Donald Trump’s amazing surge in the 2016 GOP primaries had many people scratching their heads, and then, wonder of wonders, he went on to win the election. While there’s a tendency to see Trump’s win as a tectonic shift in American politics, in Why the Right Went Wrong, columnist and author, E.J. Dionne, Jr., posits that the changes in conservatism and GOP politics really dates as far back as the Republican Party and southern whites’ reaction to FDR’s New Deal. But it was Barry Goldwater’s sharp tilt toward this demographic (as well as certain of the wealthy who resented government controls that threatened their profits), and a shift away from urban populations, including immigrants and African-Americans, that has so changed the way the GOP approaches campaigning.
Dionne traces the actions of GOP luminaries such as Goldwater, who in the 1964 election campaign (which, by the way, was coincidentally the 45th presidential election in the country’s history) espoused extremism, which he described as ‘no vice,’ and eschewed moderation, which for his was ‘no virtue.’ He looks at the birth of the Tea Party Movement, which was hijacked by right-wing politicians, conservative media, and a segment of the 1%.
This extreme rightward shift has changed the tenor of politics in this country. No longer is it acceptable to the GOP base or GOP extremists to make peace with the ‘other side.’ Republicans who do often find themselves targeted by their own party for retribution.
While having opposing viewpoints in politics ordinarily helps keep the country on an even keel, preventing rash change that can be destabilizing, while preserving worthwhile traditions, the current situation is an example of the dysfunction that can result when one side decides to adopt a scorched-earth approach to politics. A prime example of this has been the GOP reaction to the Affordable Care Act, which is, in fact, almost identical to the health plan they themselves had previously proposed and supported. Now, because it is the product of the’ ‘enemy,’ they want nothing more than to completely dismantle it. They would rather see the government shut down, or in default, rather than compromise.
Until this situation changes, American politics will continue to be dysfunctional, and we will see a continuation of chaotic and aimless leadership such as we have in #45.
I received this book as a gift.
I give it five stars.