Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism--From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond by E.J. Dionne Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book, it seems to me, is a must-read to explain the 2016 elections and the sorry state of today's Republican Party. As E.J. Dionne states in the introduction, "This book offers a historical view of the American right since the 1960s. Its core contention is that American conservatism and the Republican Party did not suddenly become fiercer and more unyielding simply because of the election of [President] Obama. The condition of today's conservatism is the product of a long march that began with a wrong turn, when first American conservatism and then the Republican Party itself adopted Barry Goldwater's worldview during and after the 1964 campaign."
(Does anybody besides me think that Barry Goldwater would be spinning in his grave over Donald Trump?)
Dionne documents this central thesis in exhaustive, well-researched detail. It takes nearly 500 pages to wend his way through more than 50 years of Republican history, showing exactly where they went off the rails and why. He makes the point that, unfortunately, Donald Trump is the logical endpoint of the ever-increasing conservative extremism and insistence on purity, and ends the book with this.
"A turn toward moderation and an embrace of those who have been left out--these are the tasks essential to the conservative future.
Conservatives rightly revere those who came before us, but they will not prosper if they continue to yearn for a past they will never be able to call back to life. They may win some elections, but they will not govern effectively on the basis of an ideology rooted in the struggles of a half-century ago."
I despair of this ever happening, and thus the book was, for me, a pretty pessimistic read. But it was an enlightening look into why one of America's two major political parties is currently thrashing itself to bits.
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