Posner takes readers through a fascinating political history focused on the men (yes, no women so far) who best illustrate the manipulative power of the populist demagogue ... By reading Posner’s survey, readers will see more clearly and starkly the historical context of Trump’s rise to political power and how he appeals and holds on to his base.
A great virtue of Posner’s conceptual scheme is that it allows him to focus on those aspects of Trump’s presidency that are of lasting significance. Instead of condemning demagogues for any phrase or policy he happens to dislike, he zeros in on their dangerous habit of positing a conflict between the people and the very institutions that have historically enabled them to exert their power ... Still, a distinct drawback of the book is that it becomes a repetitive hunt for populists and demagogues. And while Posner’s sketches of major political figures from Thomas Jefferson to Franklin Roosevelt are often interesting, they do not add to the vast stock of knowledge we owe to their many biographers ... This could be more easily forgiven if Posner gave us a fresh perspective on our contemporary predicament. But when he finally reaches the present, his view of the Trump presidency turns out to be disappointingly conventional...It is difficult to argue with Posner’s conclusion. But it’s one that has long been shared by a vast swath of the American public.
... skillful ... Though Posner’s prose tends to be more dry and technical than vivid, he delivers a powerful argument for the need to restore constitutional safeguards against demagoguery. Trump naysayers will be enlightened.