in the official conservative history that showed the movement grappling with the legacy of WWII and the right’s own history of racism and bigotry.