John Dean is uniquely qualified to write this book. The first chapter really says it all as he describes how the his own party came after him well after he had retired from politics. It is really on the strength of this chapter, or more to the point Dean's inside knowledge, that I can give this book 4 stars. Beyond this the insights of the book are an attempt to explain the character of the those individuals that came after him as well as many more in the current GOP leadership. Deans leans heavily on Bob Altemeyer's research on RWA and SDO personalities described in his book "Authoritarians", to provide a basis to explain the behavior of the present GOP.
I have read so many books regarding the present republican party ("Twilight of the Elites" by Christopher Hayes, "It's Even Worse Than it Looks" Norman Ornstein, "Authoritarians" by Bob Altemeyer, in addition to Dean's book), and including many written from their own perspectives (e.g., "The Visions of the Anointed" by Thomas Sowell, "The Road to Freedom" by Brooks, and the short lecture "What's the Matter with Kansas" by Thomas Frank). I long for the days when you could have a serious political discussion with your republican friends and walk away feeling like I both gained something. The feeling that you were both working from the same facts, just slightly different perhaps in the degree to which you could have faith in the free market to raise all boats. If you share this feeling, regardless of which side of the political spectrum, then you know the obsession with trying to understand what changed.
Dean's answer to what has changed is helpful, if not entirely original. He provides a perspective that is informed by his conservative roots and shares some personal discussions between Barry Goldwater and himself on the topic of the changes in the GOP.
Bob is one of the (if not the principle) Authority on this topic, so you are getting it from the expert. The work of Bob Altemeyer is cited often in scholarly papers including 2 by John Jost, et al. He narrates his own work which allows him to take small liberties with the text and even expand on it somewhat. This also helps you get a feeling for the author's character and political positions.
This is very interesting and important material, regardless of your position. It demands acknowledgement and thoughtful dialog. I have read several authors discussing this topic, in particular Jost and Altemeyer who I do not feel were politically motivated (at least initially), as well as the popular book "The Republican Brain" by Chris Mooney which most likely has a political motive. Regardless, the descriptions of the surprising resistance to even such well verified science as relativity and many similarly untenable position by republicans are difficult to explain. The situation appears to require a broad based psychological explanation, and RWA (Right-Wing Authoritarians) and SDO (Social Dominance Orientation) does provide one possible explanation.
As Bob Altemeyer's book explains, the "Right-Wing" of the RWA did not refer to the political "Right-Wing" during the development, but later it was found that most of the extreme politically right republicans are very high on the RWA scale.
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