How the Right Lost Its Mind
by Charles J. Sykes

The title may be a bit misleading, to some. Charles Sykes is unabashedly conservative, and an ardent supporter of right-wing causes. Where he splits with Trumpers is in his disdain for post-literate outrage media and the proliferation of fake news and "alternative facts."

Those who may be flabbergasted by the direction of the Republican party since 2016 will find an ally in Sykes, who makes critiques of liberals' and conservatives' conduct and political etiquette alike without stooping to name-calling and ad hominem attacks. Citing an alarming upward trend in made-up facts and blatant lies spread by talking heads and internet commentators on the right, Sykes places the blame at the feet of an expanding entertainment media that prioritizes ratings and feelings over facts, and the conservative intellectuals and politicians who decided that the ends justified these means. This created a vicious cycle of untruths, where trying to stem the flow invites criticism and derision from other "journalists" who are willing to say whatever the crowds want to hear. Essentially, hardline conservative commentators were hoisted by their own petard in their quest for anger-filled ideological purity; if they tried to take a more truthful or moderated view, they were castigated and blacklisted.

"How the Right Lost Its Mind" is a rallying call for conservatives disenchanted with post-truth Trumpism, and an impassioned plea of a man without a country, abandoned by his former colleagues and finding little to no common ground with those on the left. It is also for liberals who may also find themselves isolated in an ideological echo chamber and who will welcome a reasonable review of the past year from a new viewpoint.

More liberal readers may criticize Sykes' glossing-over of racism that has been present, to one degree or another, in the conservative movement. While he looks back longingly on the days of National Review repudiating antisemitism, he fails to acknowledge that at that same time, they were opposing the Civil Rights movement. In his defense, he does express surprise and distress at discovering that a virulent strain of nationalism had been hiding under a rock, unknown to him and his social circles.

This book is highly recommended, both for conservatives trying to find their party's way back home, and for liberals who will appreciate looking at a familiar subject through a new lens. It ends on a hopeful note, encouraging the readers to pursue the truth and stand for what they believe in, even if they stand alone. Readers exhausted by the toxic, hyperpartisan climate will be refreshed remembering that it is possible to disagree with someone politically on the government's role in public and private life without claiming that they smell like sulfur and may possibly be possessed. (Yep, that happened.)

arc received from the publisher for review