Once the party of presidents, the GOP in recent elections has failed to pull together convincing national majorities. Republicans have lost four of the last six presidential races and lost the popular vote in five of the last six. In their lone victory, the party incumbent won—during wartime—by the slimmest of margins. In this fascinating and important book, Thomas Schaller examines national Republican politics since President Ronald Reagan left office in 1989. From Newt Gingrich’s ascent to Speaker of the House through the defeat of Mitt Romney in 2012, Schaller traces the Republican Party’s institutional transformation and its broad consequences, not only for Republicans but also for America.
Gingrich’s “Contract with America” set in motion a vicious cycle, Schaller contends: as the GOP became more conservative, it became more Congress-centered, and as its congressional wing grew more powerful, the party grew more conservative. This dangerous loop, unless broken, may signal a future of increasing radicalization, dependency on a shrinking pool of voters, and less viability as a true national party. In a thought-provoking conclusion, the author discusses repercussions of the GOP decline, among them political polarization and the paralysis of the federal government.