Grand Old Unraveling
The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism
Sales Date: April 29, 2024
280 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: April 2024
- Published: May 2024
- Published: April 2024
It didn’t begin with Donald Trump. The unraveling of the Grand Old Party has been decades in the making. Since the time of FDR, the Republican Party has been home to conspiracy thinking, including a belief that lost elections were rigged. And when Republicans later won the White House, the party elevated their presidents to heroic status—a predisposition that eventually posed a threat to democracy. Building on his esteemed 2016 book, What Happened to the Republican Party?, John Kenneth White proposes to explain why this happened—not just the election of Trump but the authoritarian shift in the party as a whole that led to the insurrection of January 6, 2021, and its aftermath.
White presents a clear and concise analysis of how the modern Republican Party came to be by tracing historical patterns that reach back to the 1930s. He argues that the rise of Republican authoritarianism has been decades in the making, going back to the desperation that took hold among party elites in the wake of twenty years of Democratic dominance between 1932 and 1952. The fear of losing that overtook the party during the Roosevelt period eventually led to an escalation of intrigue that included the rise of the John Birch Society in the 1950s and QAnon today. White traces the development of this culture of conspiracy theories within the GOP and explains how the emphasis on winning at any cost created a cult of personality and a willingness to seize power by any means necessary.
“Grand Old Unraveling is a powerful warning of the dangers presented by Trumpist conspiracy-mongering and contempt for democratic norms. John Kenneth White contends that Trumpism has been germinating within the GOP for decades, and that Donald Trump is a ‘symptom, not a cause of our present-day dilemma.’ It is, in White’s retelling, ‘the culture within the Republican Party’ that made Trump possible. This book should be required reading for all Americans concerned about the fate of the republic in 2024 and beyond.”—Stephen F. Knott, author of The Lost Soul of the American Presidency: The Decline into Demagoguery and the Prospects for Renewal“Discussions of the rise of authoritarianism in the contemporary Republican Party are ubiquitous, but how did we get here? This careful historical account fills in the missing pieces to explain the development of the contemporary Republican Party’s penchant towards conspiratorial and anti-Democratic sentiments over the course of nearly a century.”—Rachel M. Blum, author of How the Tea Party Captured the GOP: Insurgent Factions in American Politics
“In The Unravelling of the Grand Old Party, John Kenneth White takes on a substantial undertaking: explaining how the Republican Party got to where it is today. Of course he dissects Donald Trump’s singular influence over the party during the past decade, but he also shows how the party has shifted its positions—on race, economics, the role of government, conspiratorial thinking, and more—over a vast and detailed swath of US history. White effectively demonstrates how the Republican Party became a place that Trump would view as home long before he thought about running for office.”—Seth Masket, author of Learning from Loss: The Democrats, 2016–2020