Magazine February 6, 2012, Issue

The Vice of Moderation

Detail of the official White House portrait of Dwight D. Eisenhower (James Anthony Wills/Public Domain/Wikimedia)
Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party, by Geoffrey Kabaservice (Oxford, 504 pp., $29.95)

National Review’s founding in 1955 is widely considered the spark that lit the modern conservative movement. According to Geoffrey Kabaservice’s new book, that moment was also the beginning of the end for the Republican party, and for America. Conservatives will find this notion laughable, but we ignore the book at our peril: Kabaservice’s thorough recounting of the intra-GOP war between moderates and conservatives during the 1960s is highly instructive.

Rule and Ruin has a simple thesis. There once was a bipartisan consensus, “the Vital Center,” in which both parties largely agreed on the basic contours of American political life. This enabled

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Henry OlsenMr. Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, an editor at UnHerd.com, and the author of The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism.

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