Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 504 pp., $29.95.
FIRST, A few of the players: On one side of the great divide within the Republican Party of the 1960s and 1970s, as author Geoffrey Kabaservice tells it, were the “moderates,” many of them cut from the same expensive cloth, waspishly good-looking and well-mannered. There was William Scranton, “slim and handsome, and projecting a Kennedyesque image of charm, cool, urbanity, and elegance.” Add men such as Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney. And there was John Lindsay, “one of the best-looking politicians ever to mount the hustings: six feet three inches tall, with chiseled features, blue eyes, and wavy blond hair.” Leave aside one critic’s observation that there seemed to be nothing at all behind those China-blue eyes. These were the good guys.
On the other side were the conservatives, among them Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley Jr. (although the author does frequently attempt to enlist Buckley on the good-guy side), William Rusher, Clif White and George Gilder, who left the good guys for the bad. And, of course, there’s Richard Nixon, whose occasional forays into liberal territory, says Kabaservice (in a chapter called “Darkness Drops”), “reflected pragmatism, opportunism, or even cynicism.” These were the bad guys.