Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive for Permanent Power


It's no secret that the Republicans are aiming for a generation-long realignment that will establish them as the majority party for the rest of our lifetimes. But few people outside the far right understand what that means. Any realignment has huge effects on political culture, and this one is more ambitious than any other in our history, including the Democratic takeover in the 1930s. It is the first deliberate realignment. It involves cultural changes--in the media and in the academy--that were never part of ...

See more details below
This Hardcover is Not Available through
Note: This is a bargain book and quantities are limited. Bargain books are new but may have slight markings from the publisher and/or stickers showing their discounted price. More about bargain books
Sending request ...


It's no secret that the Republicans are aiming for a generation-long realignment that will establish them as the majority party for the rest of our lifetimes. But few people outside the far right understand what that means. Any realignment has huge effects on political culture, and this one is more ambitious than any other in our history, including the Democratic takeover in the 1930s. It is the first deliberate realignment. It involves cultural changes--in the media and in the academy--that were never part of previous realignments. And it encompasses institutional changes in areas like foreign policy and the judiciary, whose independence was always respected in the past. Every aspect of society and every office of government is being turned to the purpose of strengthening Republican institutions--businesses, evangelical Protestant churches--and weakening Democratic ones, such as unions and consumer groups. Building Red America will bring home to readers for the first time the true extent of the Republican takeover of American politics, by revealing the chief architects of political revolution. The result is a masterful--and disturbing--work of political journalism that challenges all of us to wake up and take heed before the world has changed beyond recognition.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

John Dickerson
Some of the ground covered by Edsall, a veteran Washington Post political reporter now writing for the New Republic, will feel familiar (the rise of conservatives in the South, white flight from the Democratic Party and so on), but unless you're the kind of political junkie who is so intense that people move away from you at cocktail parties, you won't get bored. Building Red America nicely weaves together the strands of contemporary politics, moving from descriptions of tactical electoral strategy to broader cultural currents to demographic shifts.
—The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
Many of the observations made in this book have been made before by journalists and political strategists, but Mr. Edsall does a nimble job of pulling them together to form a coherent picture, buttressing his assessments with lots of demographic and polling data and situating them in a historical context.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
In this comprehensive and insightful book, Edsall shows just how much angrier Democrats could be-not least of all at themselves-if only they knew the half of what was going on. A senior political reporter for the Washington Post, he knows the capitol's ins and outs as well as anyone, without the bedfellowism of some other Washington journalists. The book goes a long way to explain why Bush, who ran in 2000 as a "uniter, not a divider," proceeded with an aggressively right-wing strategy once in power. Beginning with the revelation to conservative thinkers in 2000 that the "center of the electorate had collapsed," Edsall assiduously details every aspect of their successful push to galvanize their base and emasculate their opponents. "Without pressure to accommodate the center," he adds, "Republicans in the majority have been, with little cost, relatively unresponsive to criticism." Hence, the administration managed to draw both working-class evangelicals (using classic "wedge issues" like race and outrage over gay rights and abortion) and wealthy K Street lobbyists with little consequence. But he also shows that the Democrats lack salable strategies and have lost "a decisive majority of white voters." With depth and journalistic clarity, Edsall illustrates exactly why, more than ever, Democrats need their own Karl Rove. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
These two books look at the recent consolidation of power by the Republican party. "I am not a member of an organized political party," said Will Rogers. "I am a Democrat." And that disorganization is why Republicans keep winning elections, say Los Angeles Times reporters Hamburger and Wallsten. Democrats formerly excelled in coalition building and retail politics, but over the past 20 years, the Republicans have constructed a well-oiled machine to deliver the vote. The GOP has also worked the issues, winning votes from Democrats whose concerns are ignored by the elites running the party. Even Ronald Reagan was once a convert, explaining "I didn't leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left me." Free of the rants and invective typical of recent political books, One Party Country is solidly reported, lucid, and fascinating in explaining the origins of today's power structure. Highly recommended for all libraries. The similar Building Red America, by Washington Post reporter Edsall, has a bigger canvas: the rise of postwar conservativism and how the Right has won with cultural issues. But the story needs touching up, for in a rush to produce the book before the mid-term elections, editing seems to have been minimal, which results in a cut-and-paste narrative that flows and jerks in fits and starts. The endnotes rely extensively on web pages, and this greatly reduces the scholarly value, as Edsall often cites secondary electronic sources that will not long be accessible when there are printed primary sources available. Even larger collections should consider Building a marginal purchase.-Michael O. Eshleman, Kings Mills, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A penetrating examination of the Republicans' permanent campaign-and the Democrats' still-formidable disadvantages-from Washington Post senior political reporter Edsall. Globalization and the civil-, women's- and sexual-rights movements have polarized the electorate. Residential enclaves reinforce cultural values, consumer choices and religious convictions, leaving only a sliver of undecided voters. (One consequence: Republicans have come to rely more heavily on religious traditionalists, while secularists comprise a larger proportion of Democratic voters.) This means that since 2000, Republican strategy has switched from reaching out toward centrists to mobilizing the base. Judging from the massive evidence presented here, Karl Rove & Co. excel at politics as narrowcasting, with advertising targeted with a sophistication that has rattled Democrats. Unfortunately, the Democrats' well-educated, affluent, tech-savvy elite emphasize culturally libertarian norms at the expense of their "disadvantaged and disproportionately minority" rank-and-file, who, Edsall observes, are badly served by Republican economic policies that stress individual risk-management. The author predicts that victories resulting from disgust with the Jack Abramoff scandal or even the Iraq war will prove ephemeral unless the Democrats improve their organizational infrastructure and neutralize "wedge" issues such as gay marriage that have helped the GOP achieve slim but decisive electoral victories for 40 years. Though not without ideological bias (e.g., are GOP loyalists really more likely to be driven by "anger points" than Democratic diehards?), Edsall presents a compelling analysis detailing the enormous institutionaladvantages enjoyed by the party in power. In contrast, Democratic special-interest groups have forced John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Dennis Kucinich to back off positions on affirmative action and abortion that clash with liberal orthodoxy. An intra-party insurgency, a la Goldwater and Reagan in the GOP, might be the only way to disrupt the Democrats' ossification, Edsall speculates. Impressive political analysis, anchoring electoral trends in the larger demographic, social, business and moral environment.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641845611
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 8/28/2006
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas B. Edsall covered national politics for twenty-five years at the Washington Post. He is now a correspondent for the New Republic and the National Journal. He was a guest columnist in 2006 for the New York Times, and holds the Pulitzer-Moore Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at Columbia University in New York. His previous book, Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 1992. He lives in New York and Washington, D.C.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

1 Democratic Party weaknesses have magnified Republican Party advantages 1
2 Anger points : polarization as a Republican strategy 50
3 Polarization as a Republican strategy : Christians to the right, media to the left 78
4 The Republican Party weds corporate America 106
5 The two revolutions 154
6 The business revolution : an enormous expansion in the role of market forces 194
7 The Democrats : two sets of problems - ideological and structural 211
8 Conclusion : three-quarters or half a party 248
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)