American Psychosis

A Historical Investigation of How the Republican Party Went Crazy

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By David Corn

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#1 New York Times bestselling author and investigative reporter David Corn tells the wild and harrowing story of the Republican Party’s decades-long relationship with far-right extremism, bigotry, and paranoia.​

A fast-paced, rollicking, behind-the-scenes account of how the GOP since the 1950s has encouraged and exploited extremism, bigotry, and paranoia to gain power, American Psychosis offers readers a brisk, can-you-believe-it journey through the netherworld of far-right irrationality and the Republican Party’s interactions with the darkest forces in America. In a compelling and thoroughly-researched narrative, Corn reveals the hidden history of how the Party of Lincoln forged alliances with extremists, kooks, racists, and conspiracy-mongers and fostered fear, anger, and resentment to win elections—and how this led to Donald Trump’s triumph and the transformation of the GOP into a Trump personality cult that foments and bolsters the crazy and dangerous excesses of the right.
The Trump-incited insurrectionist attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, was no aberration. American Psychosis shows it was a continuation of the long and deep-rooted Republican practice of boosting and weaponizing the rage and derangement of the right.
The gripping tale in American Psychosis covers the last seven decades. From McCarthyism to the John Birch Society to segregationists to the New Right to the religious right to Rush Limbaugh to Newt Gingrich to the militia movement to Fox News to Sarah Palin to the Tea Party to Trumpism, the Republican Party has deliberately nurtured and exploited rightwing fear and loathing fueled by paranoia, grievance, and tribalism. This powerful and important account explains how one political party has harnessed the worst elements in politics to poison the nation’s discourse and threaten American democracy.

"[Corn is] a great journalist. I love the way he thinks. I love the way he writes. I'm so glad he's done a super-readable, modern history of the right…We just need smart, digestible history about this stuff right now…[American Psychosis] is perfectly timed…Relevant history for where we are right now." —Rachel Maddow, host, The Rachel Maddow Show

"With American Psychosis, David Corn 'did the full homework to take us all the way back to where it really begins.’" —Lawrence O'Donnell, host, The Last Word



Backstory I

The Rise and Decline of the Grand Old Party

The origin story of the Republican Party is a noble tale. A small number of politicians banded together to thwart a horrific prospect: a white supremacist oligarchy seizing political and economic control of the United States of America. And they succeeded, saving the nation from a terrible fate. But after that, the GOP’s history becomes far more complicated.

In 1854, the political atmosphere in the United States was charged, with the debate over slavery dominating the nation’s discourse. As the country expanded to the west, a critical question was at hand: Would slavery be permitted in these new territories and states?

The slavery issue had recently wrecked the Whigs, one of the two major parties.

Leading up to the 1852 presidential election, its Northern faction, composed mostly of antislavery advocates, went so far as to block the nomination of its own incumbent president, Millard Fillmore, a Whig who personally opposed slavery but had taken no steps to dismantle the barbarous system of bondage, believing that doing so would tear apart the union. After a grueling fifty-three ballots at the party’s national convention, the Whigs settled on a former general named Winfield Scott, who was backed by the Northerners. Yet Southern Whigs pushed through a proslavery platform. Such a divided house could not stand. Scott was crushed by Democrat Franklin Pierce in the election, and the Whigs imploded as a party. The United States was left with one major partisan outfit: the Democrats, a party in favor of limited government and a friend of Slave Power.

Come early 1854, Congress was deliberating on organizing the Permanent Indian Territory—a huge swath of land west of the Mississippi River where President Andrew Jackson had brutally relocated Native Americans from Southern states—into Kansas and Nebraska. Up for debate was a law that would allow settlers in those areas to decide whether to permit slavery.

More than a moral question was at stake. This was a raw political brawl about economic influence. If new territories became slave states, that would bolster the already considerable might of the South—the richest region in the country and a racist oligarchy controlled by large plantation owners. The importation of slavery into these areas would also reduce economic opportunities for white men seeking work in the West. Small farmers would not be able to compete with vast plantations that functioned as slave labor camps. The Kansas-Nebraska Act threatened to lead to an America dominated by the racist dictatorship of the South that had subjugated millions of Black people.

In March 1854, spurred by the prospect of this legislation becoming law, a group of Whigs, antislavery Democrats, members of the Free Soil Party, and Know-Nothings (whose party believed Catholic immigrants posed the greatest threat to the nation) gathered in Ripon, Wisconsin, to discuss forming a new party to confront the menace of spreading slavery. It would be called the Republican Party, a name that harkened back to the Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson.

Months later, the morning after Congress passed the measure, a group of about thirty House representatives from various parties assembled in a Washington, DC, boarding house. They committed to joining the burgeoning Republican Party to combat the exportation of slavery to the West. In Illinois, a onetime congressman who still considered himself a Whig (hoping the party could somehow get itself together) and who opposed the extension of slavery (but not slavery itself) declined invitations to join the new Republican Party. But about two years later—after “anti-Nebraska” candidates in the 1854 election wiped out members of Congress who had supported the law—Abraham Lincoln signed up with the Republicans, becoming one of the party’s rising stars. Within four years, he would be elected the first Republican president.

The Republican Party of Lincoln would not only win the Civil War and free four million enslaved Americans; it would advance the idea that a strong national government was necessary to promote the public interest. Its 1860 platform opposed the expansion of slavery and reiterated “all men are created equal” (without urging the abolishment of slavery). The party also called for distributing land to farmers, protecting the rights of immigrants, and bolstering the nation’s infrastructure with the construction of harbors and a transcontinental railroad.

Triumphing in the 1860 election, the new Republicans, as historian Heather Cox Richardson put it, “had fashioned themselves as the defenders of American liberty, the guarantors of economic fairness and equality.” Republicans supported tariffs—a tax on goods from Europe—to protect workers and farmers and to finance an activist government that would create a national currency system, support public education (by establishing land-grant colleges), assist low-income Americans (through an ambitious homestead program), bolster the nation’s leading industry (with the establishment of the US Department of Agriculture), and implement a progressive income tax. Its aim was to expand economic opportunity. (Democrats generally opposed using the federal government to boost economic development.) With the Thirteenth Amendment, Lincoln and the Republicans ended slavery.

Over the next hundred years, the party would seesaw between championing reform to benefit the citizenry and serving the interests of the wealthy and powerful, between advocating the rights of freedom and neglecting the plight of Black Americans. In 1961, Theodore White, the political journalist, would describe the Grand Old Party this way: “The Republican Party, to be exact, is twins and has been twins from the moment of its birth—but the twins who inhabit its name and shelter are Jacob and Esau: fratricidal, not fraternal twins. Within the Republican Party are combined a stream of the loftiest American idealism and a stream of the coarsest American greed.” In the decades after the Civil War, White observed, “as America swelled with industry and new immigrants from Europe, these twins of the Republican Party, the good and the greedy, fought each other for control of the Party and the nation’s power.”

That internal battle began shortly before Lincoln’s assassination, with Republicans disagreeing how far they should go in expanding the rights of Blacks in the South. That fight intensified, when Lincoln’s vice president, Andrew Johnson, a pro-Union Democrat from Tennessee, succeeded him. Johnson unabashedly supported the South’s postwar efforts to regain power and limit the rights of freed slaves. Opposing him, congressional Republicans fought to protect the gains won through the death and destruction of the Civil War—as the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists terrorized Blacks and Republican officeholders in the South. (“This is a country for white men,” Johnson declared, “and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men.”) Yet divisions arose among the Republicans, pitting those who sought aggressive Reconstruction policies to provide political and economic assistance to Blacks against those who worried about radicalism. The party also split into a camp that backed the rise of labor unions and one that feared these new entities.

By the time Ulysses S. Grant won the White House for the Republicans in 1868, the war for the party’s soul was fully underway. The party backed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, which made freed slaves citizens and prohibited the denial of the right to vote due to “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” But there were personal spats among party leaders. Northeastern Republicans favored high tariffs to protect established business interests; Western Republicans representing developing areas were skeptical and more interested in easy credit.

After workers in France set up the Paris Commune in 1871, business interests and the affluent feared organizing among American laborers. Elements of the Republican Party became more attuned to bankers and businessmen and worried about the expanding power of workers and Black Americans. The party divided, with Liberal Republicans facing off against the Republicans in power, whom they viewed as corrupt politicians too eager to please the wealthy. Increasingly corporate interests held sway over the party, and voices within it started assailing social programs as “socialism” and “communism.”

Even as the Democrats excoriated the GOP as the party of big government and fared well at the congressional level with that line of attack, the Republicans continued to win presidential elections. Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican who triumphed in the contested election of 1876, dispatched troops to help the railroads beat back a strike and declined to use federal soldiers to protect Republican state governments in the South threatened by white supremacists. The Democrats, advocating small government, low taxes, and states’ rights (the not-so-coded term for white supremacy), regained political control in the South.

In 1884, the Republicans lost the White House to Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, partly because the party had come to be seen as too cozy with the economic elites. The GOP had pulled a complete reversal since Lincoln’s day, when he had focused on increasing economic opportunity. Still, the Republicans would win the presidency in the next five of six elections, relying on corporate money to finance their campaigns. After Republican Benjamin Harrison won the 1888 contest, one publication exclaimed, “This is to be a business-man’s Administration” and “business men will be thoroughly well content with it.”

The Republican Party was in charge for most of the Gilded Age. As the Democrats embraced populism and repeatedly nominated as their standard-bearer the fiery crusader William Jennings Bryan, who passionately denounced the well-heeled and the business trusts, the GOP established itself as the party of money—collecting and spending gobs of it to win elections. William McKinley, the Republican governor of Ohio, won the presidential contest in 1896, with industrialist Mark Hanna, his close friend and adviser, squeezing massive contributions out of tycoons and other corporate leaders fearful of Bryan’s anti-establishment (and conspiratorial) populism.

During this stretch, the GOP largely showed indifference to the anti-Black violence and Jim Crow laws spreading in the South. And it became the party of imperialism, pushed in this direction by the young Theodore Roosevelt, who was appointed assistant secretary of the Navy in 1897 and who believed that for America to be a great nation it must conquer and claim overseas lands, just as it did with Native Americans at home.1 This impulse led to the Spanish-American War—during which Roosevelt became a political celebrity by leading his Rough Riders regiment in Cuba against Spanish troops—and the subsequent cruel subjugation of the Philippines. At the same time, within the party grew a dissident bloc of Progressive Republicans—which included T.R.—who wanted to take on the corruptions of politics and regulate the excesses and growing problems of the new industrialized economy and robber baron capitalism.

Elected governor of New York in 1898, that upstart Roosevelt began implementing liberal initiatives. He bolstered civil service reforms, started regulating sweatshops, and pushed companies to pay corporate taxes. This did not endear him to the Republican establishment, which cooked up a plan to sideline Roosevelt by shoving him into the vice presidency. With Roosevelt as his running mate, McKinley won reelection in 1900, again defeating Bryan. In September the following year, McKinley was shot dead by an anarchist. “I told McKinley it was a mistake to nominate that wild man,” Hanna complained, referring to Roosevelt, adding, “Now look. That damn cowboy is president of the United States.”

Roosevelt reoriented the party. He championed an activist federal government that would oversee (not undermine) business, promote a “Square Deal” for the booming middle class, conserve large swaths of land in the untamed West, and pursue grand ambitions overseas, such as the Panama Canal. The old guard of the GOP grumbled, but to the American public, it looked as if the Republican Party, with Roosevelt in the saddle, had returned to the progressivism of Lincoln.

The twenty-sixth president enacted legislation to prevent the railroads from price-gouging and to clean up the meat industry. He called for greater taxes on the wealthy, antitrust action, and federal oversight of the stock market. At a time when the United States was undergoing a profound transformation from an agricultural society to an industrialized powerhouse and expanding with new waves of immigration, T.R.—over the objections of leaders in the party—viewed government as a force to moderate the downsides of a rip-roaring, free-market economy. “I am not advocating anything revolutionary,” Roosevelt once said, “I am advocating action to prevent anything revolutionary.”

Then came William Howard Taft, Roosevelt’s secretary of war and close political ally. He succeeded Roosevelt as president after the 1908 election but sided with conservative Republicans and adopted a more cautious approach toward reform and regulation. He supported a new tariff measure that favored the business interests of the East. Taft’s stance infuriated Roosevelt. In a high-octane speech in 1910, he proclaimed the need for a “New Nationalism,” under which a strong government would further challenge corporate power to protect workers and consumers. He railed against “a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power.” He advocated abolishing corporate donations to political campaigns and called for laws to ensure a minimum wage and better working conditions.

Here was a new round in the fight for the soul of the Republican Party—and Roosevelt lost. The party rejected his comeback bid and renominated Taft in 1912. Roosevelt ran for president with the Progressive Party, aka the Bull Moose Party. This split gave the Democrats an opening, and their nominee, New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson, skated into the White House with far fewer votes than the combined totals for Roosevelt and Taft.

With Roosevelt out of the way, the Republican Party stayed with its default position: oppose reforms that checked corporate power. Such measures, party leaders warned, were socialistic. They said the same about the new progressive income tax Wilson and congressional Democrats enacted. They decried a new banking system that increased federal oversight of the financial industry. After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Republicans declared that Democrats, with their reforms, were similarly plotting to overthrow American capitalism. Following World War I, they denounced the proposed League of Nations as a socialist conspiracy to destroy the United States under the banner of internationalism.

As labor unrest and agitation spread after the war, Republicans, during the first Red Scare, warned of a Bolshevik threat at home. At its 1920 convention, the GOP nominated Warren G. Harding, a second-rate, backslapping politician who relished playing poker. His running mate was Calvin Coolidge, who as governor of Massachusetts had seized control of Boston during a police officers’ strike and earned national acclaim for thwarting the supposed advance of Bolshevism in the United States.

Harding promised a return to “normalcy,” which meant no more stirring the pot about American businesses screwing workers or consumers. During the campaign, Republicans courted Black votes in the North, as Harding assailed lynching but also defended segregation. He won in a GOP landslide. Voters were tired of the war and its aftermath. First-time women voters opted for the Republican.

The Harding White House stank of tobacco smoke and corruption. When Harding died suddenly, Coolidge became the chief executive. With Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover and Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon by Silent Cal’s side, the party of business doubled down. They slashed government spending and cut taxes for the wealthy. Commerce was booming in the Roaring Twenties. The new technologies of radio and movies were spreading, as were automobiles and electricity. Consumerism and mass media were on the march. Wall Street was jazzed with speculation. The Republicans saw no reason to get in the way of this. They were the party of unfettered capitalism and triumphalism. When Hoover was nominated in 1928 as the party’s presidential candidate, he declared, “We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land.”

American politics had long had an ugly side. (Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in 1796 and 1800 had waged bitter, smear-filled battles.) But the 1928 campaign, with Hoover running against Al Smith, the Democratic governor of New York, featured an expanded use of sleaze: religious bigotry. Smith was a Catholic, and the Republicans sought to exploit the widespread prejudice against Catholicism.

Anti-Catholic sentiment in part grew out of antagonism toward immigrants from Ireland, Italy, and elsewhere, but it also was inflamed by a conspiratorial notion. Catholics were suspected of being loyal—and secretly so—to the Pope, not America. Smith’s nomination sparked panic in some Protestant quarters. Rumors spread: If Smith were elected, all Protestant marriages would be annulled. One Baptist leader declared a vote for Smith was a vote against Christ. Flyers showed a photograph of the Holland Tunnel and declared it was a secret passageway between Rome and Washington for the Pope to employ. A widely circulated cartoon depicted the Pope at the head of the table in the Cabinet Room of the White House, with priests and bishops by his side and Smith, dressed like a bellboy, in the corner.

Hoover and his campaign did not directly engage in Catholic-bashing, but state and local Republicans distributed pamphlets that denounced Smith and Catholicism. They also spread the word that Smith approved of interracial marriage. It was a strategy designed to capitalize on fear, bigotry, and religious paranoia. These smear tactics might not have been necessary for the GOP to prevail. With the economy still zipping along, Hoover won handily.

The GOP was fully entrenched as a conservative party—abandoning the progressivism of Lincoln and Roosevelt—and the two main parties settled into the fundamental roles that would exist for the next hundred years. The GOP was the party of business, opposed to government power (except regarding the national security state); the Democrats would challenge, to varying degrees, the prerogatives of the economically powerful, and at times they would wave the progressive banner but, at this point, not on race. (Some of the fiercest white supremacists of the South were Democrats.)

Yet after October 29, 1929—Black Tuesday—it was no longer an asset to be the party of big business. The stock market collapsed, and the Twenties ceased to roar. An immense depression and mass unemployment ensued. Hoover and the Republicans were at a loss as to what to do. They continued to revile big government and proceeded to slash spending (which threw more people out of work). For a decade, the Republicans had called the shots. They owned the system, and it lay in tatters.

Hoover’s loss to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 was no surprise. Once more, a Roosevelt wielded federal power to save American capitalism from itself. In response to FDR’s New Deal, the Republicans fractured yet again. A camp led by Hoover, with its spiritual heart in the Midwest and rural areas, would play the Red card, assailing Roosevelt’s moves as socialism. The competing wing, centered in the urban areas of the East, accepted that a modern industrialized economy required some degree of government oversight and a limited amount of social welfare programs. But in the first years of Roosevelt’s era, the conservatives reigned within the GOP.

As Roosevelt steered the nation toward a society of grand public works, financial regulation, organized labor, and social protection, Republicans tended to bitterly oppose “that man” in the White House and his programs. Their first attempt to boot him out of the office—with Kansas Governor Alf Landon, a former oil executive, as the GOP nominee—was an abysmal flop. Landon declared that the nation’s existence was at stake and that only his election would preserve “the American form of government.” The business community was on his side and pumped millions into the Landon campaign. Roosevelt, supported by urban voters and Black Americans who had moved into Northern cities after World War I during the Great Migration, swamped Landon, winning 46 out of 48 states, and Republicans dropped to near-irrelevant numbers in Congress, 88 members in the House and 19 in the Senate.

Still, conservatives remained the dominant force within the GOP, and as Nazi aggression in Europe set off a second world war, leading Republicans became key voices of isolationism. Yet when it came time to pick a champion to go up against FDR in 1940, the conservatives, who were pushing Senator Robert Taft, the son of President Taft and a steadfast isolationist who embodied the party’s small-government and pro-business values, ran into the campaign of Thomas Dewey, the thirty-seven-year-old crusading district attorney of New York, who had earned a national reputation battling the mob.

Though a stiff campaigner, Dewey attracted support from the liberals within the party and became the front-runner. Yet neither side could win the day at the party’s convention, and an improbable candidate snatched the nomination: Wendell Willkie, a Wall Street lawyer, former Indiana utility executive, and onetime Democrat who had never held or run for public office and who was backed by the party’s moderates. Willkie criticized the New Deal’s “antibusiness philosophy.” Roosevelt campaigned against him by both decrying the isolationism of the GOP and vowing to keep American “boys” from being “sent into any foreign war.” With the Democrats still holding the South and scoring big in the cities, Roosevelt clobbered Willkie to win an unprecedented third term.

Within the Republican Party, a resentment began to simmer, as conservatives groused that the Eastern establishment had forced a moderate (who had registered as a Republican only the year before!) upon them as a nominee. The grand pooh-bahs had sold out the party’s heart and soul. A slow fuse was lit.

As the nation pondered how to respond to Adolf Hitler’s conquests in Europe and the widening conflict overseas, conservative Republicans led by Taft continued to champion isolationism. With the attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941—in which more than 2,400 Americans were killed—the debate became moot. Over the previous twelve years, the Republicans had ended up on the wrong side of both economic policy and national security policy. Its prospects were not promising.

Following several years of war that generated government spending that helped bring the Great Depression to an end, the GOP had a fourth shot at Roosevelt in 1944. Dewey, now governor of New York, secured the nomination without much of a fight, and the party adopted moderate and even progressive policies: endorsing the Equal Rights Amendment that would enshrine women’s rights, favoring the extension of Social Security, and acknowledging the need for labor protection laws. It looked as if the Republican Party had finally made its peace with the modern welfare state, and it adopted a moderate stance of internationalism. Dewey called himself a “New Deal Republican.” The party’s main line of attack was a personal slam against Roosevelt. Four more years of that man, its platform warned, “would centralize all power in the President, and would daily subject every act of every citizen to regulation by his henchmen; the country would remain a Republic only in name.”

During the campaign, Dewey and the Republicans expanded on this apocalyptic rhetoric and deployed what would soon become a common tactic for the party: baseless Red-baiting. Dewey declared “the Communists are seizing control of the New Deal through which they aim to control the government of the United States.” The enemy within, subversion, treason—the Republicans were endeavoring to stir up suspicion and fear. But with the war still on—and with Russia helping by battling Hitler’s armies—the scare tactics didn’t stick. Not yet. Roosevelt decisively defeated Dewey.

After Roosevelt’s death in 1945 and Vice President Harry Truman’s ascension to the highest office, the Republicans, blasting the Democrats for the administration’s postwar policy, won control of both houses of Congress in 1946 and throttled Truman’s legislative agenda. (Representative B. Carroll Reece of Tennessee, the Republican Party chair, had called the midterm campaign a contest of “Communism vs. Americanism.”) Working with Southern Democrats, they beat back the civil rights legislation and taxes of the New Deal. They also weakened labor law to benefit corporations. And the Republicans ramped up the anticommunist crusade.

In Republican hands, the House Un-American Activities Committees—often referred to as HUAC—intensified its hunt for subversives. The committee held hearings designed to show communists had taken hold of Hollywood. One friendly witness was an actor named Ronald Reagan. He testified that he abhorred communists and their underhanded tactics but noted he didn’t think they could get too far in the movie industry. He added an important caveat: “I never as a citizen want to see our country become urged, by either fear or resentment of this group, that we ever compromise with any of our democratic principles.”

Fear, though, was becoming the main currency of the party Reagan would one day lead. Serving on HUAC was a freshman Republican from southern California named Richard Nixon, who had won his seat in the Republican sweep of 1946 by decrying the liberal Democratic incumbent as “more Socialistic and Communistic than Democratic.” He assumed a prominent role when HUAC, in hearings covered by the new medium of television, examined the explosive charge from Whittaker Chambers, a self-confessed former communist operative, that Alger Hiss, a past State Department official, had been part of his secret spy ring in the 1930s—an accusation Hiss vehemently denied. The Hiss controversy would turn Nixon into a political star and bolster the dark conspiratorial narrative Republicans increasingly relied upon: Subversion from within was a clear and present danger, and the Democrats were too soft to stand up to the enemy or, worse, were secretly allied with it.


  • “David Corn’s AMERICAN PSYCHOSIS is essential reading for anyone hoping to restore political sanity in America. He argues convincingly that the toxic brew of bigotry, conspiracy theories, and lies that define Trumpism started long before Trump. Corn chronicles the Republican Party’s decades-long slide into the gutter and weaves this investigative history into a compelling narrative that is equal parts horrifying and entertaining. Corn has managed to make brilliant sense of American senselessness.”—Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money
  • “In this searing and deeply reported work, Corn recounts how the modern GOP succumbed to the extremism, alternative realities, and paranoia that spread the ‘American psychosis’ that exploded on January 6. A desperately important read.”—Charlie Sykes, author of How The Right Lost Its Mind
  • “David Corn makes the powerful case that Donald Trump didn’t come out of nowhere. He expertly traces the antecedents of Trump and Trumpism over the decades. This is a must-read if you want to understand what brought us to Trump and why the GOP remains a threat to American democracy.”—Jennifer Rubin, columnist, the Washington Post
  • “AMERICAN PSYCHOSIS requires us to revisit the dark forces that have shaped our government and charges us to safeguard American democracy from those who inflame our worst instincts to destroy it.”—Heather Cox Richardson, professor of history, Boston College
  • “The hatred, bigotry, conspiracism, paranoia, and rage inside the GOP didn’t start with Donald Trump. In this important and convincing account, David Corn shows that such poison has been in the marrow of the Republican Party for more than seventy years.”—Jonathan Alter, author of The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies
  • "AMERICAN PSYCHOSIS is a brave and important book, written by one of the sharpest political writers of our time."—Molly Jong-Fast, contributing writer, The Atlantic
  • "The genesis from a conventional party to a fanatic cult did not start with Donald Trump. The roots go much deeper and much further back. David Corn, with rich detail and in compelling prose, gives us a full history of the journey to crazy. Whether you have read a lot about the Republican Party or are just beginning to examine how the country could have come to this deeply dangerous point, AMERICAN PSYCHOSIS is a must read."—Norman Ornstein, Emeritus Scholar, The American Enterprise Institute
  • "David Corn was at the forefront of journalism in detailing the corruption and danger of the Trump campaign and the Trump Presidency. Now, he has taken a highly useful long look back at the far right's role in Republican politics over the decades. Trump and Trumpism did not come from nowhere. There is a long back story. Corn tells it here, bringing to history the verve and energy he brings to all of his reporting."—E. J. Dionne Jr., author, Why the Right Went Wrong
  • "The veteran political journalist connects the authoritarianism and White supremacism of yore with the Trumpism of today... It’s a zigzag line indeed, but Corn makes important connections. ...A sobering look at the ideological destruction, born of cynicism and opportunism, of a once-principled party.”—Kirkus Reviews
  • "David Corn’s new book chronicles how Republicans themselves made the MAGA Monster that now devours their party. Every modern Republican, Trump supporter or not, has been complicit in this nightmare"—Elie Mystal, correspondent, The Nation
  • "[Corn is] a great journalist. I love the way he thinks. I love the way he writes. I'm so glad he's done a super-readable, modern history of the right...We just need smart, digestible history about this stuff right now...[AMERICAN PSYCHOSIS] is perfectly timed...Relevant history for where we are right now."—Rachel Maddow, host, The Rachel Maddow Show
  • "With AMERICAN PSYCHOSIS, David Corn 'did the full homework to take us all the way back to where it really begins.'"—Lawrence O'Donnell, host, The Last Word
  • "David Corn “documents in this colorful and persuasive treatise ‘the Republican Party’s decades-long relationship with extremism.’…[Corn] draws a clear through line from the rise of Barry Goldwater to the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot….[I]ncisive political history.”—Publisher's Weekly

On Sale
Sep 12, 2023
Page Count
416 pages

David Corn

About the Author

David Corn is a veteran Washington journalist and political commentator. He is the Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones magazine and an analyst for MSNBC. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, including Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Battled the GOP to Set Up the 2012 Election and Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War (co-written with Michael Isikoff). He is also the author of the biography Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA’s Crusades and the novel Deep Background.

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