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Review Essay

The Missing Middle in American Politics

How Moderate Republicans Became Extinct

In This Review

Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party
Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party
By Geoffrey Kabaservice
Oxford University Press, USA, 2012, 504 pp. $29.95 Purchase
The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism
The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism
By Theda Skocpol,Vanessa Williamson
Oxford University Press, USA, 2012, 264 pp. $24.95 Purchase

After Lyndon Johnson’s victory over Barry Goldwater in the 1964 U.S. presidential election, the once-mighty Republican Party was reduced to a regional rump. The Democrats won overwhelming majorities in the House and the Senate, which they used to pass Johnson’s Great Society legislation. Republicans, meanwhile, were at one another’s throats, having endured the most divisive campaign in modern political history. Goldwater had managed to win the Republican presidential nomination over the impassioned opposition of moderate and progressive Republicans, who at the time may well have constituted a majority of the party’s members. Moderates blamed Goldwater’s right-wing views for the defection of millions of Republican voters. 

To rebuild the party, a number of moderate Republican governors banded together to form the Republican Governors Association, designed to serve as a counterweight to the Republican National Committee, which had been captured by Goldwater conservatives. Shortly after the election,

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