Widely sourced and compellingly written, The Wilderness offers a rich and entertaining mix of gossip and political scheming as it follows one of the largest candidate fields in modern history through the early stages of the 2016 U.S. presidential race. But Coppins’ real subject is the state of the Republican Party, which was shaken to its core by President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection and which is still riven by disagreement about the reasons for its defeat. Did the gop lose because it was too conservative? Because it was too out of touch with minorities and too tied to the demographics of the past? Or did it lose because its nominee, Mitt Romney, never offered a full-throated defense of conservative principles that would have motivated the party’s base? Coppins holds his readers’ interest by showing how the flood of 2016 gop candidates reflects a competition among prescriptions for a Republican recovery, as well as a battle among outsize egos. Coppins’ book reminds readers that democracy survives in the postmodern world in part because it is the most entertaining form of government. Americans may not agree on much, but they do seem to enjoy watching desperately ambitious candidates undergo the endless ordeal that U.S. presidential politics has become.
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