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One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century Hardcover – July 28, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0471776727 ISBN-10: 0471776726

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley (July 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471776726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471776727
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,542,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Despite the Bush Administration's current unpopularity, Hamburger and Wallsten contend, the Republican domination of American politics is unlikely to end anytime soon. In this astutely argued polemic, the authors note that political hegemony today has less to do with a party's popularity than it does with pinpoint marketing, judiciary packing and artful gerrymandering. Political mastermind Karl Rove is quoted as having remarked about the young George W. Bush: "He was exuding more charisma that any one individual should be allowed to have." Nevertheless, Rove has relied not upon Bush's charisma, but rather pro-industry regulation to build Republican war chests, careful selection of congressional candidates, and grassroots campaigning of the sort that used to be the province of Democrats. From lobbying to single-issue marketing to co-opting traditional Democratic constituencies (Hispanics, African Americans, Jews, immigrants), the authors find that the Republican machine appears to have identified and commodified every potential vote in the nation. Unfortunately, there's a crippling streak of self-defeatism underlying the text: the Republican agenda is portrayed as an invincible crushing force, and the book provides no view into the limits of Republican power. This convincing work certainly calls attention to the threat that the U.S. may soon be one red state nation under God, but for those who would sooner be dead than red, the authors offer little solace.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"One Party Country does a good job of spelling out the GOP electoral strategy objectively and in detail, and without evidence of partisan leanings." (Christian Science Monitor, October 31, 2006)

IN 2004, Republicans won a clean sweep of the national elections — 232 House seats, 55 Senate seats, 28 governorships and, of course, the presidency, expanding on gains from 2000 and 2002. It's the kind of electoral dominance that could lead a pair of White House reporters to wonder: "[I]s the United States becoming a one-party country?"
Such is the provocative contention of Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten's behind-the-curtains exegesis of the Republican plan for perpetual political power — and why it just might be crazy enough to work. "Republicans," they write, "are the New York Yankees of American politics — the team that, at the start of every season, has the tools in place to win it all."
In "One Party Country," the two Los Angeles Times writers trace the GOP's winning strategy to George H.W. Bush's 1992 loss to Bill Clinton, which led Bush's sons George and Jeb to two realizations. One: You can't abandon your base. And two: It's time to start reaching out to minority voters that Democrats are taking for granted.
Soon the Bush brothers were making inroads with African American and Latino voters in Texas and Florida, touting new educational initiatives (market-based, of course!) and test-driving such phrases as "the soft bigotry of low expectations" that somehow make traditional Democratic approaches to social welfare seem even a little racist. By 2000, the outreach had paid off. Jeb Bush already had been elected governor of Florida and George W. Bush won 50% of that state's Latino vote (which is predominantly Cuban American and conservative) and the presidency. The Bush brothers, Hamburger and Wallsten argue, "had profoundly changed the Republican Party's base of support."
With the White House as a base of operations, Bush political advisor Karl Rove then set to work on "a breathtakingly ambitious plan to use the embryonic Bush presidency to build an enduring Republican majority." The first order of business was, well, business. The corporate love-fest began with a big wet sloppy kiss in the form of an immediate two-month freeze on regulation and just kept getting better. Hamburger and Wallsten write that many of the administration's "pro-industry moves attracted little public attention" because they occurred after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
As planned, the business community expressed its thanks in the form of very generous financial support, and GOP operatives used that money to develop a highly sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation built around a top-of-the-line information-management system. Using the "Voter Vault" — which "matched voter files with marketing data obtained from magazine sales, grocery stores, and other retailers" — the Bush team found hidden pockets of supportive swing-state voters, such as an enclave of pro-Israel Orthodox Russian Jews in suburban Cleveland. Republicans also used the consumer data to target military history buffs, bourbon drinkers and Chevy owners, all of whom trend conservative.
Meanwhile, President Bush continued targeting minorities. During the 2004 campaign, many voters with Spanish surnames got a five-minute DVD — "barely noticed outside the Latino community" — in which Bush tried to establish a personal, emotional connection with Latino voters. (A Democratic pollster called it the "I love you" strategy.) Exit polls showed that 40% of Latinos voted for Bush in 2004, up from 35% in 2000.
Bush also devoted special attention to African American church communities that shared his religious and social conservatism (often abetted by government grants through the faith-based initiatives program). Hamburger and Wallsten suggest that a seven-point rise in black support in Ohio may have made the difference for Bush in the pivotal Buckeye State.
The obvious and immediate test of the premise of "One Party Country" will be the November midterm elections. Will Republican efforts to toughen immigration laws destroy the support Bush has gained among Latinos? Will the administration's fumbled response to Hurricane Katrina wash away the inroads the GOP has made among African Americans? And can Republicans keep playing the terrorism card, despite the daily reports of death and disaster in Iraq? (Hamburger and Wallsten have surprisingly little to say about the politics of national security as a potential explanation for recent Republican successes.)
Even if Democrats gain seats this fall, the authors see "few signs that [the] party will be prepared to turn those victories into a winning movement." That's because Republicans still have the solid support of business (and the money that comes with it), the Voter Vault and, perhaps most significant, the structural advantage that comes from years of careful redrawing of congressional district lines. Besides, in the winner-take-all American political system, Republicans need only continue to eke out slim majorities.
For anyone who wants to understand why Republicans are winning elections and why they are likely to do so in the foreseeable future, "One Party Country" is a must read.
—Lee Drutman is co-author of "The People's Business: Controlling Corporations and Restoring Democracy." (The Los Angeles Times, August 18, 2006)

"...solidly reported, lucid, and fascinating...highly recommended". (Library Journal, August 15, 2006)

Despite the Bush Administration's current unpopularity, Hamburger and Wallsten contend, the Republican domination of American politics is unlikely to end anytime soon. In this astutely argued polemic, the authors note that political hegemony today has less to do with a party's popularity than it does with pinpoint marketing, judiciary packing and artful gerrymandering. Political mastermind Karl Rove is quoted as having remarked about the young George W. Bush: "He was exuding more charisma that any one individual should be allowed to have." Nevertheless, Rove has relied not upon Bush's charisma, but rather pro-industry regulation to build Republican war chests, careful selection of congressional candidates, and grassroots campaigning of the sort that used to be the province of Democrats. From lobbying to single-issue marketing to co-opting traditional Democratic constituencies (Hispanics, African Americans, Jews, immigrants), the authors find that the Republican machine appears to have identified and commodified every potential vote in the nation. Unfortunately, there's a crippling streak of self-defeatism underlying the text: the Republican agenda is portrayed as an invincible crushing force, and the book provides no view into the limits of Republican power. This convincing work certainly calls attention to the threat that the U.S. may soon be one red state nation under God, but for those who would sooner be dead than red, the authors offer little solace. (July) (Publishers Weekly, July 24, 2006)


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 49 people found the following review helpful By D.C. Reader on July 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Doesn't it seem that Republicans always win the really close elections? This book tells us why. Republicans might not be better at governing, but they are certainly better at campaigning, and this book reveals their secrets in a dispassionate but entertaining style. Just as An Inconvenient Truth should be required viewing for everyone who doubts global warming, this book should be required reading for anyone who believes that Democrats will return to power simply by waiting for the dominant party to self-destruct. The inconvenient political truth is that Republicans are decades ahead in terms of electoral strategery. Just as we must understand the causes of global warming before we can effectively address it, so too must Democrats understand the causes of Republican successes so that we do not truly become a one-party country.
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18 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Sheryl C. Winarick on August 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Other books have put to rest the fallacious notion of an "accidental president" stumbling haplessly onto the pages of history and then all but delegating his presidency to his advisors, Vice President and Cabinet. Wallsten and Hamburger, in their book, go further than that, laying out in well-researched detail how the Republicans--the politically nimble Bush siblings in particular--mined the losses of the White House in 1992 and the House majority in 1996 in order to discover and apply the lessons learned rigorously, methodically, and ruthlessly in their campaigns, platforms and policies. (When was the last time, readers will ask themselves, that the Democrats made a systematic effort to identify, and incorporate into their repertoire, lessons learned from their failed campaigns?) Although Bush's victory in 2000 might now seem to have been foreordained, it was no small undertaking to marshal the republican ranks during the late 1990s in the wake of tumultuous upheavals that left the conservative movement riven. The authors remind us of the discipline and resolve required in order to reassemble the fractured and dispirited party during this period--discipline brought to bear by the conservative activists and tacticians that comprised the Bush inner circle. In their crusade to forge and maintain a winning coalition, George W. and his advisors faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge: navigating a course between the moderation roundly rejected by the electorate in 1992 and the extremism repudiated with equal force in 1995. The course they chose was innovative, reviving first principles (e.g.Read more ›
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Gordon Burkowski on April 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book must stand as a masterpiece of bad timing. It came out right before the 2006 elections - where the Republicans received their first drubbing. Prior to the election, Hamburger and Wallsten had been on the Book Puff circuit, including an interview for Harper's Magazine where they expressed the view that Republican losses would be limited and the GOP had a shot at maintaining control of both the Senate and the House. On CNN, they stated that their analysis would remain sound even if the Republicans suffered a temporary setback in '06. Then along came '08 - and an even bigger whipping than the last one. Suddenly the buzz is about Obama's hyper-sophisticated used of the Internet. Presumably it is time for Hamburger and Wallsten to write a sequel entitled: How Did We Get It So Wrong?
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14 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on August 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
One Party Country" is one of, if not the best of books on contemporary American politics. It explains how Republicans manage to win elections despite an inability to manage (eg. the Iraq quagmire, the continuing Katrina debacle, non-stop mid-East crises, ballooning federal and trade deficits, and declining inflation-adjusted family incomes). Their "secrets" - managing regulations, hiring, and government programs to aid their supporters and undermine Democrat bastions of power (eg. collaring lawsuits against business was largely aimed at undermining trial lawyer support for Democrats), and mining niches of potential support. (Then if all else fails, they can still draw on election dirty tricks - detailed elsewhere.)

The Democrats' 1964 Voting Rights Act was intended to strengthen minorities' representation in Congress and state legislatures. Unfortunately for Democrats, Lee Atwater saw the required redistricting as a means of lumping minorities together (giving them more seats, but little power) while minimizing their ability to provide wide-spread support to white Democrats (reducing Democrat congressmen and increasing Republican numbers).

Both George and Jeb Bush recognize the growing power of minorities and have worked to develop their support, WITHOUT alienating their conservative base. (Both learned the importance of the latter from Bush I's defeat - largely attributed to his backing away from "no new taxes" due to fear of ballooning deficits.) Both have done relatively well in attracting Hispanic votes and have used education reform to attract minorities and win governorships.
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