...the better book to buy for insight into what Trump's rise and rule really mean—here and abroad—for democracy in our time ... Applebaum brings to these judgments the gravitas of a historian, winner of the Pulitzer Prize ... Given all this weighty material, it is remarkable that Applebaum can make her treatment of it edifying. Yet it is as smoothly readable and impressively reasoned as her columns from 17 years at The Washington Post and her more recent writing in The Atlantic ... we can find both cause for concern and a reason to hope.
... an illuminating political memoir about the break-up of the political tribe that won the Cold War. It can be read with profit even if you disagree, as I do, with the thesis it is wrapped up in ... This is an angry book ... Applebaum’s favourite explanation, at least for the rise of deviant populist leaders, is personal inadequacy and resentment of the successful, competent meritocrats of mainstream politics...This is all lively and entertaining but rather too black and white. Her account of British politics and the success of the Brexit campaign verges on the cartoonish. She details the lies and exaggerations of the Brexit camp without mentioning the lies and exaggerations promoted by Remainers – most conspicuously, forecasts of economic collapse – which had the backing of the state machine. She also promotes that old canard that Brexit was driven by imperial nostalgia and a longing for ‘a world in which England made the rules’. That may have been true of a few eccentric figures hanging around The Spectator in the 1990s, but one of the striking things about postwar British history is precisely the lack of nostalgia for empire on the Right, thanks in part to the absence of significant settler populations in Britain’s colonies (unlike in France’s) ... a highly readable example of the new genre of liberal catastrophism. Like others who write in this manner, Applebaum is not careful enough to distinguish between genuine social conservatives and the authoritarians and bigots who inhabit the fringes of the new conservative movements ... She also turns a blind eye to the failings of her own tribe.
Her historical expertise and knowledge of contemporary Europe and the United States illuminate what is eternal and distinctive about the political perils facing us today ... Twilight of Democracy offers many lessons on the long-standing struggle between democracy and dictatorship. But perhaps the most important is how fragile democracy is: Its survival depends on choices made every day by elites and ordinary people.