Like many of the best memoirs of ideas, Boot’s story is one of conversion and de-conversion—of faith gained and then lost ... Clinton may have been a 'deeply flawed and seriously uncharismatic candidate,' but unlike Trump, she was 'extremely knowledgeable, resolutely centrist and amply qualified' to be president. So Boot bolted. It was a decision both understandable and admirable. And he does a very good job of telling the story of what led him to it ... One wonders how the book would have turned out had Boot taken a few more steps back from the fray, to place his lifelong ideological commitments in a wider frame. In that case, he might have seen that the principles and assumptions that first drew him to the Republican Party were not especially 'conservative' at all ... Boot’s book aims to tell the story of a journey, but it’s far more a portrait of stasis.
This is a decisive break with conservatism ...But the truly radical act in The Corrosion of Conservatism is its clear-eyed excavation of the movement’s history ... Boot is not so reductive as to depict Trump as the inevitable historical consequence of conservatism’s historical arc. He is able to acknowledge that Trump is both a freakish outlier and an authentic outgrowth of conservatism ... His analysis is as heretical as an orthodox Communist arguing in the 1950s that the problem with the Soviet Union began with the October Revolution.
Boot’s faux confessional is instructive [regarding the stubborn absurdities of our time] since despite his dizzying reversals and non-sequiturs, he ends up arguing that there is a direct line to be drawn from William F. Buckley to Donald J. Trump—the latter just corroded (as opposed to doubled down on) the former. Likewise, he admits America has always been beset by misogyny, racism, and an unstable class imbalance, but argues that the answer is to restore the same center-right politics that built and maintained this crisis-ridden order ... It would be nice to think that someone being paid extravagant attention and cash to write a book on partisan politics in the United States would obtain a basic grasp of the relevant fault lines. As any half-sentient observer of Boot nevertheless knows, the opposite is the case ... No one does dumb sincerity better than Max Boot ... For all his talk of leaving the right, [Boot] hasn’t wandered too far from home ... It is a testament to Boot’s failure to depart from his boyhood room that [Middle Eastern] lives and deaths remain just as invisible to him as those of Churchill’s countless victims. Whether racism has anything to do with this failure is a question neither Boot nor his fans will ever ponder.