The review below was written by Paul R. Schwankl, who comments, "I am delighted to step in for a guest appearance on the Cedar Park Book Blog!"
One Nation after Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not Yet Deported E. J. Dionne Jr, Norman J. Ornstein, and Thomas E. Mann (2017)
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s Republican brother Kevin included this gloat in his annual guest column for 2017: “[Concerning] Trump’s daily activity: I do not follow every move he makes. I counsel my Democratic friends to do the same, but they cannot help themselves.”
If you did not support Trump in the 2016 election, perhaps you’ve noticed that you’re taking in much more news and commentary than you did when Barack Obama was president. You may ask whether you’re doing so because you’re a morbidly curious person, like drivers gawking at a highway accident, or because you’re a patriot, keeping up that eternal vigilance that is the price of liberty. For both patriots and gawkers, I recommend One Nation after Trump, which deals in its two parts with (1) what is wrong about Trumpism and (2) what we can do about it.
Even if you know about all the outrages that come up in the first part of this book (I found no great surprises), it helps to hear them summarized and succinctly discussed by this trio of gracious writers who are famously and fervently fair to those who disagree with them. They have chapters for how Trump treats truth, his beyond-bad manners, his dictatorial tendencies, and his betrayal of the white working-class voters who some say are his true base.
Then the authors move on to “The Way Forward,” believing that, as their title says, there can be one nation after Trump. I don’t think that such a single nation is at all a sure thing, but some combination of what Dionne, Ornstein, and Mann advocate has something of a chance. They first call for a revived partnership between government and the private economy, pointing out that this approach led to our greatest prosperity in the past. Such a move could get past the Koch brothers’ rewriting of history, but it’s an uphill struggle.
Next they propose:
- A new patriotism without today’s xenophobia and racism, under the slogan “Make America empathetic again.” Are there enough Americans who would rather be empathetic than “great”? I can only hope.
- A revivified civil society, reversing some of the trends noted in Robert Putnam’s 2001 Bowling Alone. Civil society is a vast checkerboard of institutions that call for some allegiance that’s neither to family nor to government. The remedies involve everything from the Sierra Club to community colleges to national community service programs for youth. It occurs to me that it will be hard to boost civil society without attention to American workers’ lack of free time and free money. Again, better jobs are needed.
- A new democracy. The enemies here include infringements on the right to vote, gerrymandering (being addressed very promisingly here in Michigan), the current Electoral College system, and counterproductive rules in Congress. I’m always amazed at how much lawyers can get done here—and how little can get down without lawyers!
The final chapter of One Nation after Trump urges readers to “show up, dive in, [and] stay in it.” Some great popular forces are moving as people get active (or more active), and there could be big party realignments. But after seeing Trumpism arise, I have no confidence in my ability to predict realignments. I hope that it will turn out mostly well, but I’m sure it will be quite a ride.