The Limits of Moderation: Jimmy Carter and the Ironies of American Liberalism features a photo of author Leo P. Ribuffo shaking hands with President Jimmy Carter in a polaroid photo frame held up against wood paneling background with masking tape.

The Limits of Moderation: Jimmy Carter and the Ironies of American Liberalism

by Leo P. Ribuffo


When the renowned historian Leo P. Ribuffo died in late 2018, many of his friends and students gathered at his home in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C. to tell stories about this beloved man. But we also asked ourselves what to do about the book he had been working on for decades on the presidential administration of Jimmy Carter. We resolved to find a way to publish it. The book you now hold in your hands is the result of our resolve.

The Limits of Moderation: Jimmy Carter and the Ironies of American Liberalism is not a finished product. Consider this book a primary source, an unfinished manuscript of the type historians might encounter while digging into the papers of an intellectual figure in an archive. Which means there are gaps, ellipses, missing sources, potentially incorrect figures, items in need of correction. And yet, even in this unfinished stage, this book is a close and careful history of a short yet transformative period in American political history, when big changes were afoot. These transformations, which Ribuffo wrote about with empirical and analytical richness, continue to shape our world. Leo P. Ribuffo has much still to teach us.

Born in Patterson, New Jersey as the son of a school custodian and a homemaker, Leo P. Ribuffo earned his Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale before taking a job in the History Department at the George Washington University in 1973. Ribuffo taught at GWU until his death, along the way becoming the Society of the Cincinnati George Washington Distinguished Professor of History. He was the author of The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War, which in 1985 won the Merle Curti Prize, awarded by the Organization of American Historians to the best book in intellectual history. Ribuffo was also the author of Right Center Left: Essays in American History, and countless memorable articles that appeared in all the major history journals. He taught a record number of doctoral students, many of whom have gone on to successful careers as historians themselves.