Read Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism--From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond by E.J. Dionne Jr. Online


“Dionne's expertise is evident in this finely crafted and convincing work.” —The Los Angeles TimesFrom one of our most engaging political reporters and the author of Why Americans Hate Politics; the story of conservatism from the Goldwater 1960s to the present day Tea Party that has resulted in broken promises and an ideological purity that drives moderate Republicans away“Dionne's expertise is evident in this finely crafted and convincing work.” —The Los Angeles TimesFrom one of our most engaging political reporters and the author of Why Americans Hate Politics; the story of conservatism from the Goldwater 1960s to the present day Tea Party that has resulted in broken promises and an ideological purity that drives moderate Republicans away.Why the Right Went Wrong offers a historical view of the right since the 1960s. Its core contention is that American conservatism and the Republican Party took a wrong turn when they adopted Barry Goldwater’s worldview during and after the 1964 campaign. The radicalism of today’s conservatism is not the product of the Tea Party, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne writes. The Tea Partiers are the true heirs to Goldwater ideology. The purity movement did more than drive moderates out of the Republican Party—it beat back alternative definitions of conservatism.Since 1968, no conservative administration—not Nixon not Reagan not two Bushes—could live up to the rhetoric rooted in the Goldwater movement that began to reshape American politics fifty years ago. The collapse of the Nixon presidency led to the rise of Ronald Reagan, the defeat of George H.W. Bush, to Newt Gingrich’s revolution. Bush initially undertook a partial modernization, preaching “compassionate conservatism” and a “Fourth Way” to Clinton’s “Third Way.” Conservatives quickly defined him as an advocate of “big government” and not conservative enough on spending, immigration, education, and Medicare. A return to the true faith was the only prescription on order. The result was the Tea Party, which Dionne says, was as much a reaction to Bush as to Obama.The state of the Republican party, controlled by the strictest base, is diminished, Dionne writes. It has become white and older in a country that is no longer that. It needs to come back to life for its own health and that of the country’s, and in Why the Right Went Wrong, he explains how....

Title : Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism--From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond
Author :
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ISBN : 9781476763798
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 534 Pages
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Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism--From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond Reviews

  • Hadrian
    2019-04-21 22:34

    This is a daring investigation into the American politics of resentment. The author is a left-wing Catholic, but he respects and empathizes with some aspects of conservatism - at least in the Burkean sense of a need for preservation and moderation. To an outside, the beliefs of modern American conservatism seem perverse and contradictory. Dionne says, of course, that they mean it - they do want to reduce government to the minimum level possible, and they do blame it for social alienation or economic want. But this is selective - much of this conservative base prefers to keep their Social Security or Medicare. The problem then is the difference between their reactionary idealism and the demands of government as it exists. The history of conservative politics, Dionne argues, is full of appeals to this base, and then perceived betrayals or failures - first Goldwater (who suffered a staggering loss in 1964), Richard Nixon (Vietnam, China, Watergate), H. W. Bush (taxation), or W. (9/11, Iraq, budget deficit, economic collapse, general incompetence). Even Reagan, the standard bearer of conservative resurgence, would now be treated with some betrayal or suspicion - which one of the leading Republican candidates in 2016 would dare to suggest reducing the nuclear arsenal or amnesty for illegal immigrants or the benefits of diplomacy? Another element of conservative fear is that of being left behind by demographic and social changes of the rest of the country. Women, blacks, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians, Muslims - for that matter, anyone who isn't a poorer white male who hasn't gone to college is moving towards the Democratic Party. Likewise, there is also a degree of alienation in a sea of generational change - take the rapid progress of LGBT rights, for another example, which would have been unthinkable ten years ago. This is made manifest in resentment of political elites. This too has a long history, from Phyllis Schafly's conspiratorial pamphlets, or Ted Cruz's derision of 'New York values', or Glenn Beck's 'we surround them', or Goldwater's furtive wish to cut the east coast off of the rest of the country.Much has been made about political polarization and the inability of the political parties to cooperate. But Dionne says this is an uneven polarization. Bernie Sanders stands almost alone with even a return to FDR-style social democracy; but there are many Tea Party candidates, self styled conservative revolutionaries, already in government who steadfastly refuse to compromise. True believers all. This yields an environment where compromise and deliberate government is nearly impossible, where even incomplete market liberalism is considered a betrayal, or a long road down to the continual boogeyman of socialism. For them, this ideology cannot fail, it can only ever be failed. A further invocation of its principles, this time, will therefore lead to its real success. If not now, then they will do it again. Thus follows Trump, and his own deliberate use of Reagan's iconography - Make America Great Again is a quote from Reagan. His provocations are partly attempts to keep himself in the news (free advertising) and direct appeals to the base, which resent the party establishment and Washington 'insiders' after the shellacking of the 2012 election. They, who are not real Americans, have made America weak, we will make it great again. (Think the Dolchstoßlegende).Dionne proposes a different paths. He hopes for a return to a different kind of ideology, with Eisenhower's 'big tent' conservatism, as a way to save the party and help it stay afloat in the demographic tides. But what will make them change their minds, or how will anyone else win? How can anyone negotiate with them? As well defeat them as often as we can, challenge the narrative at every chance, push through campaign finance reform, guarantee the right to vote for all, mobilize them, and let demographics do its work - or what, make a covenant with Leviathan? This book has a staggering amount of political detail. This is a convincing story.

  • Chuck
    2019-05-07 04:24

    5-starsI’m on my third reading of this one. Two words: information overload! And it’s not a polemic, either, but rather just a good history of the last 50-60 years of the GOP and how it came to be where it’s at. It’s books like this one that remind me I have very little business speaking about politics—and I’m freaking Einstein on the topic compared to a lot of the people I know.

  • Joe
    2019-04-22 00:49

    "Our current political turmoil and the ongoing discontent on the right grows out of this essential fact: Reagan changed the terms of the American political debate without changing the underlying structure of American government.""If the core contradiction of the old Roosevelt coalition had been race, the central contradiction of the conservative coalition in the twenty-first century was class."E.J. Dionne gets it right in "Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism: From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond." Specifically, he charts the Republican's party natural evolution from Goldwater to the Tea Party. Don't let anyone ever tell you that it was a reaction to President Obama that made the Tea Party. The Republican party made the Tea Party through years of false promises and by fanning the flames of discontent when it served their purposes. Now that the political brush fire has gotten away from them, they don't know what to do about it.Dionne even gets into the first half of the 2016 presidential race and how the rise of Donald Trump is a natural extension of Republican fear mongering. Trump simply says more clearly (and crassly) what Republican candidates have hinted at before. It's easy to see the hate in "We're gonna build a wall and Mexico's gonna pay for it!" but trust me there's just as much hate in Romney's "Self-Deportation" comment.The current civil war within the Republican party is a long time coming and I think it will ultimately be good for the party. For too long, the fiscal/war hawk conservatives have used the religious/social conservatives for their votes and paid them only lip service on their issues. That can only go on for so long before people start to get mad about it. But I have bad news for those religious/social conservatives: Abortion's not going anywhere, gay marriage isn't going anywhere, Mexican's aren't going anywhere, Muslims aren't going anywhere. The sooner they get on board with that, the happier they'll be.Look, I get it, change is scary and it's fun to imagine there was a perfect time of peace and prosperity in this country but that memory is an illusion. The truth is, it was a great time to be alive when you were a kid not for any social or political reasons, but mostly because you were a kid and being a kid is awesome.Dionne makes a straight forward compelling argument with this book. I hope when the election is done, he does a follow up postmortem on the state of the Republican party. It's ironic that it takes a liberal to highlight changes that need to be made within the Republican party but apparently the Republican's are too busy checking out the Emperor's new clothes to check their own temperature.

  • Peter Mcloughlin
    2019-05-04 03:51

    Fairly balanced assessment of the far right from a center left politico. As with most books on politics it will probably have a shelf life of two weeks. Anyone who is not a movement conservative aka a normal person will agree with most of the assessments of Dionne. The audience of movement conservatives who need to read this never will.

  • Danielle Wells
    2019-05-05 06:46

    The title of this book, while catchy and enticing [to some]) may not represent the spirit in which this book seems to be written. From the title I would assume it's meant as a negative bashing of political conservative voters. But in reality it is a history of the Republican party from 1964 to present day. Written by a Democratic columnist, commentator and author, it seems as unbiased as one could be in his position. (Reading others reviews of this book I found that the author seems to be an unbiased source) The books wasn't filled with gaffes of conservative politicians and denouncements of the Republican party's agenda ( you might assume from the title). It was an explanation of how the Republican party maneuvered through elections, voting on bills and every day life in government. But even that could not be explained without involvement from the "other side", Democrats, and even those Independents inbetween. He outright condemns the Democrats throughout the book for their own mistakes, lies and misconduct as well as Republicans. I feel as if I got a well-rounded view of events in the book.Each chapter is about 30 pages long and the material is quite heavy. I found that I had to be alone and concentrating very hard in order to remember names and dates and keep up the story. The author doesn't assume that you know of the "players" mentioned (unless it's a president or a major player that you would most likely know anyway). It's pretty easy to read and it's straightforward.I've NEVER read a political book in my life. But my wanting to expand my knowledge with the knowledge that I know very little about politics made me pick up this book. I wouldn't say that I side with either Republicans or Democrats outright. This was an interesting read and it definitely spurred me on to wanting to read about events mentioned with in the book. I think that it could be a beneficial book for both political parties to read. Because I don't associate myself with either party (because each party has issues that cannot be overlooked in my mind at least), I sympathize at times with both sides and therefore am invested somewhat to their cause. I found that I could easily let myself be offended by the tone of the author at times when he was offering his opinion about a "mistake" made, or what he thought was stupidity by Republicans. I was also surprised at the information I discovered about Republicans that Fox News (or any Republican sympathizer) so quietly dismisses (to be quite specific). But I powered through because I wanted information. It was easy for me to fact-check and I found that the author wasn't lying when he mentioned things that I found hard to believe. (maybe I'm too naive.) IF anything, this book opened my eyes. And since knowledge is power, I think you should read it too.

  • Book
    2019-05-09 05:34

    Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism--From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond by E.J. Dionne“Why the Right Went Wrong” is an astutely written historical view of the America right since the 1960s. Best-selling author and accomplished Washington Post columnist, E.J. Dionne takes the reader on a fascinating journey that describes what le to the conservative’s wrong turn and what they need to do to reverse its ideology. This insightful 545-page book includes the following sixteen chapters: 1. The Ambiguous Hero, 2. In the Shadow of Goldwater, 3. From Radicalism to Governing, 4. The End of the Reagan Majority, 5. The Gingrich Revolution and Conservatism’s Second Chance, 6. Put on a Compassionate Face, 7. Double-Edged “Strategery”, 8. “I can Hear You”, 9. The New, New, Old Right, 10. Dreams of Celestial Choirs, 11. The Logic of Obstruction, 12. The Tea Party Overreaches and Republicans Wage Class War, 13. Saying Yes and No to Obama, 14. The Fever that Wouldn’t Break, 15. Reforming Conservatism or Trumping It, and 16. Up From Goldwaterism. Positives:1. High-quality professionally written book. Historically accurate, fair, civil and respectful tone throughout.2. Interesting topic in the masterful hands of E.J. Dionne. The historical view of the America right since the 1960s. “One of the central purposes of this book is to argue that there was a road not taken by American conservatism. It was a path laid out by Dwight Eisenhower and the like-minded Republicans of his time. The moderation that characterized their approach is precisely the quality that American conservatism is now missing and badly needs.”3. Plenty of wisdom. “Compromise becomes impossible when it is equated with selling out principle.”4. Describes key differences between Republicans and Democrats. “The Republicans are an unapologetically ideological party. The Democrats are not.”5. Interesting historical facts. “Until Lyndon Johnson championed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Goldwater opposed it, African-Americans were a vital part of the GOP.”6. Cuts to the chase on what conservatives must do in order to achieve a successful government. “For the sake of their own cause but also for the good of the nation they revere, conservatives must recover the idea that extremism in pursuit of their political goals actually is a vice, and remember that moderation in approaching the problems of governing is a virtue.”7. President Reagan in proper perspective. “Reagan, he pointed out, raised taxes on a number of occasions (after first cutting them). He expanded the size of government. He strongly supported the redistributionist Earned Income Tax Credit. He offered amnesty to undocumented immigrants. He sought to eliminate nuclear weapons. And he approved some protectionist measures on trade.”8. Goldwater’s philosophy described with examples. “Here was the heart of Goldwaterism: I have little interest in streamlining government or making it more efficient for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden.”9. An interesting portrayal of President Nixon. “Buchanan’s description nicely captures how Nixon continued to behave as president. The “liberal” Nixon presided over the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He approved the indexing of Social Security benefits to inflation. Urged on by dissident Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan, he pushed for the Family Assistance Plan, an attempt to establish a minimum guaranteed income for poor families. His economic policies infuriated free marketers. They included wage price controls and a scrapping of the twenty-seven-year-old Bretton Woods currency system.”10. George H. W. Bush’s presidency. “Bush’s presidency might have ushered in a more moderate and durable form of conservatism, and for much of his time in office, this seemed an entirely realistic possibility. His two main domestic achievements, a new Clean Air Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, were broadly progressive and they passed with Democratic support.”11. The libertarian’s conundrum. “But libertarians, in the end, face the same overall political problem: defense aside, voters still want far more from government than the libertarians are willing to provide.”12. A look at the Gingrich revolution. “Clinton zeroed in on four areas where majorities welcomed public spending. “Medicare, Medicaid, Education, and the Environment” became a Clinton litany repeated so often that that the administration’s defenders gleefully turned it into a would-be character from the Star Wars movie: M2E2. Clinton reduced Gingrich to the role of Darth Vader. In the name of the Conservative Empire, the Speaker was endangering the good that government did.”13. The limits of compassionate conservatism. “The way Bush talked about his religious faith solved three problems at once. In speaking with compassion about the poor, he made conservatism sound softer and more moderate. His faith talk allowed him to relate easily to Christian conservatives without talking about any of the specific issues that had a downside on the left and in the center. And discussing his conversion allowed Bush to draw a sharp line between his self-described “young and irresponsible” past, and his presidency-seeking present. He cast himself as the prodigal son, the repentant sinner, the transformed man.”14. Describes President George W. Bush’s eight years in office. “In the end, Bush’s strategery created the worst of all worlds: His polarizing strategies infuriated Democrats and liberals while his moves toward moderation alienated the right. Progressives saw a socially conservative president who cut taxes on the rich, pushed the country to war on false pretenses, and bogged it down in Iraq. Conservatives saw a “big-government” Republican who turned surpluses into deficits, was far too “multicultural,” far too open to immigration reform, and far too eager to federalize education policy. When the catastrophic economic collapse came in 2008, both sides took it as a ratification of their respective negative verdicts on Bush’s stewardship.”15. How Republicans lost the Latino vote. “The death of the immigration bill, even more than the failure of Social Security privatization, signaled the implosion of the Bush-Rove drive for a new conservative majority that depended heavily on winning a significant share of Latinos for the GOP, as Bush did in both of his campaigns. The party’s obvious role in killing immigration reform would lead to the collapse of the Republican Latino vote. And Bush’s failure to move his party on the issue was a sign that his talk of a newly compassionate conservatism did little to change the underlying rightward tilt of a party whose base was still almost uniformly white and conservative.”16. The failure of President G.W. Bush captured. “The financial crisis of 2008 represented a wholesale rout of conservative ideas on taxes and deregulation. The tax cuts of the Bush years had produced, at best, a modest recovery in the mid-2000s—and, when combined with war and national security spending, they had turned the large Clinton surpluses into deficits.”17. A look at the rise of the Tea Party. “We believe that people are driven to support the Tea Party from the anxiety they feel as they perceive the America they know, the country they love, slipping away,” they wrote in 2013, “threatened by the rapidly changing face of what they perceive as the “real” America: a heterosexual, Christian (mostly) male, white country.” They added: “They not only wish to halt change; if we are correct, Tea Party supporters wish to turn the clock back.”18. President Obama’s philosophy. “What ails working-class and middle-class blacks and Latinos is not fundamentally different from what ails their white counterparts: downsizing, outsourcing, automation, wage stagnation, the dismantling of employer-based health-care and pension plans, and schools that fail to teach young people the skills they need to compete in a global economy.” Bonus, “Obama was remarkably direct in declaring that the core ideas of the progressivism advanced by Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt were right, and that the commitments of Reagan-era supply-side economics were wrong. He praised TR for knowing “that the free market has never been a free license to take whatever you can from whomever you can” and for understanding that “the free market only works when there are rules of the road that ensure competition is fair and open and honest.”19. The obstruction of President Obama. “Barack Hussein Obama may be the first president in American history who never got a single day of honeymoon time.”20. The progressive philosophy of Teddy Roosevelt. “At every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity, destroy privilege, and give to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the commonwealth.”21. The impact of the NRA. “The radicalization of the NRA is of a piece with the radicalization of the rest of the right, and the gun issue has provided a way for opponents of regulations of all kinds—environmental, financial, workplace safety, consumer protection—to create a mass libertarian base ready to go on the attack at the mere hint of government action.” “No wonder the weapons industry is the least-regulated enterprise in the country.”22. Describes the need to reform conservatism. “How do we judge the Reformicons? Frum offers a demanding standard. He argues that conservatives need “an economic message that is inclusive” and in which “middle-class economic performance is at the core.” Negatives:1. Notes are not linked, sad!2. At over 500 pages, this book will require an investment of your time.3. Lack of visual material to complement the excellent narrative. No charts, graphs to speak of.4. There is a brief bibliographic essay but I would prefer a formal bibliography.In summary, I enjoyed this book. This is as professionally written book in every sense. It’s well researched, well written and it aptly captures the historical account of the American right. E.J. Dionne does the topic justice and deserves my five stars. I highly recommend it!Further recommendations: “One Nation After Trump” by the same author, “Republic of Spin” by David Greenberg, “Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars” by Stephen Prothero, “Why the Religious Right Is Wrong about Separation of Church and State” by Robert Boston, “American Amnesia” by Jacob S. Hacker, “How the Right Lost Its Mind” by Charles Sykes, and the “The Making of Donald Trump” by David Cay Johnston.

  • Ian Vance
    2019-05-09 02:48

    What a time for nervous schadenfreude among left-leaning survivors! Beneath the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the Conservative Entertainment Complex, a certain wary acknowledgement and despair lurks in the outraged tones and timorous typesetting of the talking head horde: Trump's bulldozing blather is, after all, the consequence of many years of sustained populist manipulation and mercantile scandal-riding, timeless demagoguery echoing loud and ceaseless across faux-fair media propagation. As this book assembles for its central thesis, Trump's upset against the Establishment is nothing particularly new for the Republican party or for Conservatives in particular, as there is a long history of suppression, nurtured grievance, and temporary victories-turned-sour to fuel the troglodyte tumor of aggrieved entitlement, currently manifested in the so-called Tea Party.Overall, the text is fairly comprehensive in its summary of modern political history. Starting with the Goldwater campaign of '64, Dionne exposes the repetitious nature of the central conservative quandary: how to convince the broad public to embrace their economic ideology when, when examined, that ideology isn't much good for anyone except the 1%; how to please the social reactionaries while massaging the message for the essential moderates; how to dismantle the safety net of the New Deal when their core voting block actually depends on and supports said net. Capitalizing on the unrest of the 60's, Republicans were able to dominate four out of five presidential elections from '68 to '92, but the realities of governing in a constitutional system of separate and balancing powers requires, of course, compromise. Again and again the hardc0re righties, "betrayed" and increasingly isolated by modern society's gradual progress, formulated and clung tight to the idea that, with every hesitation, every negotiation, every crushing defeat, the fatal flaw was in choosing moderates--RINOs if you will--and if only, if only a Crusading Champion might arise to roll up his blue jean sleeves and fix everything back to the halcyon good ol days of suburban serenity, segregation, apple pie, consistently mown lawns. Again and again the stench and sting of betrayal--Nixon's fall from grace; Ronnie's careful compromises (conveniently forgotten in the need to find some object of hindsight worship); Bush Senior raising taxes; Bush Jr. expanding the government and near destroying the economy; McCain and Romney not true believers at all, but Establishment picks--hence, the simmering rage-for-order of those afflicted by globalization, by expanding multiculturalism, by change and every-increasing confusion. Held hostage to the clumsy puzzle pieces of yesteryear's bigotry, seeking some anchor in a world increasingly perceived as that of quicksand and snares, the Entertainer thus emerges and soothes with tough-guy talk and promises of the quick fix--yeah, when Trump emerged, those cognizant frowned, flinched, but mostly went DUH. Overall, the first half is better than the second. Dionne extensively covers the Obama era but the result is curiously diffuse, diluted by minutia and event-listing rather than sophisticated analysis, perhaps to no surprise, given how recent and rather disorienting the last six-eight years have been in political history.

  • John Kaufmann
    2019-04-23 06:30

    E.J. Dionne is a respected columnist on national politics. His main premise is that conservative movement has become more and more ideologically extreme and “pure” over the years. As a result they have promised more than they have been able to deliver in order to forge their unlikely alliance between economic interests (business, the wealthy, and market fundamentalists) on the one hand, and social issues (the South, conservative Christians, and the white working class) on the other. Failure to deliver on their promises and to consistently win presidential elections has driven them to continually double down and take even more extreme, purist positions.Dionne further argues that the current trajectory of the conservative movement and conservative politics in the Republican party owes more to Barry Goldwater's failed candidacy for president in 1964 than to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Goldwater took a sharp right turn from the moderate Republicanism under Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. Freedom (individual freedom and market freedom) and order were the highest values, and he referred to the rot and decay in the nation's moral fiber under liberalism. He also set the tone for the eventual uncompromising conservative politics with his statement, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."Dionne traces the evolution of conservative thought and Republican politics through each of the presidencies since Goldwater: the Nixon years, Carter, Reagan (he pretty much skipped Gerald Ford), Bush the elder, Clinton, Bush the younger, and Obama. He discusses both the McCain and Romney candidacies and Republican obstructionism against Obama, and concludes with a discussion of the emergence of Donald Trump (through Oct. or Nov., 2015). Dionne keeps an eye toward the central contradictions of the conservative movement, i.e., the inability to cut taxes and reduce the size of government on the one hand, and deliver something meaningful for working class whites and independents.

  • Bonnie McDaniel
    2019-05-19 06:30

    This book, it seems to me, is a must-read to explain the 2016 elections and the sorry state of today's Republican Party. As E.J. Dionne states in the introduction, "This book offers a historical view of the American right since the 1960s. Its core contention is that American conservatism and the Republican Party did not suddenly become fiercer and more unyielding simply because of the election of [President] Obama. The condition of today's conservatism is the product of a long march that began with a wrong turn, when first American conservatism and then the Republican Party itself adopted Barry Goldwater's worldview during and after the 1964 campaign." (Does anybody besides me think that Barry Goldwater would be spinning in his grave over Donald Trump?)Dionne documents this central thesis in exhaustive, well-researched detail. It takes nearly 500 pages to wend his way through more than 50 years of Republican history, showing exactly where they went off the rails and why. He makes the point that, unfortunately, Donald Trump is the logical endpoint of the ever-increasing conservative extremism and insistence on purity, and ends the book with this."A turn toward moderation and an embrace of those who have been left out--these are the tasks essential to the conservative future.Conservatives rightly revere those who came before us, but they will not prosper if they continue to yearn for a past they will never be able to call back to life. They may win some elections, but they will not govern effectively on the basis of an ideology rooted in the struggles of a half-century ago." I despair of this ever happening, and thus the book was, for me, a pretty pessimistic read. But it was an enlightening look into why one of America's two major political parties is currently thrashing itself to bits.

  • James
    2019-05-19 06:50

    I highly recommend this book to friends who are politically engaged and like to discuss issues and political philosophy beyond the sound-bite level. This is a history with analysis of the conservative movement from Goldwater to the Tea Party, with some discussion of the Eisenhower years and a few references back to Roosevelt and Truman.While Dionne acknowledges his own place in the political spectrum (somewhat left, although I'd argue he's far from extreme left), this is an even handed treatment of the political landscape of the last half century. Caveat: prepare yourself to be inundated with facts and numbers, especially analysis of voting demographics in various elections. The book is long (could have been a bit shorter, to my thinking), and the only way I made it through in a reasonable time was via an audio version and a few long drives.You may not agree with Dionne's analysis in every instance, but he'll definitely give you some additional perspective and some food for thought.

  • Andrea
    2019-05-19 22:50

    A fascinating jaunt through American political history from the 1960s to the present. The focus is largely on campaign maneuvering, but there is also discussion of significant achievements and failures between elections and their effects. The author admits his own liberal leanings, but paints a nuanced and generally fair picture of the players and situations, and gives fairly realistic assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of both the Republican and Democratic individuals he discusses. He also does not neglect the role of the media in the events described. He offers some general thoughts on possible directions for the future of conservatism, but for the most part sticks with what has been done, what worked and what didn't, and why. Overall, it's a very good read for anyone feeling bewildered by the current toxic political climate and looking for some more in-depth historical context, especially those (like me) who aren't old enough to remember Reagan and his predecessors.

  • Ed Kohinke sr.
    2019-05-14 22:51

    I'm always reluctant to overuse the phrase "this is a must read", but this book is so readable yet thorough that I would call it a "must read" for anyone both interested and engaged in today's politics. And it doesn't matter where you are on the political spectrum. Dionne covers conservatism from Goldwater to (roughly) the beginning of 2016, when the book was published, giving both a critique and many ideas on how it can be fixed to the betterment of everyone. As a progressive, it gave me an historical view and understanding of conservatism to gain a much better idea of what we are up against these days. I'm looking forward to a sequel that will cover the 2016 election and beyond!

  • Jean
    2019-04-30 00:29

    The book explained a lot how Republicans pushed farther and farther right, until they alienated the moderates and attracted mostly religious fanatics. These people who want to be way too involved in people's personal rights are now the Tea Party, but the author shows how there was always this element in history, just called by other names, who opposed all the social changes of the New Deal.It's a little long winded and repetitive, you may have to read it along with something lighter.

  • Beverly Kent
    2019-05-12 02:30

    This is a very interesting analysis of political history from Reagan to Obama. I have lived through and voted during this period so I felt it was an interesting refresher course. He is unsparing of both parties and all aspirants to the highest office. He references both conservative and liberal authors, equally. It is not a simple book, but it is an interesting critique of where the country is and where it is going. Members of both parties can benefit from this fair and equal analysis.

  • Scott Welfel
    2019-04-30 06:53

    Required reading for any progressive

  • Lncropper
    2019-05-16 06:38

    I listened to this book on CDs and really enjoyed it. It is quite long, but worth the 17 CDs. Whether you are liberal or conservative or somewhere in between, it helps to understand how political ideas evolve over time. He analyzes where Pres. Obama made mistakes, too. It was written just before Trump won the election, and I would love to read what this author would write about the right since Trump became president. I see quotes from him here and there, and hope he will write another book.

  • Michael
    2019-05-15 06:32

    A very thorough look at how the Republican Party has moved more and more conservative over the years. It's intensely frightening reading it now, given how much power the Republican Party has now.

  • Charles Ray
    2019-05-11 22:48

    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.,

  • Joey
    2019-05-08 04:39

    If you enjoy a good rundown of political history (with a thematic anchor to keep it from sprawling ALL over the place), "Why the Right Went Wrong" is your book. Unless you are conservative and don't appreciate the core tenets of your belief being challenged, in which case probably don't read this.Dionne Jr. argues that conservatism has calcified since the 1960s into a movement increasingly unable or unwilling to compromise on what have become core elements of ideology: slash taxes, oppose all government spending programs apart from defense, and energize the base with social issues, particularly abortion, guns, and gay marriage. But the majority of Americans generally are not onboard with the conservative agenda, not least because even the most conservative voters want the benefits the government provides them, just not the benefits the government provides to others. "Why the Right Went Wrong" is the story of how the Right got to where it is.Although this is a hefty book, it chugs along at a good clip. We move chronologically through the decades, beginning with Goldwater and a look at the conservative movement in the years just preceding his 1964 presidential run. Ronald Reagan also gets a good, long look, since he is viewed as the creator of contemporary conservatism -- or at least its standard-bearer; any would-be conservative politician does well to align him or herself with some part of Reagan's legacy. Dionne Jr.'s writing is occasionally clever, occasionally a bit verbose, but always insightful. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly in my book, he offers a fair assessment of the Right; this is not a gleeful mud-slinging exercise full of decontextualized quotes from conservative politicians. Rather, Dionne Jr. points out various areas where the Right in fact gets things right, and to me this lends him much more credibility than, say, a Thomas Frank, who seems more intent on bashing conservative that being thoughtful. Dionne Jr. suffers no such fault, and "Why the Right Went Wrong" is an important read to understand the contemporary Right in a fair and balanced manner.

  • Carl
    2019-05-06 00:53

    No surprise here, E. J. Dionne is his usual well-informed, astute & intelligent self. He recounts that while doing homage to Reagan, it is the political philosophy of Barry Goldwater - radical reduction of all phases of government with the exception of defense - that has had the Republican Party locked in a death spiral for the last 70 years or so & has been constantly failing to either fulfill its stated goals or to satisfy its base because people will not support the loss of programs that are importatt to their lives no matter what they may have acquiesced to at the ballot box. Dionne takes us thru each repetition of the cycle with added emphasis at those inflection points when the GOP might have changed course & given life to a different & more sustainable form of conservatism. Very informative & entertaining.

  • Scott Jeffe
    2019-04-27 00:28

    If you want to understand how the Republican Party became the vile, obstructionist, party of discontented people who think hey are the "real Americans", you should try this book.It is the most comprehensive and in-depth review of how the party of Lincoln became the party of trump, with Goldwater, Reagan, Gingrich, Boehner, McConnell - a verifiable rogues gallery of rogues - along for the ride.I have to say that at 500 pages long, it was just too much bile - regardless of the EXCELLENT writing and analysis for this avid and serious reader to stomach. I made it to page 332 and the poor author had only made it to Obama's reflection campaign. Alas, I had to stop before the true beginning of the end for a once great party - and our country. I missed EJ's insightful analysis of trump but a couple of absolute gems from the book:1. Republican voters have become the mean spirited selfish and angry voters they are because they have promised things by their candidates THAT MOST OF THE COUNTRY DOESN'T WANT. So, these lying dirt bags can't get them passed. 2. This trend and all the deceitful, deceptive, and obstructionist actions of Republican leaders since Ronald Reagan could have led no where else other than to Donald's feet. 3. Our system of government is in peril because the entire system is set up to force compromise and the Republican Party refuses to compromise with the other side. All in all a great but depressing and oppressive read.

  • Alger
    2019-05-05 01:32

    One cannot blame Dionne for being far more objective and critically reliable about events before his own life in politics than he is about the current situation (being the 2016 election and the rise of Trumpism), but it does make this a book that starts out as a broad critique of the entire conservative project from Goldwater on, and closes as an inside baseball account that recycles talking points lifted from interviews done by Dionne during his day job. The upshot is that there is nothing new in here about what the GOP can do to rescue itself from its own success appealing to the radical rich and the angry tide of white resentment. That the GOP leadership is so totally willing to sink ever lower, even at the risk of the nation's well-being, should doom the party to minority status for a few decades. Instead a reader has to notice that in the shadow of Trump's victory the problem Dionne simply cannot address is the degree to which the party has incentivized stupidity, racism, and fraud as a winning electoral strategy. In the end Dionne just has too much faith in the conservative movement's own declarations that they are patriots doing distasteful things in order to someday achieve higher goals, not the scoundrels they appear to be. It would be interesting to read this book rewritten in the cold light of the Trump electoral victory to see if Dionne has changed any of his opinions about how committed the GOP is to its own stated policies.

  • Douglas
    2019-05-04 02:44

    Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes knowledgeably about the emergence of an inflexible form of political conservatism in the Republican party. Beginning with the extremism of Barry Goldwater in his 1964 campaign, Dionne charts the course taken by an unyielding conservative political ideology that has effectively eliminated more moderate and centrist Republicans from the party. Dionne goes to great length to distinguish between an uncompromising conservative political view on the one hand, and an open and engaging moderate but principled conservative view on the other. The outcome of Dionne's work is an understanding not so much of the political polarization between the left and the right, but rather the emergence of a dominant extremism on the right that has effectively consumed moderation and bipartisan collaboration in Congress and state governments. There is a continuous line from Goldwater to the Tea Party (now, the Freedom Caucus in Congress).This is not an angry book, though Dionne's own political proclivities are left-of-center. Neither is it animated by political stereotypes and ideological caricatures. It is a cogent discussion of a fairly complex phenomenon: How the Republican right has hardened into an extreme and rigid position over the last fifty-plus years.

  • Laura
    2019-04-22 03:45

    E.J. Dionne is not a conservative, but he does an excellent of job of tracing the rightward evolution of the the Republican Party from Goldwater to the present. His central argument is that the rightward movement is the result of leadership that promised, but did not produce, smaller government and more conservative social structures and culture. In an attempt to get those promises fulfilled the party evolved to the right, searching for leadership that was "true" to the most conservative values of the group. Yet the population, while it speaks "conservative," is in many cases operationally liberal ("Government should keep its hands off my Medicare.") and wants to keep services that keep government large. It's an interesting ride during this primary season - one can see the Dionne's argument in action. He does a good job of owning his bias (liberal) but staying balanced in his reporting. He sees an interesting conundrum for the future, as Congress, courtesy of creative districting, staying conservative while the nation at large, thanks to increasing demographic diversity, stays more liberal. Should be interesting to watch his discussion play out through the election season.

  • Pat
    2019-05-10 00:53

    Why the Right Went Wrong is a superb political history of the U.S. since the 1960’s. Dione Jr. focuses on the why and how of the Republican Party’s transformation over that time yet he excels at weaving this into the larger story of U.S. politics in general. Dione Jr.’s grasp of political history coupled with his ability articulate its linkage to the current political atmosphere is impressive and refreshing, making Why the Right Went Wrong not just informative but a truly enjoyable read.Dione Jr. is upfront about his personal political leanings from the start. He does interject opinion. However, said opinions are balanced with pros and cons, do not discriminate regarding placement on the political spectrum, and are selective as to not overwhelm the reader.If you are seeking a fact based, coherent, and fair understanding of the whys and hows of the current U.S. political landscape E.J. Dione Jr.’s Why the Right Went Wrong should be toward the top of the list of items you should check out.

  • Judi
    2019-04-24 05:28

    I read this toward the end of the 2016 campaign, right through the election results. Dionne, one of the most prescient political journalists we have, could see what was coming; it was at once enlightening and disheartening to read his observations as Trump gained the presidency. I knew nothing about the history of the conservative movement and Dionne, an unabashed liberal, gives a fair and I would suspect very accurate history of the forces growing out of Goldwaterism, and how things shifted and rearranged to take the Republicans to Trump. I'm sure Dionne is already starting to write the next part of this story. All of us will live it -- perhaps he'll help us make sense of it.

  • lizzie
    2019-05-11 00:36

    Excellently written, well-researched, and very readable history of modern American politics. Dionne does a wonderful job of explaining the factors behind the development of the modern GOP, as well as how we got to where we are now across the political spectrum. For so many of us it felt like the turmoil of the current administration came out of nowhere -- but it didn't, and Dionne does a fantastic job of explaining where it did come from. Highly recommended for liberals and conservatives alike; we can all benefit from a thorough understanding of our recent history.

  • Rachel
    2019-05-02 23:27

    I didn't agree with the argument and you can get your history somewhere else. This book was written to a) convince the rest of us to think conservatism is just a ditzy but well meaning friend and b) infantilize conservative politicians by imploring them to play nicer for "the discourse" (and so republicans can win the presidency....) Conservatives are good even though history says otherwise. It's all in the disposition of the mind.

  • Erin Busch
    2019-05-13 04:37

    This book was a great read for anyone who wants to know how we got into the political position we are in today. Dionne gives a thorough history and explanation of the conservative movement and how it has moved further and further to the right since the 1960s. As someone who was born during the Reagan years, there was a lot I didn't understand and this gave me more background to understand, form, and confirm the beliefs I hold today. I wish all Americans would read this!

  • Brent
    2019-04-25 02:51

    Having been involved in politics for almost 15 years I thought I knew alot about the partisan political history in America. This is a comprehensive, informative book on the conservative partisan history in America. I ended up learned a lot not only about conservative involvement in politics but also about liberals.