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American psychosis : a historical investigation of how the Republican Party went crazy
2022
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Corn (Russian Roulette), the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for Mother Jones, documents in this colorful and persuasive treatise "the Republican Party's decades-long relationship with extremism." After sketching the party's abolitionist origins, Corn details the rise of McCarthyism and President Dwight Eisenhower's decision--out of fear it would cost him votes--to omit from a 1952 speech a paragraph defending Marshall Plan architect George C. Marshall from McCarthy's attacks. Subsequent Republican presidents similarly sacrificed principle for political expediency, Corn argues, including Ronald Reagan, "an amiable vessel for a message of fear" who refused to repudiate the ultraconservative John Birch Society; George H.W. Bush, who "flirted with racism and nativism" during the 1988 presidential campaign; and his son George W. Bush, who responded to John McCain's victory in the 2000 New Hampshire primary by speaking at Bob Jones University, "the citadel of extremist fundamentalism," in order to attract the evangelical Christian vote. Throughout, Corn draws incisive profiles of Stuart Spencer, Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes, and other Republican operatives who "encouraged and cashed in on extremist paranoia, bigotry, and conspiracy theory," and draws a clear through line from the rise of Barry Goldwater to the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot. Though it covers familiar ground, this incisive political history persuades. (Sept.)
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