Stan Evans, Essential to Conservatism

More than ten years ago I was gratified and impressed by the effort of M. Stanton (Stan) Evans to explain why the vilification of anti-communist Senator Joe McCarthy was unjustified and, in fact, covered up a widespread and effective effort of commies and their running dog allies to infiltrate American culture and government.  The reason for my gratitude was Mr. Evans’s book Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies (2007).  

When I read Stan Evans’s massive thoroughly researched book that proved Joe McCarthy right, it was a confirmation of what my father, a physician who was a WW II P-51 pilot, said to me in earnest one day when I was old enough: Joe McCarthy was right -- the country was put at risk by infiltration by communists.

Evans died in 2014 after a more than 50-year career as a leading conservative thinker, philosopher, writer, advocate, journalism educator, and activist. The biography reviewed here, M. Stanton Evans: Conservative Wit, Apostle of Freedom, by Steven F. Hayward  400 pp hardcover 33.99 Kindle 9.99, (Encounter Books 2022), was written by one of Evan’s journalism students and a longtime friend and associate. Steven Hayward has become a prominent writer at Powerline and elsewhere and teaches at UC Berkeley. 

Evans was a very active, accessible personage in spite of his prominence, so I know some people who worked with him and knew him, and they all tell me he was friendly, engaging, and charming, even on his death bed.  But Evans is not well known outside of intensely conservative circles, though he deserves to be remembered for his literary merits and for his critical role in the development of conservatism. 

Evans was decades ahead of and presaged the development of a blue-collar/middle-class populist conservatism that resulted in Reagan and the arrival of Donald Trump. He articulated an opposition to elitist foreign and domestic policymaking and warned of the deep state before anyone used the phrase.  He instinctively was repelled by the administrative state oligarchs and advocated for national conservatism when it was not even a dim light in the tunnel.  He never saw a tax that couldn’t be eliminated.  He also was a friendly and amiable opponent and well known for his deep and arresting voice and laconic humor. 

Evans was a remarkable advocate for conservatism, a Yale graduate son of a respected and prominent Yale graduate academic and professor.  He was liked and respected for his eloquence and intelligence, so he was frequently asked to compose positions statements and resolutions of conservative groups throughout his career.  As a result, he was a key figure in many matters after he graduated from Yale in 1955:

  • The Sharon Statement, composed at Bill Buckley’s house in Sharon, CT, as the position statement of the Young Americans for Freedom at their founding.
  • The Manhattan 12 statement that suspended conservative support for Nixon in 1971 for failure to hold to conservative principles.
  • Position statements and declarations for the American Conservative Union as their chairman.
  • Essential work with multiple organizations assuring the survival of the Reagan movement and strengthening him to achieve presidential nomination for 1980.
  • Inauguration of the annual spring CPAC gathering that has continued to this day as the most important conservative meeting of the year.
  • Creation and nurturing of the National Journalism Center to encourage integrity in political journalism and good journalistic practices.  Many prominent conservative journalists are graduates.
  • Long and active contributions to National Review and Human Events along with a 10-year stint as editor in chief of the Indianapolis News.
  • He worked a 25-year stint during his career as a visiting journalism professor at Troy State University in Alabama and spent a day a week teaching hands-on journalism.
  • Mr. Evans had a deep and abiding dislike of appeasement/accommodation and cooperation with enemies—and was convinced for good reasons that such an approach to political differences invariably was self-defeating.

As an editor and essayist Mr. Evans was an anti-communist with no inclination to globalist engagement and a firm belief that the government should secure safety for its citizens, protect national interests, and avoid foreign entanglements, but particularly avoid the temptation to expand government activities.  He was a perfect advocate of the Hayek limited government and free-market formula for national welfare and rejected, condemned, and ridiculed liberal ambitions and expanded state activities intended to achieve utopian grandiosity.  He asserted that government will inevitably fall short and frequently make things worse with its good intentions.

Mr. Evans practiced what he preached in his teaching of aspiring journalists: bring facts to the table. A journalist needs to inquire and gather pertinent information so the reader is better informed by reading the article or report.  Evans made that his habit as an editor and reporter.  He always couched his opinion pieces with facts that informed and enlightened the reader as well as supported his position.  He had a special byline column for the Indianapolis News titled “Skeptic’s Corner” that described his attitude as a newsman/journalist. If your mother says she loves you—check it out. 

A vivid insight into Evans’s thinking is that he thought liberalism was a cult of self-destruction and that was a theme in his writings of the 1960s and 70s.  Evans was, even a long time ago, less afraid of Communists than he was of American liberals. As he put it starkly in his book The Politics of Surrender, “The Communists have not in fact been winning the Cold War so much as we have been losing it.”

Mr. Evans had a legendary deadpan wit, with the timing and delivery of a stand-up comic.  He was devoted to fast food and rock and roll, even though he was a Yale blue blood with a Phi Beta Kappa key.  He blended in with the regular people and liked it that way.  No pretentions in the man who said things like “I’ve discovered there is no absurdity that you can invent that a liberal will not state seriously,” or “I didn’t approve of what Joe McCarthy was trying to do, but I admired his methods.”  He said that his mother always taught him that breakfast was the most important meal of the day so he made sure he had a cigarette (a vegetable) and coffee (a legume).  In regard to public works policy, he said “Any country that can land a man on the moon, can abolish the income tax.”  And “Conservatives had to overcome the Goldwater defeat without grief counselors.”  Mr. Hayward added an appendix of Evans jokes and memorable statements,

He will be missed, and I cannot possibly capture the magnitude and excellence of Mr. Hayward’s biography. It bounces along and delivers information and tells the story of 50 years of the conservative movement and the essential role of the genius, Stan Evans.

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