NATIONAL BESTSELLER: USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and San Francisco Chronicle bestseller
The award-winning producer of The Rachel Maddow Show exposes the Republican Party as a gang of impostors who have abandoned their duty to govern, gravely endangering America
For decades, American voters innocently assumed the two major political parties were equally mature and responsible governing entities, ideological differences aside. That belief is due for an overhaul: in recent years, the Republican Party has undergone an astonishing metamorphosis, one so baffling and complete that few have fully reckoned with the reality and its consequences.
Republicans, simply put, have quit governing. As MSNBC's Steve Benen charts in his groundbreaking new book, the contemporary GOP has become a "post-policy party." Republicans are effectively impostors, presenting themselves as officials who are ready to take seriously the substance of problem solving, but whose sole focus is the pursuit and maintenance of power. Astonishingly, they are winning–at the cost of pushing the political system to the breaking point.
Despite having billed itself as the "party of ideas," the Republican Party has walked away from the hard but necessary work of policymaking. It is disdainful of expertise and hostile toward evidence and arithmetic. It is tethered to few, if any, meaningful policy preferences. It does not know, and does not care, about how competing proposals should be crafted, scrutinized, or implemented. This policy nihilism dominated the party's posture throughout Barack Obama's presidency, which in turn opened the door to Donald Trump -- who would cement the GOP's post-policy status in ways that were difficult to even imagine a few years earlier.
The implications of this approach to governance are all-encompassing. Voters routinely elect Republicans such as Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence to powerful offices, expecting GOP policymakers to have the technocratic wherewithal to identify problems, weigh alternative solutions, forge coalitions, accept compromises, and apply some level of governmental competence, if not expertise. The party has consistently proven those hopes misguided.
The result is an untenable political model that's undermining the American policymaking process and failing to serve the public's interests. The vital challenge facing the civil polity is coming to terms with the party's collapse as a governing entity and considering what the party can do to find its policymaking footing anew.
The Impostors serves as a devastating indictment of the GOP's breakdown, identifying the culprits, the crisis, and its effects, while challenging Republicans with an imperative question: Are they ready to change direction? As Benen writes, "A great deal is riding on their answer."
Benen, a political commentator and producer of The Rachel Maddow Show, debuts with a sober-minded attack on the modern GOP for being a "post-policy party" more interested in winning elections than effective governance. Beginning with Barack Obama's 2008 election and running through Donald Trump's 2019 impeachment, Benen offers an "issue-by-issue indictment" of Republican positions on climate change, economic policy, and immigration, among other hot-button topics. He cites a Politico report that Trump used "retweet tallies" as evidence in support of withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, castigates Republican lawmakers for proposing a 2009 economic stimulus plan based on "opening up coastal areas for oil drilling," and accuses former House speaker John Boehner of "waging a deliberate sabotage campaign against American foreign policy" by partnering with Israel's prime minister to oppose the Iran nuclear deal. Though Democrats aren't "always right," according to Benen, they at least take a "consistently substantive" approach to policy making. Without constructive input from the other side, he contends, the American political system doesn't work properly. Benen writes fluidly and incisively, and backs his claims with support from liberal and center-right policy wonks, but fails to fully address the roots of the GOP's electoral successes, and his call for the party's reform is half-hearted at best. This exasperated polemic packs a mild punch.