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Our friend Jeffrey Bell died on February 10th at age 74. Bell played a key role in Reagan’s 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns and was a three-time U.S. Senate candidate—including a daring outsider campaign against Cory Booker in 2014.
During that race, Booker protested that Bell “literally wrote the book making a case for polarized politics.” Indeed he did. Bell was the author, for Encounter, of the important book The Case for Polarized Politics (2012). While the socially conservative positions Bell advanced in The Case for Polarized Politics may not have played well in liberal New Jersey in 2014, the book was, as the Wall Street Journal recently noted, highly influential “in predicting that a GOP candidate could win the White House by taking Upper Midwest states that are more socially than economically conservative”.
His 1992 book, Populism and Elitism, was similarly prescient in its explanation of America’s traditional skepticism of the elite political class—and our tendency towards a uniquely optimistic populism.
Jeffrey Bell made a lasting contribution to our politics, as both a first-rate thinker and as an intrepid participant in the American democratic experiment. We will miss him.
Watch Bell discuss The Case for Polarized Politics on CSPAN.
Read Matthew Continetti’s recent column on Donald Trump, Jeffrey Bell, and the future of Reaganism.