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Too Dumb to Fail
How the GOP Went from the Party of Reagan to the Party of Trump
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In 1963 Richard Hofstadter published his landmark book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. Today, Matt Lewis argues, America’s inclination toward simplicity and stupidity is stronger than ever, and its greatest victim is the Republican Party. Lewis, a respected conservative columnist and frequent guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, eviscerates the phenomenon of candidates with a “no experience required” mentality and tea party “patriots” who possess bluster but few core beliefs.
Lewis traces the conservative movement’s roots, from Edmund Burke to William F. Buckley, and from Goldwater’s loss to Reagan’s landslide victory. He highlights visionary thinkers who understood nuance and deep ideology and changed the course of the nation. As we approach the 2016 presidential election, Lewis has an urgent message for fellow conservatives: embrace wisdom, humility, qualifications, and inclusion — or face extinction.
Table of Contents
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Matt Lewis is going to make a lot of people angry with this book, especially those who profit from making people angry, especially those who pretend to be conservative activists but are instead plunderers of the poorly informed populist fringe. Lewis is out to save the conservative movement from itself, from its headlong rush into permanent frenzy. Along the way he holds up for praise those who are nursing the conservative garden while blasting away at the forces seeking to surround it with castle walls marked by heads on pikes and bristling with cauldrons of tar for anyone who draws close and isn't appropriately credentialed.
My own business of talk radio takes some shots in Too Dumb to Fail, many deserved, some wide of the mark, but in finding, for example, space to both praise Rush Limbaugh and knock him, Lewis is demonstrating the eye that has given him a unique space in the universe of center-right writers and commentators, the one reserved for those about whom it can be written, "Respected on all sides."
Lewis is also a Christian, of the sort that doesn't tell you that very often, and so his comments on how the faith fares in the thirty-year war that is modern American politics are must reading. But so is the whole sharp, revealing, often-funny, never-dull assessment of Reaganism at the brink—whether renewing or plummeting into history's abyss we will see.
—Hugh Hewitt, October 2015
"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding."
In September 2010, I took part in a conservative think tank panel discussion on the rise of a new phenomenon known as the Tea Party—a loose-knit group of aspiring activists who previously were not engaged in the political process. In contrast to the other panelists, I argued that, while the entry of new activists and voters into politics was usually a welcome development, the characteristics that came to define the Tea Party posed significant challenges to the Republican Party: doubling down on anti-intellectualism, courting isolationism, and taking cues from amateurs who lacked experience and professionalism. My comments, though delivered in a tone I considered measured and thoughtful, evoked murmuring and at least a few audible gasps. The question hanging on the lips of many audience members was clear: Why wasn't a conservative writer blindly cheerleading this seminal moment in conservative movement history?
One of the forum's other speakers was an avuncular and sharp conservative leader who had worked for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and he was now the head of an important conservative organization. At the event, he bristled at my remarks. "That's just what people said about the Christian Coalition in the 1980s," he charged, winning the crowd's approval.
A few days later, while direct messaging with one of his aides on Twitter, I learned the truth. "He agreed with everything you said," the aide confided. "He just thought it was foolish to say so out loud."
This is the dirty little secret of the conservative movement in America today: everyone knows that it has lost its intellectual bearings. Empty-headed talking point reciters, rookie politicians who've never managed anything in their lives, media clowns such as Donald Trump, dim bulbs in tight pants or short skirts, professionally outraged shout-fest talking heads, and total political neophytes dominate conservative airwaves and the Right's political discourse.
It wasn't always like this. A half century ago, the presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater was nearing a disastrous end. Lyndon Johnson, Goldwater's Democratic opponent in the 1964 election, had bludgeoned the Arizona senator as a conservative extremist who would recklessly start a nuclear war. Trailing in every poll with time dwindling, Goldwater's supporters (led by an auto dealer named Holmes Tuttle) decided to spend a small fortune for thirty minutes of TV airtime. To make the case for Goldwater, they chose a former actor and Screen Actors Guild president named Ronald Reagan. Officially titled "A Time for Choosing," the spot became known simply as "The Speech." The story of how it came to be is interesting. Reagan (who was then serving as cochairman of Californians for Goldwater) traveled the state, stumping for his candidate. After addressing a fund-raiser in Los Angeles, Reagan recalled that he was approached by "a delegation of high-powered Republicans" who asked if he would deliver the speech on TV if they funded it. "I said yes and suggested that, instead of just having me in a studio alone, they bring in an audience to get a little better feel," he recalled.1
Reagan began his address by remarking that he had chosen his own words and would be discussing his own ideas. Back in 1964, neither of those facts was especially startling. Political speakers frequently wrote their own speeches, and the political arena still welcomed the debate of big ideas. Goldwater and his team initially opposed the plan, fearing Reagan would overshadow Goldwater.2 Of course, he did. But "The Speech" also helped raise millions of dollars for Goldwater's campaign. And, of course, it ultimately served as the catalyst that would make Ronald Reagan the president sixteen years later.
At a time when the electorate was still comfortable with Franklin Roosevelt's big government philosophy and the United Nations was seen as maintaining global peace, Reagan's promotion of free market principles and hawkish foreign policy challenged conventional wisdom of the day. But what was not unusual is that "The Speech" had substance. In his first minute and a half, Reagan effortlessly cited eight statistics. In the next half hour, he cited forty more. Behind his command of details and data was an elevated rhetoric that challenged his listeners to consider "the long history of man's relation to man" and "his long climb from the swamp to the stars."
Reagan's address fell short of reversing Goldwater's descent, but it propelled Reagan's own election win two years later as the next governor of California, when he vanquished the once popular two-term New Deal Democrat Pat Brown. Twenty years later, when he was elected to his second term in the White House with the support of forty-nine states, he could look back at the words he chose in October 1964 and "The Speech" that started the Reagan Revolution.
Today, almost everything about Reagan's address is inconceivable. No political consultant would advise a struggling campaign to buy thirty minutes of airtime for an ideological monologue. We assume the modern attention span demands information in thirty-second installments or less, preferably with alternately ominous and bathetic music and computer graphics (the video-sharing service Vine features looping videos just six seconds long, and the service is wildly popular).
Today, no aspiring politician would deliver a speech that wasn't poll tested, consultant crafted, and focus group approved. Reagan's speech had instead been honed by decades of Reagan's reading, thinking, and writing about history, economics, and international relations. Who has time for all that?
As it turns out, the answer is…just about every significant political leader in American history, including the likes of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, William Seward, Thaddeus Stevens, William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan.
As unimaginable as it sounds, there was once a time when Americans could turn on their televisions and not expect to hear a parade of tired and trite talking points spewed forth from a split screen of four screaming pundits with no experience or expertise in whatever ratings-driven controversy cable news had manufactured for that day. Ideas mattered. Men and women fought over ideas and thought before they spoke. Politicians speaking on television and writing in newspapers (ask your parents) were judged by their expertise and eloquence, not their ability to outshout the medley of other amateur gasbags vying to entertain and excite an audience that long ago surrendered any hope of being informed or inspired.
The Republican Party is called the Grand Old Party for a reason. It was founded on big ideas: abolishing slavery and holding together a federal republic. But the dumbing down of the GOP has gone on for so long that nearly half of Republicans don't know what that acronym stands for.3
I am not suggesting that liberals are immune to these problems. They faced similar struggles in past decades and settled for simplistic solutions. Over the years, liberals came to believe a university president could keep us out of war, a plain-speaking peanut farmer could restore honor to Washington after Watergate, and a community organizer could unite America. Democrats went through their own time in the wilderness, losing three consecutive presidential elections from 1980 to 1992. But their identity crises didn't coincide with a time when respect for institutions was declining, when outside groups made it possible for backbench politicians to usurp a leader's authority without fear of retribution, and when a technological revolution meant any Tom, Dick, or Harry could have a megaphone and a printing press on his smartphone.
Perhaps it's not fair to compare the mediums, but—just for a second—juxtapose Ronald Reagan's 1964 speech and one of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin's infamous posts to her four million-plus fans on Facebook, which concluded with the words, "Thank you, prayer warriors! I love you!" Until Palin came along, Reagan was the last Republican to generate euphoric excitement within the Party. And he was not without flaws. But from his first televised address to his last, he appealed, in his words, "to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts."4 He did not, as Palin does, blame the "liberal media" for his problems. In fact, he was not quick to blame anyone for his problems—or for yours. Solutions mattered more than indictments; ideas mattered more than enemies; and his nation mattered more than his ego. The product of a generation that prized actions over words, he showed his love for our country by serving it, not closing his statements by calling out, "I love you!" For Reagan, "God bless America" did just fine.
Somewhere between Reagan's thirty-minute speech in 1964 and the most recent government shutdown, the conservative movement became neither conservative nor a movement. Hijacked by the divisive and the dumb, it now finds itself hostage to emotions and irrational thinking. It became more personal and less principled—more flippant and less thoughtful. It became mean. It became lazy. It became its own worst enemy. Where once the movement drew strength from its desire to win the philosophical argument over its adversaries, it now wears its lost causes as badges of honor—expected, like Coriolanus, to show these battle scars as a means of vote mongering.
This is the story of how that happened, and how the Republican Party has become the latest victim of a dumbed-down popular culture. Far from burying the conservative movement, I hope with this book—to borrow from Shakespeare—to save it.
Too Dumb to Fail
So why call it Too Dumb to Fail?
The title is a play on words—an allusion to Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail, about the financial crisis of 2008. The crisis was brought on in part by the fact that individual actors (in this case, financial institutions) behaved unethically and ignored warnings that bubbles would eventually burst. And when they did, some of the actors were deemed too big and too interconnected to be allowed to fail, and were, thus, bailed out by the taxpayers.
As Sorkin described it, this climate created what economists called a "moral hazard," meaning that future companies (knowing they will be bailed out when things go wrong) now had an incentive to take even greater risks.
Today's Republican Party faces similar perverse incentives. It's in everyone's best interest to ignore the potential looming crisis. For example, the fact that Republicans have lost the popular vote in five out of the last six presidential elections should be cause for grave concern. Instead, it's barely mentioned. Part of the reason is that individual actors (instead of financial institutions—think political candidates, organizations, etc.) are prospering. They have little reason to change their behavior because they profit, regardless of whether a Republican candidate wins the presidency. (In fact, they may profit more if a Democrat wins.) And, of course, although there are continual threats of third parties, the notion of abandoning the "too big to fail" GOP seems highly unlikely.
Speaking of a moral hazard, rather than addressing the serious problems (demographic, as well as rapidly shifting public opinion on a spate of social issues) facing the GOP, almost all the incentives—including fund-raising and media attention—reward a sort of dumbed-down, red meat–hurling style that kicks the can down the road. This book is about the irony that the dumbing down of conservatism has (so far) resulted in the worst offenders failing forward. They are, in essence, too dumb to fail.
Now, a few words about what this book is not.
This book is not an argument for a small, elite group of the best and brightest to rule us by using their sophisticated formulas and technocratic ways. While I was writing the book, a scandal erupted and revealed that Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of Obamacare, had boasted that the health care law benefited from a "lack of transparency" and the "stupidity of the American voter." This is the kind of snobbishness that fosters American skepticism about the "ruling class," the "Washington cartel," and the so-called "experts."
I'm the son of a prison guard. I grew up in a place called Wolfsville, Maryland—situated between Frederick and Hagerstown, about eight miles from Camp David. (Our other claim to fame is that the 2002 DC sniper was apprehended at the Myersville McDonald's, which is about five miles from where I grew up.) Today, Wolfsville is basically a bedroom community for people who commute to DC or Baltimore; but not that long ago, it was about as rural as you could get. I went to school with a kid who didn't have indoor plumbing until we were in middle school. In elementary school, when they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, the number one answer was "farmer" and the number two answer was "truck driver." (I wanted to play for the Baltimore Orioles.) Later, my dad, who had been a country musician as a younger man and played for a band called Irene and the Country Rascals, taught me how to pick country and bluegrass guitar. When I went to high school in Middletown, Maryland, I was immediately labeled a redneck by virtue of coming from the sticks. In short, I'm the last person to promote elitism. My book is instead a call for a meritocracy where our political and opinion leaders earn and deserve our loyalty.
Too Dumb to Fail is not an argument that intelligence is more important than wisdom or courage. Were that the case, Jimmy Carter, a nuclear engineer and graduate of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, would have been preferable to Ronald Reagan, a humble graduate of Eureka College, and Bill Clinton, a Rhodes scholar, would have won my vote over Russell, Kansas's, Bob Dole. In this regard, I agree with Theodore Roosevelt, a Manhattan intellectual turned roughriding cowboy: "Exactly as strength comes before beauty, so character must stand above intellect and genius."
This book is not a criticism or an indictment of the many God-fearing good conservative activists and individuals who attend rallies and want to take their country back. Nor is it an attack on rural Americans (among whose number I counted myself for the first twenty-four years of my life) or Christians (I'm an evangelical).
Lastly, this book is not an argument for credentialism—the theory that says two-term Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who, by all accounts, appears to be both serious and competent, wasn't qualified to be president just because he doesn't have a college degree. With my humble West Virginia–based BS degree, I am the last person to believe politics should be the exclusive province of Rhodes scholars and Ivy Leaguers. Lincoln never went to college. Harry Truman never graduated.5
What I am suggesting, though, is that the current challenges confronting conservatism have to do with a deficit of both intellect and wisdom—as well as discipline, humility, and prudence. What we need, in short, are adults. But somewhere along the way, the adults started acting like kids; they started wanting to be popular—to be liked, rather than feared or respected.
This book is also an indictment of the charlatans, organizations, and political candidates who attempt to exploit good conservative Americans and hijack the conservative movement. As such, my rhetorical crosshairs are reserved exclusively for those who would manipulate conservatives and besmirch their conservative cause—all for ulterior motives (cash, not least among them).
Intellectuals, the Establishment, and Populism
I want to define a couple of terms that get bandied about in this book. For our purposes, the word intellectual is defined in philosophically neutral terms. In my mind, the word refers to "a learned person who thinks about big ideas, endeavors to study history and philosophy, and engages in critical thought and reflection." This is close to historian Richard Hofstadter's definition that an intellectual is someone who "in some sense lives for ideas—which means he has a sense of dedication to the life of the mind which is very much like a religious commitment."6 Most of the people discussed in this book might also be thought of as public intellectuals, inasmuch as they sought to inject their ideas into politics and the broader culture.
It is important to concede that the word intellectual is often assumed to have an ideological connotation. For example, in British historian Paul Johnson's appropriately titled book Intellectuals, the brilliant men he profiles (including Rousseau, Sartre, Shelley, Marx, Tolstoy, and Hemingway—Ernest not Mariel, for you folks in Rio Linda) tend to be ruthless, selfish, secular men of the Left, who "preferred ideas to people." Having emerged from an era where the church and the earthly (if divinely appointed) monarchies were assumed to have all the answers—not just theologically, but also philosophically and scientifically—it was perhaps natural for the newly unshackled great minds of the time to rebel. And rebel they did—in many cases, stubbornly so.
I want to debunk the notion that to be an intellectual is to be a liberal secularist. This may prove to be an uphill battle. The Left promotes the stereotype that to be conservative is to be stupid. Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin have been served up (often unfairly) as examples of this. But unfortunately, especially since the 1960s, conservatives—many of them highly educated in their own right—have been complicit in advancing this trope by playing the populist card and mocking "pointy-headed intellectuals." You'll rarely hear a conservative boast that he (or a friend) is an intellectual. And this has nothing to do with humbleness. The word has a negative connotation on the Right. A liberal might be an intellectual, but a smart conservative—if he can help it—is a "man of letters."
The term establishment also deserves an asterisk. By definition, it means "the power structure," which is a philosophically neutral term. Today, it is not uncommon for "leaders" of the conservative movement to constantly lament the so-called "establishment." Ironically, many of these men and women have lived in the Washington, DC, area (sometimes for decades) and have made millions of dollars during that time. In what world are they not part of it?
Then there is the term populist. What does it mean? If it means someone who favors the American people over big government and the crony capitalists who rig the system to benefit big business over the little guy, then count me in. Amitai Etzioni, professor of international relations at the George Washington University, calls this kind of populism "popular populism." And that's a pretty descriptive name. As Etzioni wrote in a January 2015 column for the Atlantic, about half of us think politicians are corrupt.7 "Very low on people's 'trust' lists are all those perceived as powerful, including not just the government but also banks and corporations and labor unions," he wrote. "This kind of populism appeals to both those on the left, such as the Occupy Wall Street folks, and to Tea Partiers."
If, instead, populism represents the demagogic politics of nativism, xenophobia, resentment, know-nothingism, victimhood, bitterness, envy (specifically on the Left, in the form of redistributionism8), and/or protectionism—used as a rhetorical cudgel to manipulate the masses—then count me (and most of the public) out. Unfortunately, it sometimes does. Populism often requires scapegoats. As National Review's Jonah Goldberg has noted, "It should be no surprise that populism is a conducive medium for anti-Semitism. America's nineteenth-century populists were always quick to blame 'the Jews' for their troubles."9 When you pander to the whims and passions of the public, you are bound to find that the majority isn't always correct or even moral. Then, what's a leader to do? "The people of Nebraska are for free silver and I am for free silver," populist William Jennings Bryan is said to have declared in 1892. Compare that to Edmund Burke's speech to electors at Bristol, November 3, 1774: "You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament." The dichotomy is stark: Bryan's populist politics was really followship; Burke's conservative politics was leadership.
In the chapters that follow, I will come down hard on this negative brand of populism. I admit it. I've come to believe that this strain of populism has become synonymous with "conservatism," and is therefore partly to blame for the dumbing down of conservatism. As Peter Wehner wrote in a New York Times column titled "Conservatives in Name Only," "What often masquerades as conservatism these days is really populism. There is room for populism within conservatism, but it should not define conservatism. In fact, it is often in conflict with it." Sadly, in recent years, populist conservatives have invoked a sort of class warfare. Thus, the "ruling class" versus "country class" rhetoric has come to define one's political identity, replacing the "Left" versus "Right" paradigm. One's political philosophy, as such, is less important than one's perceived status as an outsider who "tells it like it is."
One of the ironies of the dumbing down is that it often stems from the work of highly intelligent people. There seems to be a misconception about well-traveled and highly educated people that suggests they are more open-minded and tolerant than the rest of us. Not only have I found little correlation between intelligence and open-mindedness, I wonder if the two may even be mutually exclusive. Some of the smartest people on either side of the aisle are also the most biased. They simply use their intellect to more effectively argue their biases. Some of the most pompous, partisan blowhards on the Right and the Left also tend to be the most intelligent and highly educated. What explains this? "It doesn't matter how intelligent you are if you don't use your brain," says Daniel Flynn, author of the book Intellectual Morons. "Intelligent people aren't necessarily rigorous thinkers. In fact, many of them are mentally lazy. Ideology provides a way for lazy people to respond to issues, ideas, people, and events without thinking."10
I would take this argument one step further: many of the great ills in the world (let's take Communism, for example) were not the result of ignorant or stupid people. Some of history's greatest evils have sprung from very smart people who lacked wisdom. In Intellectuals and Society, Thomas Sowell put it thus: "The opposite of intellect is dullness or slowness, but the opposite of wisdom is foolishness, which is far more dangerous." My purpose here is to encourage conservatives to seek both knowledge and wisdom, along with other virtues such as courage, authenticity, empathy, discipline, consistency, and humility. Intelligence is important, but without these other attributes, it is more dangerous than ignorance.
Who Am I to Judge?
Fears about a dumbed-down America are nothing new. Richard Hofstadter warned us about Anti-intellectualism in American Life fifty years ago (his book won the 1964 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction). But when Hofstadter wrote his book, John F. Kennedy—who combined style with intellectual substance—was president. The Kennedy administration rewarded intellectualism and boasted of its own intellectual vigor. It brought top-notch artists and authors and thinkers to the White House and actually celebrated them. One could only imagine what Hofstadter would think now.
Today's media environment is hostile to serious people who offer thoughtful ideas. We refuse to embrace complexity in major public policy decisions. We reward and elevate leaders who lack either the depth or the experience to address major national problems (and yes, this is a criticism not just of the Right, but also of Exhibit A: Barack Hussein Obama). As a result, our culture is dumb. And our leaders are unprepared and often unfit for the offices they hold.
So why am I, a conservative-leaning journalist, writing this book when there are so many worthy topics out there? "Why not write a book talking about all the sins committed by liberals?" you might ask. My task may be a thankless endeavor. This business of constructive criticism is always fraught with danger. Because the mainstream media has long covered conservatives with the distortive filter of latent liberal bias, there is a sense that center-right journalists ought to eschew criticizing the Right, and instead, devote themselves solely to a tit-for-tat exchange with the mainstream media. In other words, I should be in the business of seeking revenge. Many of my friends on the Right believe center-right journalists should exist solely to boost conservative candidates and causes—and to attack liberal ones. Whether this is a desire for payback or simply a push for journalistic parity is moot. These are their expectations of conservative media.
I work at the Daily Caller
- "Lewis is a product of the conservative counterestablishment as reinvented by the Internet revolution... Lewis' knockabout style is a relief.... [He] argues that conservatives must recover the enthusiasm for ideas they had in the Reagan era."—New York Times Book Review (cover review)
- "I've been reading Matt for a long time. He's always incisive and thoughtful and this book is both. Anyone who cares about the future of the Republican party should read it."—Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal columnist
- "Matt K. Lewis takes the most unconventional possible approach to Washington journalism: he's completely honest all the time. Not everyone likes him for it, but that's their problem. Like Matt himself, this book is cheerful, smart and insightful as hell. Buy two copies."—Tucker Carlson, editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller, co-host of FOX & Friends Weekend
- "Matt K. Lewis has fought in the trenches of some of our hottest political battles, occupying a unique position at the intersection of conservative politics and the popular culture. He brings a rare perspective to everything he writes about, and manages to look at what everyone else is looking at and see what no one sees."—Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs
- "Matt K. Lewis has written an insightful book about the roots of the conservative movement-and just how far Washington Republicans have diverged from that proud past. Too Dumb to Fail is a major achievement from one of conservatism's most important voices, and it could not come at a more critical time."—Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's Morning Joe
- "Matt K. Lewis is one of the sharpest and most principled political commentators of our day. Too Dumb to Fail is a lively and fascinating read for any person confounded by the state of today's Republican Party. Lewis provides some much-needed tough love as well as a clear way forward for the GOP. If Republicans are smart, they'll make this book mandatory reading."—Kirsten Powers, New York Times-bestselling author of The Silencing
- "Very few books about politics get my 'must read' stamp, but Matt Lewis' is one of them. Every conservative feeling as though the movement has collapsed, every Republican despairing of ever winning the White House, every independent who has no idea what to do or whom to support, should read this book immediately."—Hugh Hewitt, host of The Hugh Hewitt Show
- "Too Dumb to Fail traces the evolution of conservative philosophy from Aristotle to Burke to the present in a clear and readable way that reminds us why conservatives need big ideas--and why America needs conservatism."—Arthur C. Brooks, President, American Enterprise Institute
- "Too Dumb to Fail... functions as a smart, sobering pre-mortem on 2016. Now, most books about 'fixing' conservatism are written by liberal concern-trolls who secretly want to kill it. But Lewis is an actual, real-deal conservative.... This, ultimately, is what Lewis really wants: A conservative movement that honors its intellectuals, that works through its ideological problems honestly, and that doesn't rush to glorify hucksters.... If you put Donald Trump or Sarah Palin back in 1980, they couldn't last a week in the ring with the Gipper. Because back then, conservatives expected more from their leaders. Matt Lewis thinks we should expect more today, too. He's probably right."—Jonathan V. Last, The Weekly Standard
- "[Lewis] does not shy away from naming names.... This book is far from a standard D.C. 'if only they listened to me' critique.... Conservatives who feel dismayed at the current state of affairs should run out and buy Lewis' book."—Henry Olsen, The Weekly Standard
- "A good book... Lewis writes with panache."—The Buffalo News
- "Too Dumb to Fail provides the Republican Party a roadmap to get back to its intellectual foundations. With the rise of Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, the book perfectly represents the state of the Republican Party and where it's headed if it doesn't return to its core beliefs... Prescient."—Christian Schneider, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
- "Lewis ... has probed the true makeup of today's GOP."—Washington Post
- "Lewis' book offers a wise and far-reaching and brave take on how we got here and what conservatives must do to enlist the 'accumulated wisdom of the past to make our future even brighter.'... Too Dumb to Fail is worth reading and pondering, because we are watching many of the themes Lewis pinpoints play out in real time ... Too Dumb to Fail is a great summing up. It's also practical and specific. Earnest, witty and well-meaning, Lewis is more of a truth-teller than a diplomat or glad-hander. He names names.... This will not make [Lewis] popular. After the November 2016 elections, however, it may make Matt Lewis something of a prophet."—Washington Times
- "Right from the beginning, Lewis shows the courage to take on conventional wisdoms in modern conservatism, and that alone makes his book essential."—Craig Shirley,Newsmax
- "A great read... Really worth reading and thinking about."—Newt Gingrich (via Facebook)
- On Sale
- Jan 26, 2016
- Page Count
- 240 pages
- Hachette Books