While the ignorant are condemned to merely repeat history, the historian suffers a kind of dual condemnation. Not only must he repeat history along with the rest of us, but he must do so with full knowledge of the implications of our mistakes – sort of like being a character in a movie for which one knows the plot. The historian knows that we will need a ‘bigger boat’ before we go out on the small one. He knows that the idyllic campsite is actually the hunting ground of a sadistic killer before the weekend romp begins. The historian knows that the monster will break its leash and turn on its creator whether that monster be Frankenstein or infected zombies or the Tea Party, which brings me to Mr. Kabaservice and his book ‘Rule and Ruin’.
“Rule and Ruin” chronicles the far right conservative takeover of the Republican Party and the subsequent decline of the moderate Republican. Prior to the 1960s the Republican Party was somewhat ideology diverse , often challenging Democrat excesses or inaction in areas like national defense, civil liberties and civil rights but the. Republicans had been isolationist through much of the 1930s, balking at the notion of involving the US in another European war. By the 1960s the Republican presidential candidate was entertaining the idea of using nuclear weapons against the Viet Cong. Republicans challenged Woodrow Wilson’s Sedition Act 1918, arguing that it was unconstitutional. By the early 1970s the Republican president was spying on all kinds of protest groups. Republicans were instrumental in passing the first Civil Rights bill since Reconstruction in 1957, but by 1964 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. considered a vote for the Republican presidential candidate to be “suicidal”.
The decline of moderation has implications for us today and explains much of the gridlock in Washington. Geoff was kind enough to speak with me at length about his book and also invited me to a conference on President Eisenhower at Hunter College. I hope you enjoy our talk.