It Was All a Lie by Stuart Stevens

I write this post tonight not so long after the final polls closed in Georgia’s senatorial run-offs—two elections that will have a tremendous impact on the balance of power in the U.S. Senate and, by extension, on the legislative agenda of the Biden administration and the 117th Congress.

I also write this not-so-many-hours before the (usually-ceremonial) meeting of Congress to certify the Presidential election results from November 2020—a meeting at which approximately 100 congress members* are planning to commit sedition by objecting to the integrity of entirely NON-fraudulent election results, on the basis of…

I dunno. On the basis of them being authoritarian asshole toadies, I suppose.

It’s enough to drive a girl MAAAAAD!!!

A statue of the Queen of Hearts from Disney's Alice in Wonderland, in closeup showing her clenched fist and screaming, angry face.

It’s also a fitting time for me to rock out another book review to catch up from all my vacation reading. Because the book in question is by a political operative who devoted his career to getting Republicans elected, but who felt compelled in this current moment to craft a “blistering attack on the modern Republican Party and its wholesale surrender to Donald Trump.” (The Boston Globe)

In his Boston Globe column about the book, Michael A. Cohen** offers as good of a summary as I could ever hope to write:

He told me that what initially drew him to the GOP was the notion of “personal responsibility.” And he didn’t know where else to begin but by taking responsibility for his own actions. [. . .]

Stevens said he wrote this book for the purpose of “testimony, not conversion.” Nonetheless, his willingness to tell the truth should serve as a model for the mea culpas that Republicans who enabled Trump’s corruption, norm-shattering, and immorality owe us.

Still, I have a few thoughts of my own about this book. (Of COURSE I do!)

An iPad displaying the cover of an eBook, containing the following text:
New York Times Bestseller
It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump
Stuart Stevens

As I was with White too Long, I’m super-fascinated by the insider perspective Stevens brings to this book. His unpacking of the chasm between the principles Republicans claim—personal responsibility, fiscal restraint, Christian values—and their actual legislative agenda, from Reagan through Gingrich to the Orange Menace, is devastating. At this point, Stevens compellingly argues, the only real guiding principle for the Republican Party is to maintain power, at any and all costs. (And, possibly, “owning the libs.”)

But Stevens also buttresses the personal recollections he brings to his analysis with strong research sources.*** I was particularly struck by this quote from Princeton professor Nolan McCarty about the oft-bemoaned atmosphere of polarization in Washington:

The evidence points to a major partisan asymmetry in polarization. Despite the widespread belief that both parties have moved to the extremes, the movement of the Republican Party to the right accounts for most of the divergence between the two parties.

(emphasis added)

Another source Stevens quotes even makes a deliberate point of choosing to use the term “radicalization” in their analysis, because the term “polarization” implies a LOT more symmetry than is actually present here. It reminds me of a quote/tweet that is on my mind a lot these days:

Tweet by A.R. Moxon (@JuliusGoat):

Meet me in the middle, says the unjust man.
You take a step towards him. He takes a step back.
Meet me in the middle, says the unjust man.

Yes, Virginia, it is mostly the Republican’s fault. (Though I take no pleasure in being able to say so.)

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* I’ve seen figures as high as 126 in some sources, but when counting this list, I only came up with 94 names. Guess we’ll see exactly how many it turns out to be tomorrow.

** NOT to be confused with this Michael Cohen.

*** Once again! The effective pairing of data and stories.

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