The Moderates Who Lighted the Gingrich Fuse

tags: Republican Party



Geoffrey Kabaservice is the author of Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party.

WASHINGTON — THE government shutdown is the work of the so-called kamikaze caucus of about 40 Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives. But why is the body of the Republican Party in thrall to its erratic right foot? Maybe the real blame should go to the far more numerous non-Tea Party Republicans, from Speaker John A. Boehner down, who have been unable or unwilling to restrain the radicals.

Behind this question lies another. Why are Republican legislators like Peter T. King of New York and Devin Nunes of California unwittingly repeating the errors of a previous generation of moderate Republicans who elevated Newt Gingrich to party leadership?

It was Mr. Gingrich who pioneered the political dysfunction we still live with. His inflammatory rhetoric provided a model for the grandstanding guerrilla warfare of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. And his actions — particularly his move to shut down the government in 1995 and 1996 — undermined popular trust and ushered in the present political era of confrontation and obstruction....



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