The Origins of the Republican Civil War

The splits inside the conservative movement that Nicole Hemmer identifies between populists and elitists have only intensified in recent years.

Nicole Hemmer, Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), 368 pp., $34.95.

IN DECEMBER 1953, Henry Regnery convened a meeting in Room 2233 in New York City’s Lincoln Building. Regnery, a former Democrat and head of Regnery Publishing, had moved sharply to the Right after he became disillusioned with the New Deal. His guests included William F. Buckley Jr.; Frank Hanighen, a cofounder of Human Events; Raymond Moley, a former FDR adviser who wrote a book called After Seven Years that denounced the New Deal; and John Chamberlain, a lapsed liberal and an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal. Regnery had not called these men together merely to discuss current events. He wanted to reshape them. “The side we represent controls most of the wealth in this country,” he said. “The ideas and traditions we believe in are those which most Americans instinctively believe in also.” So why was liberalism in the ascendant? Regnery explained that media bias was the problem. Anywhere you looked, the Left controlled the commanding heights—television, newspapers and universities. It was imperative, Regnery said, to establish a “counterintelligence unit” that could fight back.