Good Reads –  “American Carnage:  On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War” by Tim Alberta.  Published by Harper Collins, 2019.

Contributed by Liza Watson.

Gone are the days of the Republican party as the party of free trade and balanced budgets, immigrant-friendly and capable of compromise…or are those days going to return?  Tim Alberta, currently a reporter for Politico, has laid out the evolution of the GOP through a detailed examination of power shifts and historically key moments in congress.

John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor…and then along came Kevin McCarthy and his Tea Party buddies.  The author’s narrative begins with Sarah Palin’s appeal, which was a revelation to the aristocratic class.  It describes the emergence of the Tea Party, which uncorked an unexpressed energy that captured the mood of the electorate. On the left, by the time the Occupy Movement sprang up, the insurgency on the right had already taken root and influenced the governing class.  Where the GOP landed was with candidates who specialized in picking fights, rather than dealing with nuanced policy ideas.

What a trajectory!

The author poses the awful notion that there is no “normal” to which America can return.  Paul Ryan is quoted as saying, “Trumpism is a moment, a populist moment we’re in, that’s going to be here after Trump is gone.” (p. 595)  Trump was the battering ram that broke down the GOP palace gates. And according to Raul Labrador, a former Tea Party congressman, we shall see whether he holds the loyalty of his base if they don’t see the changes they want – better wages for everyday people and a functioning immigration policy, and disillusionment with a federal budget drowning in trillions more debt. (p. 610).

While a long read, the book provides insight into how and why the GOP changed.  Readers who are political junkies will relish the stories of how members of the House of Representatives pressure its Speaker and how policy actually survives power struggles.  Well-written, very careful and thorough, a case study of a transformed political party.

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