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Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (Studies in Postwar American Political Development) [Kindle Edition]

Geoffrey Kabaservice
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews


"In Rule and Ruin, his wonderfully detailed new history of moderate Republicanism, Geoffrey Kabaservice makes a strong case that moderate Republicanism was hardier than we remember." --Timothy Noah, The New York Times Book Review

"The good guys lost; the bad guys won. That's the story Kabaservice sets out to tell in Rule and Ruin. He tells it in strong and engaging prose, often with a literary flair." --The National Interest

"Kabaservice is a wonderfully straightforward historian who does not layer on a lot of interpretive gloss...Rule and Ruin is a wonderful reminder of what was once -- not very long ago -- a vital tradition in American politics." --The New Republic

"An audacious and important history that rediscovers a great political tradition at exactly the moment when it is again needed most." --David Frum, author of Comeback: Conservatism that Can Win Again

"The radical turn of the Republican Party into a voice of right-wing extremism is one of the major themes of modern American political history. Rule and Ruin tells the whole story in stunning detail, and in prose that is as balanced as it is lucid. No study of our recent politics could possibly be more timely on the eve of the 2012 elections." --Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, author of The Age of Reagan

"Meticulously researched and compellingly written, Rule and Ruin is more than an account of the demise of moderate Republicans; it is a penetrating history of the modern Republican Party over the past half century. This is an exceptional book, and must reading for anyone who will follow with interest (or dread) the Republican race to a presidential nomination in 2012." --Norman J. Ornstein, Resident Scholar, The American Enterprise Institute

"In this timely work, Geoffrey Kabaservice successfully combines thorough historical research and a gripping narrative. The result is a comprehensive account of an ideological and political contest which, played out over half a century, has had a profound influence on the Republican Party and modern American politics." --Strobe Talbott, President, Brookings Institution

"Kabaservice's book is a painstaking and well-argued attempt to resurrect the losers in the GOP's fratricidal war, the liberal and moderate Republicans, including many from the northeastern states where today their influence still lingers." --Sam Tanenhaus, The New York Review of Books

"Kabaservice ably narrates the Republican Party's fifty-year conversion from a diverse political organization into an exclusively conservative 'ideological vehicle.'...Kabaservice is
as moderate as his subject matter; he resists proposing an implausibly easy solution. He believes that third-party projects are likely "foredoomed to failure," and redistricting reforms will be "a slow process" at best." --Commonwealth

About the Author

Geoffrey Kabaservice 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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1182 KB
  • Print Length: 505 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (December 5, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #338,754 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
86 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just brilliant January 4, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I loved this book, to the point where I can't stop talking about it and will corner anyone who appears even mildly receptive and launch into a detailed description of some aspect of the book - for example, the differences between moderate Republican George Romney (who features prominently in this work) and his son, Mitt Romney, or the fact that Republicans Eisenhower and Nixon, if they were in office today, would be regarded by some conservatives as dangerously left-leaning. This book has given me a whole new level of insight into the way in which the Republican party has evolved over time. I think both Democrats and Republicans would enjoy this book and learn a great deal from it.

I struggled a little with the first chapter, which covers a lot of ground, providing an overview of moderate and conservative factions within the Republican party from 1854 to the present. However, from the second chapter onward the book has a wonderful narrative flow. Although this is a scholarly work it reads as easily as a novel, and author Geoffrey Kabaservice has an elegant style that incorporates both wit and depth. Most of the book focuses upon the 1960s. When you think about the anti-establishment protests of the `60s, you usually think of liberal college-age students dropping acid and protesting the Vietnam War. This book made me realize that another revolt was taking place during those years, on the opposite side of the political spectrum. An arch-conservative minority within the Republican party was fomenting rebellion, determined to bring down the moderate, progressive Republicans who had been in power since the days of Eisenhower.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Democrat. I've been a Democrat for the past three decades, but before that I was an Independent. So what pushed me from the middle of the political road into the Democratic camp? Exactly the sort of thing in the Republican party that Geoffrey Kabaservice describes in Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party - the utter annililation of moderation in the GOP.

From today's standpoint it's difficult to imagine the word "moderate" linked with the Republican Party. But as Kabaservice notes, Eisenhower was the epitome of moderation. It was he, afterall, who warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex, something that would likely get a modern Republican branded as a closet liberal or worse. Even the red-baiting Nixon opened relations with Communist China and signed off on classically liberal concerns such as environmental issues. From arch-conservative Goldwater's disasterous presidential bid to Reagan's inclusion of the one-time apolitical evangelicals to the rise of the Tea Party, Rule and Ruin gives us a ring-side seat to the sweeping changes that have occurred in the Grand Old Party in the span of a single lifetime.

Kabaservice traces the steps between a Republican Party concerned about civil rights and dedicated to traditional conservative issues such as promoting business and small government to today's GOP with its obsession over social issues such as abortion, gay rights and the Second Amendment. It makes for fascinating reading and Kabaservice has done in-depth research using a wide variety of resources.
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36 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of our generation's rising historians December 2, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Geoff Kabaservice's essays and analysis of our current political landscape (see the American Spectator and FrumForum for examples) blend flashes of unparalleled insight with deep historical understanding, ascerbic wit and a seemingly effortless prose. His newest volume is a welcome and timely analysis of one of the great tragedies of our time -- the GOP's pogrom against its own moderate wing. A must-read for anyone seeking to make sense of our current political quagmire, and how we got here.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Relevant today! October 2, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party, by Geoffrey Kabaservice is an interesting book charting the fall of Moderate Republicans over the last sixty years. The book traces an arc from the Presidency of Dwight Eisenhower to the rise of the Tea Party in recent years.

The bulk of the book details the pivotal intra-party war between moderates (and liberals) against conservatives during the 1960's. The author outlines in great detail, following successive defeats to the moderate wing of the Republican Party in the `40's, `50's and 1960, the rise of the Goldwater movement, culminating in the Arizona Senator's nomination in 1964. As the conservative movement, armed with passion and superior organizational skills, systematically infiltrated and took over the Republican Party apparatus from the local to the national level, what jumps off the page is the venom and vitriol which victory brought. The author recounts the scene on the floor of the 1964 GOP convention in San Francisco, as the conservative's defiant arch-nemesis, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller is jeered and taunted as he tries to address the delegates in support of a platform resolution denouncing the political extremism of the John Birch Society.

In that year, the breaking point came on the issue of civil rights, and more specifically the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Support for civil rights had long been a philosophical tenet of moderate Republican thinking. In fact, it was moderate Republicans who helped make the difference in a Congress steeped with conservative, southern Congressional Democrats, for passing the landmark legislation.
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