How the Right Seized the Republican Party---And Then Failed

Randy Shawbyline‚ Feb. 07‚ 2013

The widely-accepted narrative of United States politics since 1964 highlights the role of race, religion and social issues in transforming the Republican Party into the voice of the nation’s extreme right wing. Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” Ronald Reagan’s mantra that “the government is the problem,” and the Party’s over two decades of unrelenting opposition to new taxes all played critical roles. But as Geoffrey Kabaservice shows in his thought-provoking book, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party, Republican moderates had greater and longer influence on the Party’s direction than is commonly thought. Jacob Javits, Mark Hatfield, Charles “Mac” Mathias and other Republican Senators played key roles in implementing what today would be viewed as a very progressive agenda; yet their impact is forgotten amidst the story of the right’s rise. Also often overlooked is that a movement driven by a hatred of Eastern elites and Wall Street bankers has achieved its greatest political success in enriching both---while failing to deliver on its core social agenda.