The Longest Con: How Grifters, Swindlers, and Frauds Hijacked American Conservatism

St. Martin’s. Jul. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9781250621160. $30. POL SCI
Conason (editor in chief, The National Memo; Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton) pulls no punches in this wide-ranging survey of right-wing political extremism in the United States. Starting with communist conspiracy theories and McCarthyism in the 1950s, the book traces the growing influence of Republican Party fringe groups and movements. For example, Conason finds a direct link from John Birch Society views to present-day paranoia about QAnon theories. The book weaves together significant threads in this progression: the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade; the Goldwater movement; the machinations of Richard Nixon’s presidential reelection campaign; the Reagan administration’s indictments; Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority; the Tea Party movement of the late aughts; and the rise of Trumpism. The roles of the church and right-wing media celebrities are also given attention. The final chapters focus on Trump’s business schemes and failures and the prevalent corruption throughout his presidency. Conason’s book is well researched, although it often reads like a series of in-depth magazine exposés as opposed to a cohesive work.
VERDICT A worthy addition to the growing body of literature about the current state of U.S. politics. Pairs well with Sarah Posner’s God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters and Maggie Haberman’s Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America.
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