Professor Thomas Schaller’s new book, The Stronghold: How Republicans Captured Congress but Surrendered the White House, published this week by Yale University Press, is a timely and provocative study that is quickly earning high praise from scholars, journalists, and political observers. The publisher provides this summary of Schaller’s latest work:
Once the party of presidents, the GOP in recent elections has failed to pull together convincing national majorities. Republicans have lost four of the last six presidential races and lost the popular vote in five of the last six. In their lone victory, the party incumbent won—during wartime—by the slimmest of margins. In this fascinating and important book, Thomas Schaller examines national Republican politics since President Ronald Reagan left office in 1989. From Newt Gingrich’s ascent to Speaker of the House through the defeat of Mitt Romney in 2012, Schaller traces the Republican Party’s institutional transformation and its broad consequences, not only for Republicans but also for America.
Gingrich’s “Contract with America” set in motion a vicious cycle, Schaller contends: as the GOP became more conservative, it became more Congress-centered, and as its congressional wing grew more powerful, the party grew more conservative. This dangerous loop, unless broken, may signal a future of increasing radicalization, dependency on a shrinking pool of voters, and less viability as a true national party. In a thought-provoking conclusion, the author discusses repercussions of the GOP decline, among them political polarization and the paralysis of the federal government.
Reviews highlight the importance of Schaller’s contribution to our understanding of contemporary politics:
“Why are Republicans pursuing seemingly suicidal policies on immigration and other issues? Tom Schaller answers that question in a fascinating and systematic way: the incentives for Republican aspirants to Congress are directly at odds with the policy choices that would reach out to a national electorate. Schaller provides a compelling roadmap to navigate through our dysfunctional politics.”— Norman Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute.
“Tom Schaller is one of the most astute observers of American politics writing today. The Stronghold is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the modern Republican Party.”— Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker
“The Stronghold is an arresting narrative of the Republicans’ evolution from the party of presidents to the party of Congress. Schaller deftly explains how the “House-ification” of the party has pulled Republican politics so sharply to the right.”— Froma Harrop, nationally syndicated columnist
“The fact that GOP now governs from the House is a vastly under appreciated factor in what drives our national politics. So if you find yourself frustrated and flummoxed by the particular dysfunction of our political moment, you must read this book. “— Chris Hayes, MSNBC Host, “All-In”
Thomas Schaller is political director at Latino Decisions, a political columnist for the Baltimore Sun, and professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is the author of Whistling Past Dixie (Simon & Schuster, 2006), and his most recent book is The Stronghold: How Republicans Captured Congress but Surrendered the White House (Yale University Press, 2015).