“The most important development of the last half-century in American politics,” believes New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, is “the Republican Party’s embrace of movement conservative ideology.” In a Thursday post, Chait cited six books, none of which was written by a conservative, that “help elucidate” this phenomenon.
Among Chait’s choices: E.J. Dionne’s Why the Right Went Wrong; Richard Hofstadter’s Social Darwinism in American Thought (“scathingly dispatches a powerful right-wing idea that was destined to endure: the notion that the free market is a perfectly just mechanism for rewarding value and punishing failure”); and Paul Krugman’s Peddling Prosperity (“a powerful critique of supply-side economics…which Krugman aptly dispatches as simply crankery lacking any grounding in serious economic theory”).
Chait implied that at the moment, books about Democrats and liberalism are less crucial, partly because Dems constitute “a normal party with normal problems [that] contains a broad range of interest groups and politicians.” Conversely, the GOP, which “rejects on principle any proposed tax-revenue increase…denies the legitimacy of climate science, [and] opposes universal health care,” is “an abnormal party [that] does not resemble the major right-of-center parties found in other industrialized democracies.” He went on (bolding added):
The most glaring manifestation of this is Donald Trump, the flamboyantly ignorant, authoritarian Republican president-elect. But for all his gross unsuitability for public office, Trump also grows out of longstanding trends within his party, which has previously elevated such anti-intellectual figures as George W. Bush and Sarah Palin as plausible leaders of the free world not despite but because of their disdain for empiricism. And it had grown increasingly suspicious of democracy even before a reality television star with a longstanding admiration for strongmen from Russia to Tiananmen Square came upon the scene -- which is why the “mainstream” Paul Ryan wing has so willingly suborned Trump’s ongoing violations of governing norms.
It is still fashionable to regard the two parties today as broadly symmetrical to each other -- as, indeed, they once were for many decades. But that quaint notion has blinded many of us to the radical turn the Republican Party has taken, and which has brought the American political system to a dangerous point.
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