One Nation After Trump is your must-read book for 2017 … The authors offer solutions. As many current problems are a result of the Republicans’ very successful effort to curb voting among African Americans and other minorities, the authors propose an imitation of the Australian system, which requires voters to appear at the polls. They date the current decline in voting to the supreme court’s 5-4 ruling in Shelby County vs Holder in 2013, which gutted the Voting Rights Act. ‘A new Voting Rights Act should be the centerpiece of a new democracy,’ they write … The authors know the only thing that can really cure the catastrophe in Washington is massive citizen involvement at every level of the political process.
If someone had hibernated through the 2016 election, woke up early this year and logged onto Twitter or turned on cable news and wondered, what the hell happened?, this would be the book to read. One Nation After Trump devotes considerable space to tackling the unprecedented nature of Trump’s election and presidency...but the book is particularly useful in showing how, despite all the talk of Trump as an aberration in American politics, his rise reflects the longer-term trends that have shaped the modern Republican Party … Parts of the book feel hastily assembled, particularly the second half, where the authors offer policy prescriptions for ‘a new economy, a new patriotism, a new civil society and a new democracy.’ While many of their ideas are good ones, they read like a laundry list of proposals … Given the authors’ depth of knowledge about how Washington works, the best parts of their book frame the dangers of Trump’s presidency in a broader political context. The greatest threat Trump poses, they say, apart from any individual policy, is to democracy itself.
Its emphasis is less on Trump, however, than on the long-term structural and cultural changes that made his election possible. The authors have no patience for a ‘both sides’ argument about the degradation of our political culture. They lay the blame firmly within the Republican Party … So what is to be done? If the book’s first half focuses on the sorry state of things today, the second half focuses on how to not make the same mistakes in the future. The authors claim to be genuinely — if tentatively — hopeful about what Trump’s election may ultimately yield for American civic life … It is hard to object to much about these plans, with their emphasis on fairness and comity and partisan goodwill. And yet there is something incongruous about the authors’ belief that good policy, judiciously presented, will yield the desired political transformation. As the authors note, one of the more depressing lessons of the 2016 election was that policy simply didn’t matter much.
It is because things look so bleak that they feel moved to offer their own vision — ‘a hopeful and unifying alternative to his [Mr Trump’s] dark and divisive assessment of our country’s prospects.’ They succeed up to a point. The book starts with a by now familiar tale of how we arrived here. Mr Trump neither invented the fake news genre, nor the habit of finding conspiracies behind every rock. He just took it to another level. The establishment has always been out to get us … Can America take back control of its politics (to borrow a phrase)? The authors pray the answer is yes. It is hard to dispute what they recommend … At times, it feels they are offering an Asterix-like magic potion. They are not cramped by realism. But nor are they blinded by idealism. Their sense of possibility offers a refreshing and very American contrast to today’s dystopia.
Dionne, Ornstein, and Mann offer a unified voice of sanity in a world gone mad, and their arguments are well-supported by citations of other political writers … Ultimately, the authors seek to develop a new concept of patriotism, a new sense of civic-mindedness, a new civil society, and a new democracy. Of course, this is all exceedingly difficult in the current climate, but the authors are seasoned guides and provide good jumping-off points for moving beyond the noxious atmosphere of Trumpism. A breath of hope but also a serious call to action: everyone needs to take part.