M. Stanton (Stan) Evans died March 3 at the age of 80. In 1961, at the age of 27, Evans wrote Revolt on Campus, which predicted that what was then a small cadre of conservative students would grow into a movement that would challenge liberals for control of the country’s institutions—and win. He then spent the rest of his life working to make that prediction come true—as an intellectual, as a journalist, as an historian, as a teacher, and as one of the wittiest commentators on the Washington scene.
After graduating from Yale, Evans began writing for National Review in the magazine’s very early days. He would write for both National Review and Human Events regularly for decades.
In 1960, he became the youngest editor of a metropolitan daily newspaper, the Indianapolis News. That same year he helped found Young Americans for Freedom, authoring the group’s founding statement of principles. Adopted at the first YAF meeting at William F. Buckley’s family home in Sharon, Conn.—and thus known as the Sharon Statement—the Evans-authored credo shaped the modern conservative movement as a fusion of libertarian and traditionalist principles. William Rusher said the statement came as close as “there will ever be to a statement of the original principles of the modern American conservative movement.”
As chairman of the American Conservative Union from 1971 to 1977, Evans helped the Reagan campaign mount a challenge to President Ford for the 1976 Republican nomination. Ford eventually won the nomination, but Reagan’s momentum leading up to the convention laid the foundation for his 1980 run. Reagan’s challenge, however, would have died in March of that year had he not won the North Carolina primary. And he would not have won the North Carolina primary without Stan Evans and the American Conservative Union.
ACU had joined the lawsuit known as Buckley v. Valeo, the landmark case that challenged federal limits on campaign contributions and spending. After the Supreme Court upheld contribution limits but not spending limits, Evans convinced the ACU board to approve independent expenditure campaigns on behalf of Ronald Reagan in Illinois, North Carolina, and Texas. Candidate Reagan had lost the previous five state primaries and was being urged to pull out. ACU’s campaign, which featured over 882 radio commercials that aggressively outlined the differences between the moderate Ford and the conservative Reagan, helped Reagan pull off the upset in North Carolina.
Evans founded the National Journalism Center in 1980 because he believed that the best way to fight liberal bias in the news was to have more reporters producing good, honest journalism. He explained: “I don’t think that the way to correct a spin from the left is to try to impart a spin from the right. […] [A]n information flow distorted from the right would be just as much a disservice as distortion from the left. What we really should be after […] is accurate information. And I don’t see what any conservative or anybody else for that matter has to fear from accurate information.”
Under Evans’ direction NJC trained thousands of journalists, including John Fund of National Review, William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal, John Merline of USA Today, book writer Malcolm Gladwell, columnist Ann Coulter, and commentator Greg Gutfeld.
In addition to Revolt on Campus, Evans wrote seven other books. Evans’s The Theme Is Freedom challenged the liberal view that the writers of the U.S. Constitution were primarily inspired by enlightenment ideals. Evans traced their influences back to Christian roots, showing how their commitment to individual liberty was built on Christian precepts.
Evans undertook another debunking of the liberal version of history in Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joseph McCarthy and His Fight for America. He dug into the declassified files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and showed that McCarthy, while perhaps imprudent in some of his methods, was essentially correct in his charge that there was a security problem in the United States government in the early 1950s.
Evans also published Consumers’ Research magazine for over two decades. The magazine, published since 1927, had been one of the few consumer magazines sympathetic to the idea that the free market is the consumer’s best friend. Evans took over publication of the magazine in order to keep it going, explaining that it would be a shame if Consumer Reports were to have a monopoly on consumer reporting. Evans’s Consumers’ Research published articles explaining how the rise in third-party payment was at the center of the problems in health care, how competition in cable television lowers prices, and why energy regulations never work. “Consumers’ Research,” he would tell people “is the magazine that understands that Ralph Nader is hazardous to your health.”
Evans was also the author of some of the most memorable bon mots on politics. Here are three of our favorites:
“Liberals don’t care what you do as long as it’s compulsory.”
“We have two parties here, and only two. One is the evil party, and the other is the stupid party. I’m very proud to be a member of the stupid party. Occasionally, the two parties get together to do something that’s both evil and stupid. That’s called bipartisanship.”
“We all know that Mrs. Clinton has complained about the vast right-wing conspiracy, and of course, she is correct about that, and we are all part of it, but when I was starting out, it was only half vast.”
Indeed, today the movement is a lot more right-wing and a lot less half-vast because of Evans; and the country is at least a little bit freer, too, because of his good works.