With the primaries in the United States effectively being over and Mitt Romney being the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, the general election is well under way. But whether Mitt Romney will have a genuine shot at the White House to a large extent depends on his ability to steer to the middle of the road, as he needs to get independents to vote for him in half a dozen crucial swing states. Against that background, the latest book by Geoffrey Kabaservice—Rule and Ruin—is a timely addition to the analyses of this year's election cycle.
The greatest strength of Kabaservice's narrative is also the greatest weakness of the book. Kabaservice's account is unusually rich in detail and the description often exhaustive. Yet, while he is busy developing the narrative, the analysis often falls short. In this way, the book is brilliant introduction for students of American political history, but to the professional academic it offers little new insight. At length he goes into the fate of Advance magazine, the Ripon society and individual moderate legislators. All of that is highly fascinating to read but occasionally one is left wondering what the details contribute to the overall narrative the author is trying to develop.
It is the final irony of his account that he dates the decline of the moderate movement with George Romney's rise and fall, an early stalwart of moderate Republicanism. In his conclusion, Kabaservice practically serves as a medical examiner, proclaiming moderate Republicanism dead. But he does so on the expense of moderate Republicans, who are still alive and plenty. It is no coincidence that George Romney's son emerged as the presidential nominee. And moderate Republican thinkers such as Mike Castle—who lost the now infamous Delaware Senate primary to Christine O'Donnell (oh and watch this)—and a number of former George W. Bush administration and McCain campaign staffers try to reinvigorate the moderate movement by setting up a movement as impressive as no labels, while the Tea Party failed to make a decisive impact on the 2012 primaries. Kabaservice might have spelled his sentence a little too early.