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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)

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  298 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 482 pages
Published January 1st 2012 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published December 5th 2011)
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This book, which focuses largely on political events in the Sixties, chronicles the 40-year effort of far-right conservatives to marginalize and expel moderates from the Republican party. Beginning with the Rockefeller-Goldwater contest in 1964 and culminating in the Gingrich congress's final destruction of moderates, the author also examines key episodes in the Nixon and Reagan presidencies. The balance, reasonableness, prudence, and common sense that typified the Republican party of the Eisenh ...more
May 30, 2012 Cynthia rated it really liked it
A really fascinating book, I've learned so much about the history of the Republican party and the development of the party as it exists today. Kabaservice clearly has a bias - he believes the loss of the moderate/liberal elements of the Republican party is a bad thing and does not attempt to hide this - but that doesn't stop the book from being fairly fact-based and educational. And try as I might, I cannot find any Republican reviewers of the book who disagree with the majority of his facts (mo ...more
Jan 30, 2012 Zak rated it really liked it
Ever asked yourself how did the GOP become so insane? This book is the answer. It's really a shame what happened to the Party of Lincoln, civil rights, LaFollette, and Eisenhower. Know your history.
Feb 01, 2012 Steve rated it it was amazing
This book is a brilliant, deeply researched and well-written recapitulation of the mostly forgotten history of moderation in the Republican Party. Emerging from the Eisenhower era, moderation flourished only briefly in the mid- to late-1960s in the wake of Goldwater's massive defeat in 1964 and through the early part of the Nixon administration until Nixon turned more conservative to preserve his Southern electoral strategy. At that point, it began a long decline until its virtual disappearance ...more
Mar 09, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it
well written and without pretentiousness Kabaservice documents the foibles of the GOP since the era of Eisenhower administration. A "devils' pact" with former Dixiecrats (politely called "Southern Democrats" in this book) and a take no prisoners approach to politics (ideological foundations, as opposed to issues) has reinvented the party as the "party of the common man" (ironic as it may seem). Kabaservice doesn't promote the Dems or Independents, he just parses out the direction a parties about ...more
Bryan Craig
Mar 06, 2012 Bryan Craig rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
If you are interested in how the GOP became the GOP of today, then this is a book for you. The last chapter which covers the last ten years feels a little rushed, but overall, this is good political history. His conclusions mirror exactly what the GOP is facing since the 2012 election loss.
Brad Hodges
Dec 31, 2012 Brad Hodges rated it liked it
Gather 'round children, and hear of a time when the Republican party ran the spectrum from conservative to progressive, and they did not think as a reactionary monolith, arguing over who is more conservative. From the days of Eisenhower, and going all the way back to its origins in the 1850s, Republicans were all types, from the very progressive Theodore Roosevelt to the conservative Robert Taft. But today, the moderate Republican is about as plentiful as the ivory-billed woodpecker. Gregory Kab ...more
Apr 05, 2017 Andrew rated it it was amazing
This would have been a very difficult book for me to get through before the 2016 election, but after having watched the GOP upheaval it became a thriller to me. Completed in 2012, this book is riddled with lessons from the past that apply to today, and is thought provoking for what happens next for both major parties.
Paul Wilson
Jul 02, 2015 Paul Wilson rated it really liked it
Fairly in-depth (though somewhat misleading title) book outlining the right's complete takeover of the Republican party. As hard as it is to believe, the GOP used to have moderate and liberal wings, as represented by the Nelson Rockefellers and similar ilk. However, these wings have essentially been decimated in the past several decades, which ultimately began with the far-right's hijacking of the party in 1964 with the nomination of Goldwater and the party's plank that year.

The book adopts a p
Thomas Lady
Jan 02, 2016 Thomas Lady rated it it was amazing
Nine of the twelve chapters in this book take place in the sixties, before I was born. I had no idea how dynamic and diverse the Republican party used to be, what with four principle factions: progressives, moderates, stalwarts, and, alas, the conservatives. How sad, then, that the one faction that has never, not one time ever, contributed any policy or a single piece of legislation that has moved this country forward, has now completely usurped the GOP. This book is a meticulous dissection of h ...more
The American Conservative
'The writing is lively, the story compelling, and the attention to detail impressive. But the political activist in me is irritated by the author’s bias—his book both explains and exemplifies the progressive Republican perspective—and concerned that the resulting lopsidedness may mislead those less informed. From a scholarly point of view, I’m both excited and disappointed by Rule and Ruin.'

Read the full review, "Where did the Moderates Go?" on our website:
Neil McGarry
Mar 26, 2012 Neil McGarry rated it really liked it
An interesting review of the path the Republican Party took from "big tent" to "big mess", this book is a must-read for anyone who's curious about conservatism. One can learn much about John Boehner's current struggles with Barack Obama by reading Kabaservice's account of the Rockefeller-Goldwater conflict in 1964. Although heavy on the details, Rule and Ruin has a strong point of view and a dry wit that at times made me smile or even laugh out loud.
Mar 06, 2013 E rated it liked it

It's well written and researched better than the average non-fiction. However, the presentation dragged on in parts, making reading the book a chore. I felt like I didn't need to know people's backgrounds in such depth when they were just bit players to the overarching narrative. Furthermore, the author's coverage is odd. He's fairy neutral, but tends to languish over some parts of Republican Party history while rushing through other moments (ie the last two chapters).
Stephanie LGW
Apr 23, 2012 Stephanie LGW rated it really liked it
This books is a must read for our current political times. I always wondered why each party seemed to ignore the middle, and this gave me some solid ideas, at least on behalf of the Republican party. Fascinating!
Joseph Stieb
Oct 12, 2016 Joseph Stieb rated it it was amazing
Many thanks to Josh Tait for this recommendation. This is an eye-opening and extremely timely book (or audiobook) about the transformation of the GOP from the 60's to the 80's. It really makes me think about modern American politics in a different way, especially the narrative about the party revolution of the 1960's. There's so much to wrestle with in this book that I'll just make a few points in this review:

1. This time period witnessed the birth of parties as primarily ideological vehicles ra
Aug 05, 2016 Paul rated it liked it
Shelves: history, politics
An optional subtitle for this book could be: "Or: How We Got to Donald Trump." Geoffrey Kabaservice has written a thorough, fairly readable account of how the Republican Party went from the party of Eisenhower to the party of Bush, and although written before the 2012 election, by extension the party of Trump. I really enjoyed it, but the weeds get deep in places; if you're not a political junkie, it could be a slog. I also disagreed with some editorial decisions – Kabaservice focuses overly muc ...more
Sagar Jethani
Sep 27, 2012 Sagar Jethani rated it really liked it
Geoffrey Kabaservice's "Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party" is an authoritative account of how far-right conservatives hijacked the Republican party after Nixon's defeat to Kennedy in 1960. This is no partisan screed: Kabaservice's work is the result of considerable scholarship and research, and historians owe him a debt of gratitude for this significant work of political excavation.

The bulk of his story takes place during the 60's. While conser
Richard de Villiers
May 25, 2014 Richard de Villiers rated it really liked it
Normally history is written by the winners, this time it is about the losers. Frankly, Republican "moderates" were losers, very consistent losers and yet here is a book that tells their story and all the woulda, shoulda and couldas that defined them.

This is a pretty good book, if you are a political junkie. I can't imagine the general reader wanting to dive into this. First off, this book isn't really about what is going on right now with the GOP. Sure parallels can be drawn, familiar names sti
Jan 07, 2014 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-store-non
Oh my.

This was a very dense book; like one of those chocolate cakes that sticks your mouth together when you take a bite, and you feel the urge to instagram every second of it.

I have spoken incessantly about this book, ever since I heard about it. I'm in no way associated with the republican party (the closest I get is that my father is a registered republican who spends a good portion of his days complaining about how the party has gone crazy, and that he wants it to go back to the way it was
Demi Abromaits
Nov 07, 2014 Demi Abromaits rated it really liked it
Rule and Ruin is an extremely comprehensive history of the GOP that is written unpretentiously, cited extensively, and well organized for future reference. I chose this book seeking to place the exact role of the party in historical policy decisions, and found this book informative on the many platforms taken by Republicans on issues from civil rights to challenging the procedure of congressional appointments. Rule and Ruin was also elaborated in great detail the role of youth political and acti ...more
Oct 29, 2016 Susan rated it really liked it
This is an exhaustive history of the change in the Republican party from the 1960s through through 2010. I got bogged down in the early history, and since I just read Rick Perlstein's 3 book series Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, Nixonland and Invisible Bridge, The: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan covering this same ground, the early part didn't hold my interest. But looking through it while writing this, I may skip up to 1988 and read the r ...more
Christopher Saunders
Nov 23, 2012 Christopher Saunders rated it really liked it
Fascinating analysis of the GOP's rightward slide, through the perspective of centrist/liberal Republicans. Kabaservice disputes recent historians (Rick Perlstein, Fred Schneider) who see a clear line from Barry Goldwater's disastrous Presidential run to Tea Party intransigence. Instead, he shows the '60s and '70s driven by heated interparty rivalry between the liberal "Establishment" wing of Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller and Goldwater/Reagan conservatives. Most pointedly he deflates the eff ...more
Jan 24, 2015 Justin rated it really liked it
Very clearly written, extensively researched, and necessary. I learned a great deal. My one gripe is that Kabaservice is a little too overbearing in hitting home the thesis that moderates failed in part because they were moderate in their strategy and temper—too polite and conflict-averse, in other words—and not just their politics. I wouldn't argue against that, but I think it distracts a bit from an even more interesting point that he also makes: Being a moderate Republican did not simply mean ...more
Philip Shade
Apr 11, 2016 Philip Shade rated it it was amazing
"In the long view of history it is really today’s conservatives who are ‘Republicans in name only.’"
- Geoff Kabaservice.

"Rule and Ruin" is a fascinating and thoroughly researched look into the rightward trend of the Republican party. I had been under the impression that much of the switching of political affiliations over Civil Rights legislation (Southern Democrats becoming Republicans and liberal Republicans becoming Democrats) had come quickly, but Kabaservice's history shows the long and man
Apr 26, 2012 haetmonger rated it really liked it
'It was a tribute to the danger Lindsay presented that the CPNY's candidate to oppose him was William F. Buckley Jr., the nation's best known conservative aside from Barry Goldwater. An impudent wit who admitted that he was running "half in fun," Buckley and his unique blend of hauteur and camp made great copy for the New York media. Journalist Murray Kempton likened Buckley's supercilious manner at his first press conference in late June 1965 to that of "an Edwardian resident commissioner readi ...more
Dec 30, 2013 David rated it liked it
It is by now trite to observe that the Republican Party has become a dishonorable cabal of backward ideologues and extremists with no discernible connection to reality. The interesting question is how it got to this point. How did the lunatics take over? Kabaservice explains in painful detail how the party went from a relatively moderate force several decades ago to the extremist rabble that it is today. His attention to detail will appeal to pedantic history buffs, but those looking for a broad ...more
Dion Baillargeon Binimelis
Mar 06, 2015 Dion Baillargeon Binimelis rated it really liked it
A detailed account of the takeover of the GOP by the extreme Right. It is a chronological in structure and balanced in its approach, combining biography, institutional and political analysis. But it goes specially into the ideological fray, though. If you want to explore the ideological writing of William Buckley, Kevin Phillips or Pat Buchanan, this is your book. It mostly ignores the more profound contributions of political theorists and philosophers: Lipset, Hartz, Leo Strauss and the like. I ...more
Jan 09, 2013 Nathan rated it really liked it
Kabaservice provides a very in-depth history and analysis of the GOP's gradual move to the right as seen from a centrist and the moderates demise which lead to our current state of diametrically opposed, ideological parties. I never imagined when starting it that I would have learned so much, but the author rarely leaves a stone unturned. This in turn, slows the pace in places and may turn off many readers uninterested in the minute details of party politics. While it is mainly focused on modera ...more
Apr 07, 2013 Sam rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I really liked this book, or rather the first half of it. Very detailed, almost wonky history of the conservative wing of the republican party from the 50's through the 60's. Then as soon as Nixon shows up, things move very quickly and the minutiae and the detail fade away some. If you are interested a political history of the 50s and 60s other than what we know about the beatniks, the hippies, Eisenhower, McCarthy and Kennedy, then definitely read it.
Jay Atwood
Oct 09, 2012 Jay Atwood rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A sobering look at how the GOP has evolved over the past fifty years into an organization that would hound Lincoln, Ike, & Teddy Roosevelt out of their midst. It's the how & why of the GOP becoming a cult of conservatism with no moderate voices remaining to restrain demagoguery.
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Geoffrey Kabaservice has written for numerous national publications and has been an assistant professor of history at Yale University. He lives outside Washington, DC.
More about Geoffrey Kabaservice...

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