"My views were Republican, I voted Republican, I worked in a White House that was Republican. I had to admit it. I was as Republican as they come. That may have been obvious to you, but it came as a rude awakening to me."
IT'S MY PARTY
After Ronald Reagan, after George Bush, after Bill Clinton, where is the Republican Party headed today? This is exactly the question former White House speechwriter and special assistant to the president Peter Robinson asked himself--and the answers he discovered surprised even him. IT'S MY PARTY is part irreverent memoir, part "travel diary," and part impassioned call to arms. In it, Robinson shows just what the GOP has got going for it--and how its most triumphant years are yet to come.
Along with Robinson's personal, and sometimes hilarious, lifelong relationship with Republicanism, IT'S MY PARTY takes us through history and geography to trace the party's roots. It pushes the hot buttons of headline issues that other political professionals are afraid to touch. It introduces us to both the party's leaders and its foot soldiers, from George Bush, Sr. to Rep. Chris Cox, from Newt Gingrich to Bret Schundler, mayor of Jersey City, N.J. It follows the surprising rite of passage of one gifted young African-American Republican and provides one woman officeholder's perspective, revolutionary in its simplicity, on the gender gap. And it looks up close at the two men most likely to carry the standard of the Republican Party into the new century: George W. Bush and New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.
At the end of the journey, the Grand Old Party proves grander than Robinson had thought. Of course, it looms as the champion of the time-honored principles of self-reliance, limited government, and respect for the Judeo-Christian moral tradition. But ultimately, it stands for nothing less than the success of American democracy. For the author, it's been a love affair, messy and all-consuming, with an institution that became more fascinating the better he knew it, without losing its ability to infuriate and annoy. It's his party, he tells us. And it's still kicking.
Robinson, a former Reagan speechwriter (now a Hoover Institution fellow and host of PBS's Uncommon Knowledge), presents "a travel book, one tourist's notes as he journeyed across the territory of the Republican Party" in search of what it stands for now that Reagan is gone. Along the way. he looks at the party's history, its fortunes in the South, relations with Hollywood and the press, party loyalties and ethnicity/religion/geography/culture, women and the gender gap, a comparison of Republican fortunes on national and local fronts, and two candidates: George W. Bush and, rather unfortunately, Rudy Giuliani (who has since withdrawn from the New York senatorial race). Robinson is a Reaganite, a true believer who agreed with "nearly every word Ronald Reagan uttered," and this makes his assessment of the party somewhat predictable. However, he also displays what has become a rare quality: healthy partisanship. Rather than simply worshiping whatever can be labeled "Republican," Robinson expresses a desire to improve the party and its chances for success even if that calls for recognizing Republican foibles. He suggests, for example, that narrowing the gender gap is going to require making appeals to the concerns of women, and that this is not all bad; instead of taking an unyieldingly tough line on social issues, "showing a little heart would do the party good." He recognizes that at times the party can seem "absurd" and "pigheaded" without discarding his belief in its central principles, especially standing for "traditional morality." Even non-Republicans will find this kind of mild but honest criticism interesting, especially since Robinson professes his "love" for the party without insulting anyone not similarly inclined. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Grand Central Publishing
August 18, 2000
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Excerpt from It's My Party by Peter Robinson
Still Republican After All These Years
I grew up Republican. There were extenuating circumstances.
I was born to Republican parents and raised in a Republican neighborhood. (A big family named Federowicz lived a couple of streets away from us, and I see now that as Polish Catholics they may have been Democrats all along. It is a measure of just how Republican our neighborhood was that all these years later I find the thought of Democrats in our midst unsettling.) Thus I took the Republican imprint before I was old enough to understand what was happening.
Yet it is difficult for me to escape all responsibility here. After attaining the age of reason -- or at least the age at which I could legally drive, drink, and vote -- I remained a Republican. In college I even became something of a campus politician, editing the opinion page of the college newspaper, writing a political column, and contributing to an upstart conservative newspaper, the now notorious Dartmouth Review. Studying at Oxford for a couple of years after graduating, I infuriated my dons by revealing an enthusiasm for Margaret Thatcher cheering for Tories is what Republicans do when they find themselves in England and when I returned home I became in effect a professional Republican, taking a job in the Reagan White House.
I was a speechwriter. I name the position because it carried a particular requirement. Broadly speaking, the Reagan administration was divided between pragmatists and true believers. Speechwriters were true believers. Nobody was ever likely to ask a deputy assistant secretary of commerce or labor whether he believed Reagan was right to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." But the speechwriters. We had to believe Reagan was right. We were the ones who had come up with the line. I believed in nearly every word Ronald Reagan uttered. I mean it. When I did disagree with Reagan it was because I thought he was being too soft, not too hard. (The chief of staff, Donald Regan, once told the speechwriters to go easier on Gorbachev. We refused. Regan had to troop us into the Oval Office to hear it from the president himself.)
Even after leaving the White House I continued to take steps that look Republican. I went to business school. Now, students at business schools are less Republican than you might think in a poll of my classmates, Michael Dukakis led George Bush for president but when they graduate, often walking into the highest tax bracket the same day they walk into their new jobs, they begin migrating to the GOP.* (At my class's tenth reunion this past spring, you couldn't have spilled a beer without splashing a Republican. After business school I spent a year working for Rupert Murdoch, then a year working for the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. A media mogul and a capitalist tool fitting items on a Republican resume. Finally I joined the think tank where I now work. Although it avoids partisan ties, the think tank espouses free market principles, endearing itself, not surprisingly, to members of the GOP. The name of the think tank, I had better admit, is the Hoover Institution. That would be "Hoover" as in "Herbert." Hoover founded the institution in 1919. Nine years later he was elected to the White House. One year after that the Great Depression struck, transforming Hoover's reputation from that of a business genius and humanitarian into that of a glassy-eyed, hard-hearted Republican.
I recognize that the evidence against me is enough to get me hanged. I can picture my body twisting, with a placard, Staunch Republican or GOP Zealot, pinned to my shirtfront. The odd thing is, the lynching party would be wrong. I'm not a zealot. I'm not even staunch. I've always kept a strict distance between myself and the Republican Party. The distance has existed only in my mind, I grant you. But it has been no less real for that.
I learned to place this distance between myself and the GOP early in life. When I was a boy, each day when my father arrived home from work he would open the Binghamton Evening Press. I can't tell you the number of times I saw him shake his head in disapproval as he read about yet another lavish spending project enacted by our governor and fellow Republican, Nelson Rockefeller. In those days the Republican Party so dominated New York that the big political divide ran not between Republicans and Democrats but between Republicans upstate, where we lived, and Republicans in New York City, where Nelson Rockefeller lived, and where we couldn't even imagine living. Republicans upstate were decent and frugal.