Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party

Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party

3.4 5
by Geoffrey Kabaservice

View All Available Formats & Editions

The 2010 elections were notable for heavy losses—not just by Democrats, but by centrist Republicans to more conservative Republicans. Mike Castle of Delaware, a popular moderate, lost a Senate primary to Christine O'Donnell. Two-term Senator Bob Bennett of Utah, generally regarded as strongly right-wing, failed to win re-nomination, thanks to Tea Party

…  See more details below


The 2010 elections were notable for heavy losses—not just by Democrats, but by centrist Republicans to more conservative Republicans. Mike Castle of Delaware, a popular moderate, lost a Senate primary to Christine O'Donnell. Two-term Senator Bob Bennett of Utah, generally regarded as strongly right-wing, failed to win re-nomination, thanks to Tea Party activists. The GOP, it seems, has suddenly become a party of ideological purity.

Except this development is not new at all. In Rule and Ruin, Geoffrey Kabaservice reveals that the downfall of the moderate Republican began not in 2009, with the rise of the Tea Party, but about the time of President Eisenhower's Farewell Address. Ever since the party's formation in the 1850s, he notes, moderate ideas, causes, and activists have comprised the core of the GOP. Even in the 1960s, when the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society and right-wing Young Americans for Freedom commanded headlines, moderate and progressive Republicans dominated the party, supporting Nelson Rockefeller and Howard Baker, coalescing in the Ripon Society and the pro-civil rights magazine Advance. Writing with passionate sympathy for a bygone tradition of moderation, Kabaservice recaptures a time when fiscal restraint was matched with social liberality; when a cohort of leading Republicans opposed the Vietnam War; when George Romney—father of Mitt Romney—conducted a 10,000-mile coast-to-coast tour of American poverty, from Appalachia to Watts, calling on society to "listen to the voices from the ghetto." Overshadowed by the presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater in 1964, the moderates quickly rebounded, only to collapse as Richard Nixon shifted the party sharply to the right.

Today, moderates are marginalized in the GOP, and progressives are all but nonexistent. In this insightful and elegantly argued book, Kabaservice contends that their decline has left Republicans less capable of governing responsibly, and may well doom the party in the years ahead.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this wistful study of the postwar Republican Party, historian Kabaservice (The Guardians) eulogizes the doomed struggle by moderate Republicans to prevent a conservative takeover of the GOP from the Eisenhower era through the Nixon administration. (The decades from Ronald Reagan’s inauguration to the Tea Party jihad flit by in a 25-page montage.) Kabaservice spotlights seldom remembered Republican moderates, including the intellectuals of the Ripon Society and politicians like George Romney, John Lindsay, and Ohio congressman Charles Whalen—Republicans who, he contends, reached out to minorities and youth, questioned the Vietnam War, and accepted the New Deal while trying to tame its excesses. (As he celebrates this lineage, it’s their enemies, the fire breathing Goldwater-Reagan-Gingrich conservatives, who supply the narrative’s energy and élan.) This is hard-core political history, full of bitter campaigns, factional infighting, and backroom deals, and Kabaservice tells it with fluency, insight, and colorful detail. Unfortunately, his focus on clashing ideologies and temperaments slights underlying interest-group politics; he says little, for example, about Republican business constituencies that benefit from conservatives’ devotion to the needs of wealthy “job-creators.” Kabaservice’s well-told but blinkered history neglects crucial reasons for the Republican flight from the middle. (Jan.)
Library Journal
The best explanation for today's American "political dysfunction," writes Kabaservice, "is the transformation of the Republican Party over the past half-century into a monolithically conservative organization." He focuses on the decade after 1960, contrasting the organization building, leadership, and passion of the party's conservative wing with that of moderate Republicans, whose movement was essentially "finished" by 1970. He also looks at institutions seldom heard from today, such as the Ripon Society, or defunct, such as Advance magazine. Moderates such as Charles Percy, John Lindsay, George Romney, and especially Nelson Rockefeller are called forward here for missteps that squandered a pragmatic and enlightened legacy on issues from civil rights to health care. Richard Nixon, while enacting much of the moderate agenda, essentially killed off the moderates with polarizing rhetoric, followed by the Watergate scandal. Kabaservice goes on to assess today's all but "uniformly ideological" party. VERDICT Less analytical after the section on Nixon, Kabaservice's narrative will sustain interested general readers throughout. His research on the 1960s especially will be prized by scholars. Recommended as a complement to Nicol Rae's The Decline and Fall of the Liberal Republicans and Kabaservice's own The Guardians: Kingman Brewster, His Circle, and the Rise of the Liberal Establishment.—Bob Nardini, Nashville
Kirkus Reviews
A myth-dissolving account of the past state of politics in the United States and what was lost when the Republican Party was destroyed. Drawing on the rediscovered files of the Ripon Society, a centrist Republican organization, Kabaservice (The Guardians: Kingman Brewster, His Circle and the Rise of the Liberal Establishment, 2004) documents the differences between politics and ideology, and politicians and ideologues in the decline of the moderate aspects of the Republican Party. With Mitt Romney running for president and the successors of 1960s Goldwater-ism stirring in the Tea Party, the author examines what seems to be coming to pass in the current presidential cycle. He shows a tension between those in either party who wanted the country to be organized around ideological purity and a broader, inclusive openness. Kabaservice writes that New Yorker governor Thomas Dewey used to lambast the "impractical theorists" who promoted such approaches in his day, and he investigates Clif White's "Syndicate" and William Rusher of the National Review in taking on the mechanics of the organizational dirty work to clear the way for Goldwater. "White saw in movement conservatism," writes the author, "the vehicle through which to takeover the Republican Party, using tactics he had learned from the Communists." The targeted opponents were not only Republicans but also supporters of voting rights, civil rights, health care, public investment in infrastructure and education. White and Rusher provided a frame for Nixon's polarizing actions against his opponents of either party, and for the new generation of Republican youth then coming up. An engaging contribution to American political history.
Timothy Noah
In…his wonderfully detailed new history of moderate Republicanism, Geoffrey Kabaservice makes a strong case that modern Republicanism was hardier than we remember. Kabaservice acknowledges its eventual defeat but argues persuasively that Republican moderates remained a powerful, even dominant, political force well into the 1970s.
—The New York Times Book Review
Jonathan Yardley
…a thorough history of the evolution of the GOP from the Eisenhower years to the early 21st century…
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"In Rule and Ruin, his wonderfully detailed new history of moderate Republicanism, Geoffrey Kabaservice makes a strong case that moderate Republicanism was hardier than we remember." —Timothy Noah, The New York Times Book Review

"The good guys lost; the bad guys won. That's the story Kabaservice sets out to tell in Rule and Ruin. He tells it in strong and engaging prose, often with a literary flair." —The National Interest

"Kabaservice is a wonderfully straightforward historian who does not layer on a lot of interpretive gloss...Rule and Ruin is a wonderful reminder of what was once — not very long ago — a vital tradition in American politics." —The New Republic

"An audacious and important history that rediscovers a great political tradition at exactly the moment when it is again needed most." —David Frum, author of Comeback: Conservatism that Can Win Again

"The radical turn of the Republican Party into a voice of right-wing extremism is one of the major themes of modern American political history. Rule and Ruin tells the whole story in stunning detail, and in prose that is as balanced as it is lucid. No study of our recent politics could possibly be more timely on the eve of the 2012 elections." —Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, author of The Age of Reagan

"Meticulously researched and compellingly written, Rule and Ruin is more than an account of the demise of moderate Republicans; it is a penetrating history of the modern Republican Party over the past half century. This is an exceptional book, and must reading for anyone who will follow with interest (or dread) the Republican race to a presidential nomination in 2012." —Norman J. Ornstein, Resident Scholar, The American Enterprise Institute

"In this timely work, Geoffrey Kabaservice successfully combines thorough historical research and a gripping narrative. The result is a comprehensive account of an ideological and political contest which, played out over half a century, has had a profound influence on the Republican Party and modern American politics." —Strobe Talbott, President, Brookings Institution

"Kabaservice's book is a painstaking and well-argued attempt to resurrect the losers in the GOP's fratricidal war, the liberal and moderate Republicans, including many from the northeastern states where today their influence still lingers." —Sam Tanenhaus, The New York Review of Books

"Kabaservice ably narrates the Republican Party's fifty-year conversion from a diverse political organization into an exclusively conservative 'ideological vehicle.'...Kabaservice is as moderate as his subject matter; he resists proposing an implausibly easy solution. He believes that third-party projects are likely "foredoomed to failure," and redistricting reforms will be "a slow process" at best." —Commonwealth

Read More

Product Details

Oxford University Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.72(h) x 1.50(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Rule and Ruin 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
LucyPevensie More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. I have learned a tremendous amount about the last 60 years of American political history from reading it. It’s fascinating to see what certain politicians were like in their younger years. The young Newt Gingrinch, Ronald Reagan, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush I, and Dick Cheney were much different, and far more moderate, than their later incarnations. Indeed, the Republican party was a much different, and far more moderate, place throughout most of its existence. What I have learned from this book is that it is only in relatively recent years that the GOP has become a bastion of hardcore conservatism. For this reason, today’s Republicans are having a hard time reconciling themselves with their history. It is awkward for them to look backwards because previous generations of Republicans strike them as embarrassingly liberal. They have solved this dilemma by claiming that earlier Republicans – Eisenhower, Gerald Ford and Nixon, for example -- were RINOs (“Republican in Name Only”). As author Geoffrey Kabaservice writes: “Much of the current conservative movement is characterized by this sort of historical amnesia and symbolic parricide, which seeks to undo key aspects of the Republican legacy such as Reagan’s elimination of corporate tax loopholes, Nixon’s environmental and labor safety programs, and a variety of GOP achievements in civil rights, civil liberties, and good government reforms. In the long view of history, it is really today’s conservatives who are ‘Republicans in name only.’” I highly recommend this book. It is well written, well researched and edifying. When you are living through them, you don't always notice the ideological shifts that are occurring within your party. This book is very well organized and lays it out, decade by decade (with a focus on the 1960s and 1970s, when moderate Republicans were most active), so that you can see quite clearly the changes that have taken place. Sobering.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I searched up tea party layouts not polotics. I don't care anout polotics.# boring :( :( : &
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anyone but a liberal - anyone but a democrat. Our country and constitution as we know it, (and people envy us for both), is going to be a thing of the past.