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87 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just brilliant
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...
Published on January 4, 2012 by gormenghast

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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars He got tired and quit!!!
'Rule and Ruin' by Geoffrey Kabaservice. I have read several books in the same vein dealing with the Republican Party and the takeover by the right wing. But, none quite so thorough as this one in its scope of the early years. It explains all of those nuances that have become so uniquely Republican these days and such a essential part of the hate filled right wing...
Published on September 26, 2012 by ganddw42


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87 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just brilliant, January 4, 2012
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gormenghast (Atlanta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
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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.

There always had been a conservative element within the Republican party, of course, but Kabaservice argues that the rebellious conservatives of the `60s -- militant right-wingers who had been strongly influenced by Joe McCarthy -- were a different breed. Republicans of the time period considered them "a totally new element" in the party and regarded their value system as a "weird parody" of traditional Republican beliefs. Their appearance had coincided with McCarthy's rise to power, and they became a more vocal and determined group in the late `50s and early `60s. Like Joe McCarthy, these new conservatives believed that the US was run by "a traitorous elite"of wealthy Eastern intellectuals. In their minds, moderate Republicans, also known as progressive or liberal Republicans, were part of this hated elite. Since its founding, the Republican party had included liberal Republicans as well as conservatives, but the New Right believed that any kind of liberalism "led inexorably to socialism and Communism, and that the smallest government effort to provide for the general welfare constituted the first step on `The Road to Serfdom'..." Unlike previous generations of conservative Republicans, who had respected intellect, kept their religious views private, sought to preserve the existing political system, and were not bound by any particular ideology, the New Right was anti-intellectual, ideologically-driven, and ultimately came to be dominated by the religious right. Most importantly, the new conservatives wanted to overthrow the existing system, getting rid of the moderate Republicans even at the risk of damaging the Republican party irreparably.

Kabaservice says that the New Right was so intent upon ridding the party of its moderate members that it pursued a "rule or ruin" strategy, supporting the opponents of moderate Republican politicians even if they were liberal Democrats. Their efforts to destroy moderate Republicanism were successful, in part due to weaknesses inherent in the moderate stance - by its nature, moderation is less passionate and less driven than extremism, and its adherents are less likely to adopt a "take-no-prisoners, ends-justify-the-means" approach to politics. Kabaservice writes that in recent years, "movement conservatism finally succeeded in silencing, co-opting, repelling, or expelling nearly every competing strain of Republicanism from the party, to the extent that the terms `liberal Republican' or `moderate Republican' have practically become oxymorons."

This book provides a lot of historical perspective. I'm so accustomed to thinking of the Republican party as a mostly white, non-racially inclusive political organization that I often forget that this is the party of Lincoln, founded out of opposition to slavery. This book reminded me that Republicans have a strong civil rights heritage. It was interesting to learn that the vast majority of mid-`60s Republicans were infuriated by Goldwater's segregationist views and regarded him as a demagogue and dangerous zealot. It also was interesting to learn that a greater percentage of Republicans than Democrats supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1960, way before the civil rights movement had really caught fire, GOP nominee Richard Nixon's civil rights plank was as strong as the Democrats', supporting sit-ins and promising federal intervention in securing job equality for African-Americans. In fact, African-Americans didn't start defecting to the Democratic Party in droves until 1964 -- Eisenhower received 39% of the black vote in 1956. All of this seems strange to me because it's so different from the Republican party I know.

Also strange, as mentioned earlier, is the fact that Eisenhower would have been considered liberal in many respects by today's standards. He invested heavily in education and public works. He decried unnecessary military spending, which he considered out of keeping with fiscal conservatism and which he felt often came at the expense of human needs. Here's a great Eisenhower quote from 1953: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed." Can you imagine a Republican today saying that?

I could go on and on, but I'll stop now. Obviously, I'm enthusiastic about this book. It's an important historical work and the timing for its appearance could not be better. Five stars.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant look at recent history that seems to be largely forgotten, January 24, 2012
By 
W. V. Buckley (Kansas City, MO) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 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)
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.

What makes the book even more relevant is to read it in the midst of the Republican battle to choose a presidential nominee when each candidate is seeking to lay claim to the mantle of conservatism while painting his opponents as moderate and therefore unworthy of the nation's highest office. Rule and Ruin puts the battle (and, indeed, past electorial battles) into perspective.

I remember years ago during the Reagan administration that is was claimed Reagan "made 'liberal' a dirty word." After reading Rule and Ruin it seems that modern Republicans, with their demands for ideological orthodoxy, have made moderation another expletive to be deleted. This is a book that should be read by persons of all political stripes, from the most reactionary conservative to the most knee-jerk liberal.
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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
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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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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The long, slow death of Republican moderates, February 7, 2012
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Much of the country this spring will be, or already has been, watching the Republican presidential hopefuls go through their primary and caucus exercises with our jaws agape at the procedure. It's not just the candidates themselves (who create their own reality show) but the wonderment at how the Republican party ever ended up this way. One way to find out is to read Geoffrey Kabaservice's extraordinary new book, "Rule and Ruin". It is one of the best political offerings in memory.

It is fitting that the book begins during the Eisenhower years, Ike being the last Republican moderate to occupy the White House and govern in that fashion. For those of us born in the early 1950s, "Rule and Ruin" takes on added meaning and nostalgia in that we tend to remember most of the players. When I was growing up at the time in Fairfield County Connecticut, our neighbors were "Rockefeller Republicans"...fiscally conservative and socially moderate. Those people have all but disappeared...not from sight but from the GOP. The vast majority of them became Democrats or Independents.

This book centers around the decades of the 60s and 70s when the bottom really began to fall out for GOP moderates. Kabaservice introduces "Advance" magazine, a publication dedicated to moderate causes and candidates. While the magazine didn't last long it showed the frustration of those who wished to carry out the politics, if not the spirit, of the Eisenhower administration. Moderates, buried by the conservative wrench to the right with Goldwater, nonetheless had a hard time in coalescing around candidates and nominees to be. They flirted with Rockefeller, were dazzled by Scranton and Percy, followed John Lindsay, but had to cave in to Richard Nixon's centrist appeal in 1968. While Nixon became increasingly hostile to moderates during his first term they began to peel off in large numbers. The Ripon Society, an outgrowth of "Advance", became a spiritual and practical home to many of them. Even after the Watergate debacle, moderation was rarer to be found in the GOP.

By Reagan's time there were few moderates left. And thirty years later there are practically none...at least those who are in positions of governmental power. Kabaservice's concluding chapter signifies the death knell with the defeat of Delaware's Mike Castle...a thoughtful, intelligent former governor and representative, who was a shoo-in to become the next senator. The Tea Party got a hold of him, nominated a woman who had dabbled in witchcraft and that senate seat was picked up by the Democrats. For those of us who remember a video replay of the town hall-style meeting Castle tried to hold in 2009...well, it reminded many of us of how the GOP had become the party of extremists.

The author presents some fascinating things I didn't know. Richard Nixon won almost a third of the black vote in 1960...an impossible feat today by any stretch of the imagination. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was made possible by Republican support....80% of the GOP voted for it while only 60% of Democrats did so. He reminds us that many early and young Republicans started out as moderates. To be reminded that Spiro Agnew was originally a huge Rockefeller supporter is to take a walk down memory lane. And young turks like Newt Gingrich (also a Rocky supporter) and Karl Rove were much more moderate than they turned out later to be. In a poignant entry, Kabaservice introduces the name of William Steiger, whom I admit not to have known. He was a moderate Wisconsin Republican elected to Congress in the Republican year of 1966 and was a rising star until his untimely death at age forty, twelve years later. How he might have had a continuing voice for moderation we'll never know.

"Rule and Ruin" is an exceptional and timely book...one not to be missed in this highly charged year. As Mitt Romney tries to shed his moderate image and wear adopted conservative garb he may just have found his Emperor's new clothes. And Newt Gingrich will continue to pull people right off the edge. Perhaps Kabaservice is at his best when he says, (referring to the George W. Bush presidency) "conservatives were skilled at politics but deficient at governing, and that a Republican party without moderates was like a heavily muscled body without a head." Bingo! I most highly recommend this book and commend Geoffrey Kabaservice for his in-depth analyses and thoughtful presentation.
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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In-depth look at the causes and outcomes of the banishing of the moderates from the modern Republican Party., December 19, 2011
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Extremely well written and exhaustively researched look at how we arrived at the stark idealogical landscape of the current Republican Party. No matter what your position on the political spectrum, this thoughtfully written book will give you a much firmer understanding of the massive tectonic shifts in the political landscape which have taken place since WWII, with a particular focus on the post-Goldwater era of the Republican Party.
The book also provides some significant thoughts and insights on recent (and upcoming) elections and how the choices the American voters will make are perhaps the most important in living memory for the struggle over the idealogical heart and soul of the country.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars He got tired and quit!!!, September 26, 2012
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'Rule and Ruin' by Geoffrey Kabaservice. I have read several books in the same vein dealing with the Republican Party and the takeover by the right wing. But, none quite so thorough as this one in its scope of the early years. It explains all of those nuances that have become so uniquely Republican these days and such a essential part of the hate filled right wing. Things I have always wondered how on earth these people got so nasty, corrupt, unprincipled and mean spirited. I never understood until now where such nastiness came from. But, being old enough to remember the John Birch Society of the early 60's, I now know where it came from. But, Kabaservice explains it to where I know what we are fighting against now. It's called many things in our society; fascism, totalitarian and Marxist, but it all still boils down to the same thing that has destroyed many a democratic society.
One tends to forget that Republican's were a responsible party at one time. The Republican Party used to be a great and noble party...the party of Lincoln. Who stood for noble ideals. The right wing element was there waiting for the right minute to take over. It just wasn't big enough yet to engulf the whole party like it has now. It likewise hadn't radicalized the whole party. So far it is the best to explain in detail what has taken over the Republican Party and as far as a lot of us are concerned is going to eventually ruin the party completely. At least, it's ruined the Republican Party for a lot of us who used to call ourselves Republican. We have now moved to the other side of the aisle and don't bother even looking at the Republican side, because it doesn't represent anything worthwhile anymore.
I had forgotten how in the 60's the Republican Party represented mainstream America and parts of the Democratic Party represented the old Segregationist racist South. Even though, I knew it. I had just forgotten over the years what they used to stand for. A large part of the Civil Rights bill the progressive and Moderate Republican's were responsible for having made a reality. But, the racist's are now trying to take credit for having passed (that in reality they tried killing). Over the years, their roles have been completely reversed. The Republican Party now represents something we don't care to be associated with. It has forced a lot of we true conservatives into the Democratic party because there was no longer a place for us as Republicans. In fact, a lot of us are what the right wing term as liberals. But, we aren't! It's just to the new Republican's who have gone so far right, a lot of us in the middle look like liberals to them. Republican's only like to drag out their Civil Rights successes and wave it around when trying to dupe an unsuspecting voter into voting against their own interests again.
The biggest criticism I have for the book. He deals too much in the 60's and 70's where the right wing started taking over. Why I gave it 3 stars. That part was though, accurate and good reading. As far as I am concerned, it was the sum of the whole book, the last half wasn't worth the effort. He drug it out for too long. In fact, I think he goes too far in depth with that part. He doesn't go enough into depth of the 80's onward. He doesn't do enough to highlight the tremendous damage Reagan and Bush II both did this country with their failed policies. And their policies are what is killing us as a country. In fact he isn't as critical as he should be in that area. It's almost like he just got tired with the whole mess and quit!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Relevant today!, October 2, 2012
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This review is from: 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)
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. Goldwater's vote against the 1964 civil rights bill finally galvanized the GOP's moderate wing to battle as the Republican Party charged headlong in November, 1964 into what was arguably the most disastrous electoral defeat the Party of Lincoln ever suffered. Ironically, one of the leading moderate Republican voices for civil rights and progressive policies in general, was Michigan Governor George Romney, father to the GOP's 2012 nominee. It would be interesting to know the late moderate leader's take on the Mitt Romney campaign this year.

There are many on the Right (as well as the Left) who would argue that a moderate stands for nothing. However, the author writes that in broad strokes, there was an over-arching philosophy for moderate Republicans. Historically, moderate Republicans often served as a counter-weight to a Democratic Party led by a racist Southern wing and a wing commanded by often corrupt big-city political machines. They also offered a contrast to the often narrow, isolationist world view of Midwest Republican conservatism. The author argues that support of civil rights and civil liberties, an internationalist world view, fiscal restraint, and open, reform-minded government were the hallmarks of moderate beliefs. Also, because moderates politically also often were moderates in temperament, the author points out that they were able to work together with like-minded Democrats to reach common ground on many issues.

It is this personal moderation, the author asserts that may have helped contribute to the downfall of Moderate Republicans. Faced with a well-organized, passionate, bare-knuckled opponent, who at times was more concerned with ideological purity than electability, the 1960's began the slow descent of this historically critical wing of the Republican Party. The conservative turn to a Republican "Southern Strategy", begun in 1964, has altered the political landscape of not only the Republican Party, but of the nation as a whole.

I would argue that the demise of the Moderate Republicans has also contributed greatly to the ideology-driven, destroy your enemy mentality that current gridlocks Washington today. In my opinion, what we need now more than ever is not more of the current "it's my way or the highway" mentality, but rather voices that talk, rather than shout and that are willing to work together, even with those they disagree with, for the common good.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, well researched, and thought provoking, December 2, 2011
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Geoff Kabaservice has written the definitive text on the purposeful expulsion of moderates from Republican ranks. Well written, well conceived and obviously quite timely given the state of our current politics. Well done Geoff!!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book But Lots of People, Little Policy, April 4, 2012
Kabaservice tracks the decline of moderation in the Republican Party with a very heavy focus on the period between 1960-1970. There are a few chapters covering the subsequent decades so the road from "Eisenhower to the Tea Party" is almost completely paved in the 1960's. The lack of balance is not necessarily a criticism because Kabaservice states that George Romney was the moderates' last hope for their vision of Republicanism and that the moderate movement was closed after the disastrous 1970 Congressional election. That being said, some readers may still be disappointed by the cursory treatment of events from 1970-2012. Overall, I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in political history, regardless of their own personal politics.

The book itself is well-researched and the tone is appropriately scholarly. As for primary source material, the author conducted over 50 interviews with politicians and Republican leaders and the list of manuscript collections consulted is impressive. Thankfully, Kabaservice's writing style is not aggressively partisan; the most inflammatory language I found in the main text was the assertion that the "Republican party without moderates was like a heavily muscled body without a head." His rhetoric is a bit less constrained in the conclusion but the overall impression is that he is properly detached from politics to give a fair account of the material.

I do have a few criticisms that I only list to justify giving this book 4 stars instead of 5. My primary criticism of the book is the heavy focus on elections to the exclusion of what politicians were actually doing once elected. Other than the push for Civil Rights legislation, voting trends of Congressional members are largely ignored. Nixon's policy goals and achievements are discussed but an analysis of how Republicans in Congress viewed and voted on his environmental and economic legislation is absent. Kabaservice's first use of data to demonstrate the increasing, united conservatism of Congressional members does not appear until page 367. His evidence for the decline in moderation consists of identifying moderate Republicans and tracking their election fortunes. This choice produces long anecdotes on individuals that is less convincing than a more varied use of evidence would be.

The almost complete exclusion of the Democratic Party from the book also presents problems. The Conclusion acknowledges that today the Republicans in office are more Conservative than their voters and Democrats in office are more liberal than their voters. Only once though in the main text is it noted that the Democratic Party was moving leftward at the same time the Republicans were moving rightward. More discussion of the Democratic Party trends would have been enlightening and helped create a better understanding of the significance of the GOP's rightward shift. I realize this approach would have lengthened the book and complicated the research, but with so much space committed to lesser known individuals and groups such as Bruce Chapman, George Gilder and the Ripon Society, the opportunity to report on trends in the Democratic party seems needlessly missed.

Finally, the book written does not really support the subtitle's announcement of the "Destruction of the Republican Party." Kabaservice rightfully notes the main consequence of the death of moderate Republicanism is a decline in competing ideas and willingness to compromise but that does not necessarily signify destruction. A fuller explanation of why the party is worse off without moderates would have helped tie this very good book together more neatly.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Party to Religious Cult, October 29, 2012
By 
Roy V. Tindula (Tyler, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 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)
I come from a family of long time "business" republicans that would turn over in their graves if they saw what the "conservatives" did to turn a diverse party into a religious cult. I'm too old to move to a more tolerant country and have no interest in joining the democrats, so where do we go to try to help save our party from destruction?

This book is well researched and well worth reading.
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