cover image Crackup: The Republican Implosion and the Future of Presidential Politics

Crackup: The Republican Implosion and the Future of Presidential Politics

Samuel L. Popkin. Oxford Univ, $27.95 (328p) ISBN 978-0-19-091382-3

UC San Diego political scientist Popkin (The Candidate) delivers an incisive study of how inadequate campaign finance laws contributed to congressional gridlock and the rise of Donald Trump. Popkin lays the blame largely on McCain-Feingold, a 2002 bill that limited corporate donations to political parties. But instead of decreasing the influence of money on politics, the legislation (in conjunction with the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United ruling) funneled private donations to super PACs and single-issue advocacy groups. According to Popkin, this shift discouraged consensus-building in Congress and gave rise to a new kind of aggressive and “self-serving” obstructionism embodied by Texas senator Ted Cruz, who became a national political figure by blocking bipartisan immigration reforms and forcing a 2013 government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act. Popkin contends that Trump borrowed from the Cruz playbook, but in a more exaggerated and media-savvy manner, in order to defeat the GOP establishment (and Cruz) in the 2016 primary. Though Popkin underplays the agency of Republican voters who either overlooked or embraced Trump’s authoritarian impulses and nativist agenda, he makes a convincing case that unchecked private interests are at the root of America’s political dysfunctions. Readers on the right and left will find food for thought. (May)