MixedThe New RepublicAlthough Continetti steers clear of insider gossip, his description of life in the conservative machine has the feel of an eyewitness account ... Meaningful silences with respect to his old employer aren’t the only times when Continetti shades the narrative to place his subject in a softer light ... This, in short, is a book that gets a lot of things wrong. But it gets one big and important thing right. By illustrating how much today’s right-wing populists owe to yesterday’s establishment conservatives—their successes, failures, and all the compromises made along the way—Continetti demonstrates that there are no sharp breaks in the history of the Right, only partial victories in a constant struggle. Trump’s election wasn’t divine retribution for conservatism’s original sins. It was just politics, the result of both long-term structural trends and choices shot through with contingency. Which means the fate of the Right is still up for grabs. And so is American democracy.
MixedThe New RepublicOne of the many virtues of How Democracy Ends is Runciman’s insistence that talk of impending doom is almost certainly overblown ... Runciman is an inveterate contrarian who has no patience for the melodrama of the Resistance. Trump is not Hitler, and a fascist coup is not lurking around the corner. The true danger is much more banal ... If this is a crisis, it’s a midlife crisis. Democracy’s best days are behind it ... Yet people are still unsatisfied, and Runciman sees no plausible way to restore their lost faith ... the future holds the same fate that awaits most of us: death from old age ... Even if his vision of the future comes to pass, there’s something unsatisfying about Runciman’s refusal to speculate on what might be done to avoid the dreary scenario he conjures. He could be right that in the long run democracy is doomed. But as his Cambridge predecessor John Maynard Keynes noted, in the long run we are all dead. It would help to have a little more guidance in the meantime.
PanThe New RepublicObama isn’t Chait’s real focus. His goal is not to understand the president but to prosecute a case on behalf of the liberal political tradition he believes Obama represents ... It makes for an impressive catalogue—but what Chait has to leave out to mount his defense of Obama is just as striking as what he includes ... For a work arguing that Obama fulfilled the promises he made to the American people, Audacity displays little concern with the content of those promises ... Now Republicans are poised to eviscerate the achievements Chait celebrates. Reality has broken the realists.