This book is an easy-to-read and comprehensive history of the Republican Party from its founding in 1854 until the Presidential Election of 2000. It covers the party’s early years as the liberal party of Abraham Lincoln; the Republican’s control of post-Civil War Reconstruction; the ascent of conservative Republicans in the Gilded Age; the Progressive Age of Republican President Theodore Roosevelt; and the pre-Depression resurgence of conservative Republicans thereafter. It then describes the Party’s eclipse by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal; the post-World War II dominance of moderate (including Liberal) Republicans; and the rise of the conservative Barry Goldwater which ultimately culminated in the election of Ronald Reagan. The book concludes by describing the Republican Party post-Reagan, ending with the election of George W. Bush.
“What has the Republican Party meant to the United States? After its inception as a radical, reformist political movement, it has become the conservative party of the nation, offering resistance to the activist programs of Democrats to its left. Begun as a party of nationalism and positive government, the Republicans have evolved into the champions of states’ rights and limited federal power. The historical foe of slavery, Republicans find that their policies now attract almost no electoral support from blacks. Once the party of the protective tariff, it is now the most reliable ideological proponent of free trade [until the election of Trump]. Imperialistic at the start of the twentieth century, the GOP has since been by turns isolationist, anti-Communist, and to some degree unilateralist in foreign policy. Across the sweep of American history, as issues changed, the Republicans have moved in directions that would have seemed improbable to its members only decades earlier. Of course, the same can be said for the Democrats, whose ideological journey has been at least as convoluted.”
People who are disgusted with the current state of American politics should be aware of this history, for this too shall pass. But what comes next will largely be a function of how people who are unhappy with the current status quo engage politically going forward. As Gould’s history amply demonstrates, there is much historic precedent for the rebirth of liberal and moderate Republicanism.