Synopses & Reviews
The chaotic events leading up to Mitt Romney's defeat in the 2012 election indicated how far the Republican Party had rocketed rightward away from the center of public opinion. Republicans in Congress threatened to shut down the government and force a U.S. debt default. Tea Party activists mounted primary challenges against Republican officeholders who appeared to exhibit too much pragmatism or independence. Moderation and compromise were dirty words in the Republican presidential debates. The GOP, it seemed, had suddenly become a party of ideological purity.
Except this development is not new at all. In Rule and Ruin, Geoffrey Kabaservice reveals that the moderate Republicans' downfall began not with the rise of the Tea Party but about the time of President Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address. Even in the 1960s, when left-wing radicalism and right-wing backlash commanded headlines, Republican moderates and progressives formed a powerful movement, supporting pro-civil rights politicians like Nelson Rockefeller and William Scranton, battling big-government liberals and conservative extremists alike. But the Republican civil war ended with the overthrow of the moderate ideas, heroes, and causes that had comprised the core of the GOP since its formation. In hindsight, it is today's conservatives who are "Republicans in Name Only."
Writing with passionate sympathy for a bygone tradition of moderation, Kabaservice recaptures a time when fiscal restraint was matched with social engagement; when a cohort of leading Republicans opposed the Vietnam war; when George Romney--father of Mitt Romney--conducted a nationwide tour of American poverty, from Appalachia to Watts, calling on society to "listen to the voices from the ghetto." Rule and Ruin is an epic, deeply researched history that reorients our understanding of our political past and present.
Today, following the Republicans' loss of the popular vote in five of the last six presidential contests, moderates remain marginalized in the GOP and progressives are all but nonexistent. In this insightful and elegantly argued book, Kabaservice contends that their decline has left Republicans less capable of governing responsibly, with dire consequences for all Americans. He has added a new afterword that considers the fallout from the 2012 elections.
"In this wistful study of the postwar Republican Party, historian Kabaservice (The Guardians) eulogizes the doomed struggle by moderate Republicans to prevent a conservative takeover of the GOP from the Eisenhower era through the Nixon administration. (The decades from Ronald Reagan's inauguration to the Tea Party jihad flit by in a 25-page montage.) Kabaservice spotlights seldom remembered Republican moderates, including the intellectuals of the Ripon Society and politicians like George Romney, John Lindsay, and Ohio congressman Charles Whalen Republicans who, he contends, reached out to minorities and youth, questioned the Vietnam War, and accepted the New Deal while trying to tame its excesses. (As he celebrates this lineage, it's their enemies, the fire breathing Goldwater-Reagan-Gingrich conservatives, who supply the narrative's energy and Ã©lan.) This is hard-core political history, full of bitter campaigns, factional infighting, and backroom deals, and Kabaservice tells it with fluency, insight, and colorful detail. Unfortunately, his focus on clashing ideologies and temperaments slights underlying interest-group politics; he says little, for example, about Republican business constituencies that benefit from conservatives' devotion to the needs of wealthy 'job-creators.' Kabaservice's well-told but blinkered history neglects crucial reasons for the Republican flight from the middle." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The 2010 elections were notable for heavy losses--not just by Democrats, but by centrist Republicans to more conservative Republicans. Mike Castle of Delaware, a popular moderate, lost a Senate primary to Christine O'Donnell. Two-term Senator Bob Bennett of Utah, generally regarded as strongly right-wing, failed to win re-nomination, thanks to Tea Party activists. The GOP, it seems, has suddenly become a party of ideological purity.
Except this development is not new at all. In Rule and Ruin, Geoffrey Kabaservice reveals that the downfall of the moderate Republican began not in 2009, with the rise of the Tea Party, but about the time of President Eisenhower's Farewell Address. Ever since the party's formation in the 1850s, he notes, moderate ideas, causes, and activists have comprised the core of the GOP. Even in the 1960s, when the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society and right-wing Young Americans for Freedom commanded headlines, moderate and progressive Republicans dominated the party, supporting Nelson Rockefeller and Howard Baker, coalescing in the Ripon Society and the pro-civil rights magazine Advance. Writing with passionate sympathy for a bygone tradition of moderation, Kabaservice recaptures a time when fiscal restraint was matched with social liberality; when a cohort of leading Republicans opposed the Vietnam War; when George Romney--father of Mitt Romney--conducted a 10,000-mile coast-to-coast tour of American poverty, from Appalachia to Watts, calling on society to "listen to the voices from the ghetto." Overshadowed by the presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater in 1964, the moderates quickly rebounded, only to collapse as Richard Nixon shifted the party sharply to the right.
Today, moderates are marginalized in the GOP, and progressives are all but nonexistent. In this insightful and elegantly argued book, Kabaservice contends that their decline has left Republicans less capable of governing responsibly, and may well doom the party in the years ahead.
About the Author
is the author of the National Book Award-nominated The Guardians: Kingman Brewster, His Circle, and the Rise of the Liberal Establishment
. He has written for numerous national publications and has been an assistant professor of history at Yale University. He lives outside Washington, DC.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Collapse of the Moderate Republican Establishment, 1960-64
Chapter 2: "Moderation Is No Virtue": The GOP and the Goldwater Campaign, 1964
Chapter 3: Wresting in the Ruins: Moderates Regain Control of the Republican Party, 1965
Chapter 4: From Rat Finks to Reagan: Republican Resurgence, 1966
Chapter 5: Moderation's High Tide: George Romney's Rise and Fall, 1967
Chapter 6: Moderate Half-Victories and the Presidential Election of 1968
Chapter 7: Moderates Get a Piece of the Action: Nixon's First Year, 1969
Chapter 8: Clashing with Nixon: The Breakup of the Moderate Republican Movement, 1970
Chapter 9: Slouching Towards Bethlehem: The Decline and Fall of the Moderate Republicans, 1971-2011