Major Field: United States History
Adviser: Benjamin Waterhouse
BA University of Canterbury, New Zealand, (with Honors)
MA University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 2013
MA Thesis: “The Right, With Lincoln: Conservative Intellectuals Interpret Abraham Lincoln, c. 1945–89”
Dissertation Working Title: A Republic Not a Democracy: Conservatism and the American Political Tradition, 1941-1990.
Joshua Tait’s dissertation argues that over the second half of the twentieth century conservative intellectuals facilitated the emergence of an explicit conservative movement by equating right-wing policies with the “American political tradition.” This tradition is the set of core tenets expressed by the nation’s founding documents, heroes, and past. Against opposition, a key set of right-wing intellectuals established American conservatism as cultural traditionalism, small-government libertarianism, and laissez-faire economics. They then made a public case that America’s tradition was synonymous with their contemporary political project. By engaging in this effort to shape public opinion about American history, conservative intellectuals united the right around amorphous but effective tropes, legitimized their movement and policies, and vilified liberals and liberalism as alien and dangerous to the American experience. Throughout this process, conservatism and conservative narratives about the American past were not static. Instead, thinkers actively developed them in response to the shifting cultural and political context. As a result, they made conservatism more politically efficacious and affected a rightward shift in national politics.
In addition to his dissertation, which is in progress, he has written on the intellectual history of online “Neoreactionaries” and the alt-right.
Research interests: intellectual history, political history, conservatism, historical narratives, the Republican Party, religion in the United States, the postwar consensus, neoreaction, the alt-right.