Steve M.’s columns – always in style!

InCity Book Review

Too Dumb to Fail

By Matt K. Lewis

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

This book, “Too Dumb to Fail,” subtitled “How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution to Win Elections (and How It Can Reclaim its Conservative Roots),” displays the Republican establishment’s mindset as presumptive nominee Donald Trump gears up for the general election. The book’s major flaws are it ignores the catastrophic Presidency of George W. Bush as the main reason for the Republican party’s current predicament, excludes how the party’s business elites deindustrialized America in pursuit of profit (giving rise to Trump), and how “supply side” economics drowned the country in red ink.

Published in January 2016, five months ago as this review is being written, the book’s title is derived from Andrew Ross Sorkin’s “Too Big to Fail,” about the financial crisis of 2008.

Supply Side economics

Ronald Reagan emerges as the hero of this narrative. Lewis paints a picture of Reagan that some will find unrecognizable. Under Lewis’ narrative, Reagan was an intellectual, deeply read in history and economics, who cleverly concealed his in-depth knowledge of political issues behind an “everyman” facade. He even cites a Saturday Night Live skit portraying Reagan in this fashion.

Lewis credits the late Congressman and NFL star quarterback Jack Kemp with converting Reagan to “supply side economics.” Under this theory, tax cuts pay for themselves, spurring economic activity and broadening the tax base. “Previously, Reagan, like the entire GOP, had been a ‘green eyeshade party’ – pessimistic bean counters worried about deficits and balanced budgets,” writes Lewis. In practice, under Reagan and George W. Bush, supply side economics led to trillions of dollars in deficits and the income inequalities which has shrunk the middle class and given rise to Donald Trump’s economic populist candidacy.

It is notable that two Presidents who put balancing budgets above tax cuts for the wealthy, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bill Clinton, had economic booms during their second terms. Americans were much better off with the ‘green eyeshade party’ running the country than the supply side crowd.

If Reagan is the hero of the story, writes Lewis: “[T]here are villains such as Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, Scam-PACs [political action committees set up to defraud donors], and others who are (in my view) moving us in the wrong direction.”

The Vultures

In his analysis of how the GOP went wrong, Lewis saw the Republicans making the South their political stronghold by appealing to the racist inclinations of white Southerners as the start of the decline. He leaves out, of course, Reagan’s announcement of his 1980 Presidential candidacy in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were brutally murdered in 1964 by the Ku Klux Klan. In a chapter entitled “The Vultures,” he goes over how the GOP “made the mistake of building up, or reflexively defending” hucksters such as “Joe the Plumber,” who tried to monetize his 15 minutes of fame questioning candidate Barack Obama; George Zimmerman, who shot to death the teenage African-American Trayvon Martin; and Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who was glamorized by the GOP for refusing to pay the federal government over grazing rights, until Bundy made several racist remarks about African-Americans.

America’s changing demographics appear to trouble the author of “Too Dumb to Fail” most. He writes that the natural adherents of the Republican Party, white male voters, are rapidly decreasing as a percentage of the over-all electorate. He writes that Republican Presidential candidates should be trying to expand their party base by appealing to Latinos and African-Americans. Donald Trump’s negative ratings among these two groups is currently in the stratosphere, hovering above 80%. Short of resurrecting Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez to be his running mate, Trump’s practice of attacking minority voters is likely to doom his White House ambitions.

Lewis ends his book by urging readers to get involved in Republican politics as bit players, self-educating themselves the way Reagan did, and support the billionaire Koch brothers (yes, those Koch brothers), who have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into Republican campaigns at all levels, and received afterwards legislation favorable to their financial interests.