Ronald Brownstein

Ronald Brownstein is the national affairs columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

Recent Articles

Where the Republican Party Began

Sidney Blumenthal's new volume in his biography of Lincoln explores the role of leadership in the remaking of American politics in the 1850s.

Marsh & Vannerson/Public Domain Lincoln in 1860 and Stephen A. Douglas in 1859. It was in refuting Douglas that Lincoln awakened his own greatness. Wrestling with His Angel: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. II, 1849-1856 By Sidney Blumenthal Simon & Schuster This article appears in the Fall 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . B efore Sidney Blumenthal was a sharp-elbowed political operative for Bill and Hillary Clinton, he was a sharp-eyed political journalist. In Wrestling with His Angel , his new book on Abraham Lincoln, Blumenthal returns to those roots. He applies to the 1850s, with rewarding effect, the analytical insight and stylistic elegance that made him an indispensable writer in the 1980s on the rise of Ronald Reagan–era conservatism and the Democratic struggle to formulate a winning response. And although Blumenthal never steps out of the historical frame to compare Lincoln’s time with our own, his story of how the pounding...

Ready to Rumble

Political reporter Matt Bai dissects today's Democratic Party, and urges it to move beyond the Clintonism of the '90s -- something that the current crop of presidential candidates (John Edwards excepted) doesn't seem all that inclined to do.

The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics by Matt Bai (The Penguin Press, 316 pages, $25.95) Not since Watergate has the electoral landscape appeared as favorable for Democrats as it does today. All polls show gale-force discontent with the country's direction under President Bush (he recently received the second highest disapproval rating Gallup has ever recorded in seven decades of measuring attitudes about presidential performance). From the 2008 presidential candidates to the party campaign committees, Democrats are consistently outraising Republicans. Even the electoral calendar is cooperating: Democrats next year must defend only 12 Senate seats compared to 22 for Republicans, including seven in blue or Democrat-trending states where disillusionment with Bush and the Iraq War is most intense. Not all trends, though, are as positive for the party. Many Democratic strategists understandably remain uneasy about Congress' sinking approval...

How the South Rose Again

When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America by Ira Katznelson ( W.W. Norton, 238 pages, $25.95 ) The White House Looks South by William E. Leuchtenburg ( Louisiana State University Press, 668 pages, $45.00 ) White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism by ( Kevin M. Kruse Princeton University Press, 325 pages, $35.00 ) The End of Southern Exceptionalism: Class, Race, and Partisan Change in the Postwar South by Byron E. Shafer and Richard Johnston ( Harvard University Press, 240 pages, $39.95 ) Nothing has contributed more to the conservative ascendancy in American politics than the realignment of the South from solidly Democratic to reliably Republican. The South now furnishes the decisive votes for Republican control of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House. Outside the South, Democrats still hold the advantage in the competition on all three fronts. But the Republican dominance of the...

How the South Rose Again

When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America by Ira Katznelson ( W.W. Norton, 238 pages, $25.95 ) The White House Looks South by William E. Leuchtenburg ( Louisiana State University Press, 668 pages, $45.00 ) White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism by ( Kevin M. Kruse Princeton University Press, 325 pages, $35.00 ) The End of Southern Exceptionalism: Class, Race, and Partisan Change in the Postwar South by Byron E. Shafer and Richard Johnston ( Harvard University Press, 240 pages, $39.95 ) Nothing has contributed more to the conservative ascendancy in American politics than the realignment of the South from solidly Democratic to reliably Republican. The South now furnishes the decisive votes for Republican control of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House. Outside the South, Democrats still hold the advantage in the competition on all three fronts. But the Republican dominance of the...

Vexations of the Heartland

What's the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America By Thomas Frank • Metropolitan Books • 320 PAGES• $24.00 Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America By Garrison Keillor • Viking • 237 PAGES • $19.95 Few developments have changed American politics more in the past generation than the Republican breakthrough into blue-collar America. White working-class voters were a pillar of the New Deal coalition that allowed Democrats to dominate national politics for the generation after Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But those voters began turning away from Democrats amid the cultural tumult of the 1960s, and the party has never entirely regained their allegiance. From the “silent majority” of Richard Nixon's era to the “Reagan Democrats” who flocked to Ronald Reagan, the angry white men of the 1990s, and the churchgoing legions who backed George W. Bush in 2000, voters of modest means have become central to the Republican political strategy. This...

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