... [a] sweeping, rollicking, sometimes breezy political and cultural back story to our current moment ... Tomasky proposes a raft of reforms to get us out of the polarized mess we find ourselves in. Some, like ending partisan gerrymandering and getting rid of the Senate filibuster, are familiar. Others, like reviving 'moderate Republicanism,' are probably futile. But some of his proposals — including starting 'foreign' exchange programs within the United States so students from rural areas spend a semester at a high school in a city, and vice versa — are both realistic and novel. Indeed, the most helpful — if sobering — point Tomasky makes is that while our current troubles created the conditions that brought us a President Trump, those troubles would exist no matter who was in the White House. And it will take much more than a new occupant to fix them.
...he chooses some interesting pivotal moments to linger over ... Tomasky’s at his most useful in reminding his readers that nostalgia for a time when our system 'functioned properly'—that is, without polarization gumming up the works—is, if not misplaced, ahistorical in its assumption that such interludes are ever more than temporary reprieves from our usual appetite for ﬁsticuffs ... At times, he verges on mawkishness in invoking the shared sense of national purpose fostered by the Great Depression and the war ... At his worst, Tomasky is capable of moping that 'I used to think that a new depression and world war would return us to a state of some harmony' ... Tomasky the political vivisectionist is much more bracing company ... Tomasky’s most ambitious chapter wrestles with what he considers a fateful change in Americans’ civic identity ... At one level, this is a trite critique ... But Tomasky deserves credit for trying to assess how this has reconﬁgured our political identities as well ... this erratic, frequently exasperating book is also a useful one.
Daily Beast columnist Tomasky (Bill Clinton, 2017, etc.) confirms what we already knew—America is polarized—and masterfully charts how it always has been that way, especially at the beginning ... Refreshingly, Tomasky also offers 'A Fourteen-Point Agenda to Reduce Polarization,' which includes a host of reasonable ideas ... Read this excellent book; it’s your civic duty.