Reading is fundamentalist

Conservative screeds dominated the book charts this year. Will future election results follow the bestseller lists?
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  December 22, 2009

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BOOK SHNOOKS These five titles each topped the New York Times bestseller list in 2009.

Rants of the Right: Going where few reviewers dare to tread. By David S. Bernstein.
In 2009, liberals held firm control of the presidency, the US Senate, and the US House of Representatives. But there was one realm where conservatives dominated: the New York Times bestseller list.

That probably isn't a coincidence. The rise of Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress has given right-wing rabble-rousers something they've lacked for eight years: a clear target for blame, anger, and suspicion.

With an economic crisis added to the mix, conditions were ripe for what we've seen: a booming "movement-conservative marketplace" (MCM), as I have previously dubbed it, feeding off the adherents of the cobbled-together ideology known as movement conservatism, first promoted by think tanks and advocacy organizations in the 1980s. Today, an audience of perhaps 10 to 20 million people nationwide is eager to spend its time and money on right-wing television, radio, books, newsletters, and interest groups. And candidates, too, as evidenced by the outpouring of millions in support of Congressman Joe "You Lie" Wilson and the New York Conservative Party congressional campaign of Doug Hoffman.

That audience stands ready to force the most conservative candidates onto the GOP in 2010 — such as Marco Rubio over the far-more-electable Republican, Charlie Crist, for US Senate in Florida — or, as in the case of Hoffman, to simply abandon the party altogether.

This market has been maturing over the past decade and a half or so, and each year it sends two or three book titles briefly up the charts. But 2009 was something entirely different.

Five conservative titles published this year — Mark R. Levin's Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto (Threshold Editions), Michelle Malkin's Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies (Regnery Press), Sarah Palin's Going Rogue: An American Life (HarperCollins), husband-and-wife team Dick Morris and Eileen McGann's Catastrophe (Harper), and Glenn Beck's Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government (Threshold Editions) — each reached number one on the Times' hardcover nonfiction list, claiming the top spot collectively for 25 out of 52 weeks. That's more weeks at number one in one year than conservative books achieved, in total, over the previous five — two years of which saw high-interest presidential elections.

Two other entries — Ann Coulter's Guilty: Liberal "Victims" and Their Assault on America (Crown Forum) and Bernard Goldberg's A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (and Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media (Regnery Press) — peaked at second place. And yet another topped the paperback list for 15 weeks. That book — Glenn Beck's Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government, Inspired by Thomas Paine (Threshold Editions) — was one of three to surpass a million copies in print, along with Levin's Liberty and Tyranny and Palin's Going Rogue. (For reviews of each of the eight books discussed in this article, see "Rants of the Right," at thePhoenix.com.)

And that domination occurred even without new titles from several of the genre's most sure-fire list-toppers, such as Fox News mainstays Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity.

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