The Corrosion of Conservatism

Why I Left the Right

Max Boot recounts his extraordinary journey from lifelong Republican to vehement Trump opponent. From the isolated position of a man without a party, Boot launches this bold declaration of dissent and its urgent plea for true, bipartisan cooperation.

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

Warning that the Trump presidency presages America’s decline, Max Boot, political commentator and Council on Foreign Relations Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies, recounts his extraordinary journey from lifelong Republican to vehement Trump opponent.

As nativism, xenophobia, vile racism, and assaults on the rule of law threaten the very fabric of our nation, The Corrosion of Conservatism presents an urgent defense of American democracy.

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Pronouncing Mexican immigrants to be “rapists,” Donald Trump announced his 2015 presidential bid, causing Max Boot to think he was watching a dystopian science-fiction movie. The respected conservative historian couldn’t fathom that the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan could endorse such an unqualified reality-TV star. Yet the Twilight Zone episode that Boot believed he was watching created an ideological dislocation so shattering that Boot’s transformation from Republican foreign policy adviser to celebrated anti-Trump columnist becomes the dramatic story of The Corrosion of Conservatism.

No longer a Republican, but also not a Democrat, Boot here records his ideological journey from a “movement” conservative to a man without a party, beginning with his political coming-of-age as a young émigré from the Soviet Union, enthralled with the National Review and the conservative intellectual tradition of Russell Kirk and F. A. Hayek. Against this personal odyssey, Boot simultaneously traces the evolution of modern American conservatism, jump-started by Barry Goldwater’s canonical The Conscience of a Conservative, to the rise of Trumpism and its gradual corrosion of what was once the Republican Party.

While 90 percent of his fellow Republicans became political “toadies” in the aftermath of the 2016 election, Boot stood his ground, enduring the vitriol of his erstwhile conservative colleagues, trolled on Twitter by a white supremacist who depicted his “execution” in a gas chamber by a smiling, Nazi-clad Trump. And yet, Boot nevertheless remains a villain to some partisan circles for his enduring commitment to conservative fiscal and national security principles. It is from this isolated position, then, that Boot launches this bold declaration of dissent and its urgent plea for true, bipartisan cooperation.

With uncompromising insights, The Corrosion of Conservatism evokes both a president who has traduced every norm and the rise of a nascent centrist movement to counter Trump’s assault on democracy.

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Reviews and Endorsements

Max Boot came to America as a young refugee whose parents fled the old Soviet Union. A conservative inspired by Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, Boot now finds himself a political refugee rightly offended by the excesses of Trump’s Republican Party and the continued collapse of American conservatism. His latest work is an important must-read for anyone hoping to better understand where the right went wrong and what the future of American politics has in store for us all.

Joe Scarborough, Host, MSNBC's Morning Joe

In this searching and heartfelt account of his personal political evolution, Max Boot has given us a particular story with universal import. In this chaotic time, his sane and sober voice is a vital one, and his story is testament to the battle our better angels must wage against the insidious forces of darkness.

Jon Meacham, Author, The Soul of America

Max Boot mixes lively memoir with sharp analysis to make an important argument about the state of conservatism in America today. This is a book conservatives are going to have to reckon with and that all of us can learn from.

William Kristol, Founder and Editor-at-Large, Weekly Standard

In this poignant and brave political memoir, Max Boot digs deep and chronicles the intellectual journey that caused him to question previous beliefs and quit the Republican Party of Donald Trump. Both an intriguing confessional and an insightful behind-the-scenes exploration of how the conservative movement went awry, this candid, engaging, and important account provides critical lessons for the current moment and the days ahead.

David Corn, Coauthor, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump

This is a significant book, and an elegantly written and enjoyable one. In explaining his own intellectual and political evolution, Max Boot presents a vivid modern version of America's timeless immigrant-making-it saga—and also documents the catastrophic decision of many of his colleagues to abandon conservative principles in favor of Trump-era resentments and tribalism. This book will stand as a clear-eyed look at our times, and as part of the effort to find a better way forward.

James Fallows, National Correspondent, Atlantic

Max Boot is one of our sharpest contemporary thinkers about politics, world affairs and America’s role in the global crisis facing liberal democracy. Unsparing, acute and wonderfully well-written, The Corrosion of Conservatism is a bracing repudiation of Ideological myopia, moral compromise and intellectual corruption. More than that, it is an indispensable dissection of how conservatism devolved from the philosophical rigor of William Buckley to the toxic tribalism of Donald Trump—and what we must do to set our future right.

Richard North Patterson, Author, Loss of Innocence

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