A Boston College history professor debunks the myth that the U.S. Civil War released the nation from the grip of oligarchy, expunging the sins of the Founding, and instead spread the corrupt values of the Old South throughout the land—a phenomenon with present-day consequences.
... marvelous ... Richardson’s search for the truth carries the reader from the first European settlers to modern day, not an easy task in a comparatively short narrative. Her text combines articulacy with accuracy. Her analysis is compelling ... Her narrative moves quickly ... Richardson’s scholarly work puts to an end the fantasy of American exceptionalism.
... a short, provocative assault on conservatism and the Republican Party ... a book that, while lucid and jargon-free, too often feels tacked together and lacking in the intellectual heft that characterizes her academic work ... Dissenters from Ms. Richardson’s own somewhat apocalyptic vision, likely including the vast majority of Republicans, might point out that where she sees a malign conspiracy to undermine American democracy they see, these days, a landscape of rupture and realignment, the ultimate shape of which is far from clear. Ms. Richardson’s haste to score political points too often leaves nuance, and sometimes accuracy, behind ... Her pummeling hyperbole will probably confirm both like-minded and skeptical readers in their assumptions and prompt less reflection than it should among those whom she presumably hopes to convert.
A timely book, it sheds light on what was perhaps the most important political coalition of the 20th century ... [an] engrossing and deeply relevant story ... An otherwise dark picture is brightened ... There is a glimmer of hope, especially in these tumultuous times, that a more just and equal America will emerge and thrive.