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How the Right Lost Its Mind

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  502 ratings  ·  112 reviews
"Bracing and immediate." - The Washington Post

Once at the center of the American conservative movement, bestselling author and radio host Charles Sykes is a fierce opponent of Donald Trump and the right-wing media that enabled his rise.

In How the Right Lost Its Mind, Sykes presents an impassioned, regretful, and deeply thoughtful account of how the American conservative m
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by St. Martin's Press
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3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  502 ratings  ·  112 reviews

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Bill  Kerwin
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 21st-c-amer, politics

I am a Democratic Socialist who is worried about the fate of the Republican Party. I don’t think this is as strange as it may seem, for a healthy democracy requires vigor and honesty at both ends of the political spectrum. I admire the French Revolution, sure, but although I may relish Thomas Paine’s vision, I also have learned to heed Edmund Burke’s measured and deliberate rebukes. The United States never moves forward without the idealism of its progressives, but it is conservatism—properly co
Nenia ✨ Queen of Literary Trash, Protector of Out-of-Print Gems, Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Mother of Smut, the Unrepentant, Breaker of Convention ✨ Campbell

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You know a book is ~controversial~ when you begin to lose friends as soon as you start posting status updates for it. I think the last book that happened for was TOO FAT, TOO SLUTTY, TOO LOUD. Well, you know the saying - "at first, they'll only dislike what you say, but the more correct you start sounding the more they'll dislike you." #HatersGonnaHate

I've been fed up with this new administration since, well, day one. When I found out you-k
Jan 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Trish by: Jonathan Jackson
A conservative journalist and former radio host from Wisconsin, Charles Sykes now contributes opinions to national media outlets and still champions a few voices he calls conservative, e.g., Jennifer Rubin, George Will, Bret Stephens, Bill Kristol, among others. His conservative bonafides are proven by his longtime support for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Wisconsin politico, now Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Sykes broke with the lunatic fringe that has taken over right wing politics dur ...more
Kressel Housman
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Charlie Sykes is a Never Trump conservative talk show host from Wisconsin, but I first learned about him when he teamed up with NPR for a call-in show called “Indivisible” in which Americans across the political divide attempted to find common ground with one another. He promoted the book on the air, and with a title like that, who could possibly resist? (Tee hee.)

The book is an analysis of the crackpot theories that have invaded traditional conservatism, and Sykes hits all the spots you’d expe
Sep 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book answered a few questions I've had since Trump came into office. Yet, I'm still befuddled by his supporters. Not just his solid core. Because unfortunately I understand them. My family on my dad's side live in New Mexico and Texas. I was raised in New Mexico. My friends were varied.
Black, Mexican and Korean. So, I don't understand that side. "The Trump side." Weren't they paying attention? Dont tell me you grew up in Carlsbad, New Mexico surrounded by only friends of a white color. I w
Oct 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: own
I'm only a third of the way through but so far I've had to allow my eyes to glaze over on more than one occasion. Sykes makes many salient points about how the GOP has abandoned its principles, engaged in tribal jingoisim, and embraced alternate realities but he also succumbs to the conservative tendency to blame conservative behavior on perceived slights from the left: basically, "we wouldn't have done this if you hadn't done that". To my mind, this is what is essentially wrong with conservativ ...more
Jessica ☕
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, adult-nonfiction
The title may be a bit misleading, to some. Charles Sykes is unabashedly conservative, and an ardent supporter of right-wing causes. Where he splits with Trumpers is in his disdain for post-literate outrage media and the proliferation of fake news and "alternative facts."

Those who may be flabbergasted by the direction of the Republican party since 2016 will find an ally in Sykes, who makes critiques of liberals' and conservatives' conduct and political etiquette alike without stooping to name-ca
Apr 01, 2018 rated it liked it
During the 2016 election, I heard someone (maybe even Charlie Sykes!) argue principled conservatives shouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. I was with my mentor at the time and her response stuck with me. She snapped back without malice or defeatism but pure frustration in her voice, "Then what CAN we do?"
The same question echoes in my head after reading this book. I agree with Charlie Sykes about the problem. I'll even accept his version of how the problem came to be. But I don't
Maru Kun
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
The 45th Presidency of the United States has given birth to a new literary genre - the “Book of Conservative Regret”.

A sub-genre of Romance, the hero of a work of ‘Conservative Regret’ is always a thoughtful, honest, intelligent, clean-living and handsome young man whose love affair with an attractive but fickle and not-too-bright voter is brought to a sudden end when she falls insanely in love with a charismatic but dishonest celebrity billionaire. The hero wonders how his former lover could be
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
A cursory history of conservatism up to and including the current day coming off the rails/driving over the cliff, i.e. Trump’s election. The chronological political dots connected are logical and valid. But this reader found the writing dry - very dry - Sahara Desert/Hawkeye Pierce martini dry - which unfortunately made this short-ish book a long, slow read.
Ava Sylvester
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pleasant Surprise

This book was not what I expected. I was unfamiliar with Sykes when I preordered this book based on title and cover alone; I expected it to be a polemic from a fellow liberal. After overcoming my initial surprise, I grew to appreciate the opportunity to view recent history from another perspective. While I may not agree with all of Skyes' ideas, and I don't, this book has provided me with an invaluable opportunity to hear someone else's views and come to appreciate the common gr
Nov 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I agree with his views on Donald Trump as a person. I agree that the Sean Hannitys of the world should have their heads examined. Thus I agree with most of this book. So let me focus on a few of the things that bugged me.

-he constantly conflates "the right" (i.e., conservatism) and the GOP. These are not the same thing. One is a philosophy. The other is a party that seeks to win elections. There is not total overlap in the makeup of these two groups, obviously. But he never delves into why the R
I picked this book because I wanted to read a conservative's perspective on Trump and his followers and enablers. I rolled my eyes and flipped through the pages of slobbering, cartoon-heart-eyed adoration for Buckley and Reagan and others, which was about the first 1/3 of the book, before we finally got to the point. For the most part, Sykes' dissection was right on the money - he examines, in turn, the Alt Right, the conservative media echo-chamber, the rejection of truth and intellectualism, t ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2018, non-fiction
In How the Right Lost Its Mind, Sykes presents an impassioned, regretful, and deeply thoughtful account of how the American conservative movement came to lose its values. I believe that people have the right to be a conservative, believe in that political ideology but currently the American conservative movement seems to represent racist, non-accepting, pro-big corporation, screw the little guys party. The purpose of this book isn't to hate on anyone but to ask how did a movement that was define ...more
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, politics
I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

It is difficult to argue with the metamorphosis of the current conservative ideology in the United States. Sykes does an excellent job exploring the influence of the alt right media and how winning became more important than upholding one's belief system. This book was difficult to read because it illustrates how social media and our current climate is cultivating an exponential growth in extremism. Can conservatives r
Donna Hines
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
When the smoke, fog, mirrors clear what will you have left? What will your legacy be? How will our country be viewed by others? Will we survive? How do you explain the falsehoods, the façade, the unimaginable degradation and drama being witnessed daily in our political climate?
Will you continue to blame, shame, and guilt others into silence? Will you be held accountable and accept responsibility for your actions?
Just some of the problems associated with personality trait disordered individuals
Sarah Holland
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Note: I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I found this to be a fascinating book. I wasn't previously familiar with the author, and have never called myself a conservative. I've also been horrified by the vitriol evidenced in the current political climate, and flummoxed by support for Trump by those who you think would know better.

What this book has done is provided more information and context for the changes in the American political climate over the ye
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
I *really* wanted to like this book. I looked forward to it for weeks. Sykes does say a lot of things that needed and need to be said by prominent conservatives, and I give him credit for doing so. But as much as Sykes says things that need saying, he still spends way too much of the book trying to deflect blame. He definitely takes his party to task for Trump - and then spends pages whining that Democrats said mean things and hurt conservatives feelings and thus have much blame for the rise of ...more
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For most of my life it was my party. I cried when I read it. #sad
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
I wondered while reading this book who it was for. The provocative title entices the sort of casual observer who loves the thought of the Right getting a stern talking to, while repelling a different person who might be more directly edified by a mature investigation of the Right. Thus the title seems oddly engineered to reduce the book's potential impact.

Someone from Wisconsin, or at least the southeast corner of the state, might have greater than average inclination to read based on name recog
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Charles Sykes, a former radio host, is a conservative in the fast-disappearing sense of someone who thinks like William F. Buckley Jr, the late editor of National Review. That is, someone who favors smaller government, a free market, civil liberties, respect for authority, and a more "traditional" lifestyle, whatever that term may mean in any particular era. Along with it, in the Buckley approach, went a respect for reason, knowledge, and intelligent discourse.

Sykes bemoans the fact that, in th
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As someone from the left, this book was eye-opening for several reasons: getting a sense of the conservative feeling of being under siege, hearing that the election rhetoric on the right is actually quite similar to that on the left, and watching Sykes’ disappointment grow as the movement he had dedicated his adult life too went in a direction he couldn’t support.

I also thought his “Advice to Fellow Conservatives” section (at the conclusion of the text) was actually pretty good advice for every
Oct 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Especially because the author is a former conservative radio host, his critique of what has become of the Right -- and of the Republican Party -- is worth noting.

Mr. Sykes laments the loss of "fighting for principles" and, in turn, the substitution of "fighting for political ends." The latter has increasingly meant employing the slashing, brutal style of politics with which we have, unfortunately, become all too familiar.

He says that the "post-truth politics of the Right" have increasingly turne
Sonya Heaney
Review copy.
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-reviews

How the Right Lost Its Mind by Charles J. Sykes is a must-read for political junkies looking for the conservative never-Trumpers assessment of the current Republican party. Highly recommended.


I was provided an advanced copy of the paperback edition in exchange for an honest review. Review cross-posted at my website: PrimmLife


It’s a truism that converts to an ideology are often the most zealous, and for a while, that described me. As I moved from Republican to conservat
Jonathan Jackson
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was very detailed and well researched by a Wisconsin conservative. I must say it is a very eye-opening look that tells you that people put party before country. This also gave me insight to the fact that old rich straight white man did not want to listen to Hillary Clinton talk for four years.
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and brilliantly argued, Sykes' deeply disturbing book is an invaluable look at the aberrant forces on the right which contributed to our current political climate. Regardless of your political persuasion, I highly recommend it.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I most probably would disagree with the author about his political views, I do agree with the call for civil discourse, fact-based policy and a need for diversity of opinions. Politics should be about principles and values, and not about cults of personality.

This book is a nice autopsy of the way GOP has turned from a party of conservative ideas into a bunch of crackpots, following their leader and rationalizing his incoherent ramblings regardless of how well his actions match the conserva
Michael Shockley
Oct 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, cranks
He brings up many valid points, and he doesn't gloss over the GOP's relations with racism or demagoguery too much, but he isn't saying anything new. While I do agree with some of his statements regarding the left's almost hyperbolic and occasionally performative accusations of racism being something which makes white Americans take accusations for more overt manifestations of the same less seriously, he seems to take for granted the notion that it's the left's job to tell him that there are Nazi ...more
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Charles Sykes may be one of the last holdouts for common sense and rationality in republican media. In the age of Tucker Carlson, Milo Younapolous, and "I'd rather be a Russian than a Democrat" T-shirts, it is extremely refreshing to hear a voice on the right ask "what the hell is going on here?". Throughout the book the author lays out an outline of how the recent political upheaval of republican values has taken place: he discusses the deep fissures and fractures longstanding ion the republica ...more
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“We simply should not care about politics as much as we do, because it should not be as important as it has become. The question of who serves in political office should not be as consuming as it has become, but is a consequence of the concentration of power and expectations. There is a lesson here for both sides of the political spectrum. Our politics have become too toxic and scary, in large part because our government is too large and consequential.” 1 likes
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