Not long ago, Republicans could take pride in their party’s tradition of environmental leadership. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the GOP helped to create the Environmental Protection Agency, extend the Clean Air Act, and protect endangered species. Today, as Republicans denounce climate change as a “hoax” and seek to dismantle the environmental regulatory state they worked to build, we are left to wonder: What happened?
In The Republican Reversal, James Morton Turner and Andrew C. Isenberg show that the party’s transformation began in the late 1970s, with the emergence of a new alliance of pro-business, libertarian, and anti-federalist voters. This coalition came about through a concerted effort by politicians and business leaders, abetted by intellectuals and policy experts, to link the commercial interests of big corporate donors with states’-rights activism and Main Street regulatory distrust. Fiscal conservatives embraced cost-benefit analysis to counter earlier models of environmental policy making, and business tycoons funded think tanks to denounce federal environmental regulation as economically harmful, constitutionally suspect, and unchristian, thereby appealing to evangelical views of man’s God-given dominion of the Earth.
As Turner and Isenberg make clear, the conservative abdication of environmental concern stands out as one of the most profound turnabouts in modern American political history, critical to our understanding of the GOP’s modern success. The Republican reversal on the environment is emblematic of an unwavering faith in the market, skepticism of scientific and technocratic elites, and belief in American exceptionalism that have become the party’s distinguishing characteristics.
Trace[s] the G.O.P.’s turn against conservation to Ronald Reagan, who equated environmentalism with pessimism, and pessimism with a lack of patriotism.
Juxtaposes the conservative and environmental movements in the 1960s, offering new insights into their coevolution…A well-written account of the Republican Party’s dramatic transformation on environmental policy over the past 40 years.
In the 1970s the politics of conservatism and conservationism were intertwined, but in recent decades the Republican Party has transformed itself from an ally of environmentalism to its avowed enemy. In their fascinating The Republican Reversal, Turner and Isenberg chronicle the significant changes inside the party and the staggering consequences for the nation.
For anyone who wants to understand how the GOP, once populated by legions of environmental stalwarts, became the science-denying, fossil fuel–fancying Party of No on environmental protections, Turner and Isenberg have written a must-read book.
A well-researched, fair-minded, and often surprising explanation of a stark transformation that will affect us all, The Republican Reversal should interest everyone who cares deeply about the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. It will particularly fascinate GOP voters wondering why their party’s leaders started misinforming the public on climate science just as action became urgent for the planet we bequeath to our children and grandchildren.
The Republican Reversal is a timely and compelling analysis of why climate change has become the most polarizing issue in American politics. It is a must-read for anyone hopeful that the United States might once again be an environmental leader.
Zeroes in on the 180-degree change that has taken place in the Republican Party’s policy positions on [environmental] matters, exemplified by Trump’s campaign pledge to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and his dismissal of climate science…Turner and Isenberg describe the conservative switcharoo on the environment as one of the most profound turnabouts in modern American political history.
- 280 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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