Most American voters innocently assume the two major political parties are equally mature and responsible governing entities, ideological differences aside. That belief is due for an overhaul: over the past decade, the Republican Party has undergone an astonishing metamorphosis, one so baffling and complete that few have fully reckoned with the reality and its consequences.
Republicans, simply put, have quit governing. As MSNBC's Steve Benen charts in his groundbreaking new book, the contemporary GOP has become a "post-policy party." Republicans are effectively impostors, presenting themselves as officials who are ready to take seriously the substance of problem solving, but whose sole focus is the pursuit and maintenance of power. Astonishingly, they are winning–at the cost of pushing the political system to the breaking point.
Despite having billed itself as the "party of ideas," the Republican Party has walked away from the hard but necessary work of policymaking. It is disdainful of expertise and hostile toward evidence and arithmetic. It is tethered to few, if any, meaningful policy preferences. It does not know, and does not care, about how competing proposals should be crafted, scrutinized, or implemented. This policy nihilism dominated the party's posture throughout Barack Obama's presidency, which in turn opened the door to Donald Trump -- who would cement the GOP's post-policy status in ways that were difficult to even imagine a few years earlier.
The implications of this approach to governance are all-encompassing. Voters routinely elect Republicans such as Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence to powerful offices, expecting GOP policymakers to have the technocratic wherewithal to identify problems, weigh alternative solutions, forge coalitions, accept compromises, and apply some level of governmental competence, if not expertise. The party has consistently proven those hopes misguided.
The result is an untenable political model that's undermining the American policymaking process and failing to serve the public's interests. The vital challenge facing the civil polity is coming to terms with the party's collapse as a governing entity and considering what the party can do to find its policymaking footing anew.
The Impostors serves as a devastating indictment of the GOP's breakdown, identifying the culprits, the crisis, and its effects, while challenging Republicans with an imperative question: Are they ready to change direction? As Benen writes, "A great deal is riding on their answer."