The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics Review

I’m not sure who the audience for the book The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics by Steve Benen would be at this time. The book is a history of the Republican party from the Obama presidency to the recent past (the book was published in June of last year), focused on what is mentioned in the subtitle. The issue is the book is mostly a series of anecdotes and doesn’t really weave them into something more. While this could be useful years down the road, for most of the potential audience they likely are already well aware of what is talked about in the book, even if they missed some of the specifics.

The thesis of the book, to the limited extent it is expounded on, is that Republican party have become “post-policy party”, focused on gaining power and then not being able to govern:

By any fair measure, the GOP excels at acquiring power and exploiting electoral structures to keep it, often in defiance of the American electorate’s will. Republicans may fail in breathtaking fashion when trying to govern, but they have unrivaled expertise in gerrymandering and voter-suppression techniques.

If you are living in the United States and paying attention to politics, this is hard to miss, even if you have come up with a phrase for it. It doesn’t look like what has happened to Republican party is going to be changing anytime soon, as they are currently in the process of responding to losses in the 2020 election by implementing new voter-suppression in states across the country.

The book doesn’t provide much in a path away from this situation, and in some ways it seems to unintentionally point to why Republicans are as successful as they are despite being unable to govern. For example, in the first chapter he says this of the Republican party:

It is disdainful of expertise and analysis.

But couldn’t that be said of America in general these days?

With the limited analysis in the book, some of it seems off the mark. Take this paragraph regarding the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare):

Had GOP officials acted more like members of a governing party, they would have been in a position to move the reform law in more conservative directions and include more of the party’s goals—which Democrats would have gladly embraced in exchange for bipartisan support. Republicans chose a more self-defeating strategy that left them empty-handed. They didn’t even have a rival health care solution to point to as evidence of their alleged seriousness on the issue.

The reality is that the legislation was actually fairly conservative, and that is part of the reason they could never produce a rival health care solution. If you want to expand health insurance coverage, doing it through private insurers wouldn’t be the approach of the left, but of the right. So far in the Biden presidency Democrats appear to have changed course from what happened back in the early part of President Obama’s time in office, focused on agenda more left-ward. Time will tell if that might cause Republicans to shift course from where they have been going.


Like I said before, I’m not really sure who the audience is for this, since the kind of people that would seem to be the audience for this book, would seem like those are already aware of much of what is mentioned in the book.

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