STANDOFF by Bill Schneider


How America Became Ungovernable
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Former CNN senior political analyst Schneider (Government/George Mason Univ.) offers a thoughtful account of how American politics have changed from the 1960s to the age of Trump.

The author argues that the clash between the New America of “diversity and inclusion” that emerged in the 1960s and the 2016 backlash from Old America (“mostly white, mostly male, mostly older, mostly conservative, mostly religious, and mostly nonurban”) has left the nation at a “standoff” and its “most divided” since the Civil War. Tracing the development of that growing rift over the decades, he examines the forces that have produced America’s present “gridlock and dysfunctional government,” chiefly the separation of powers built into the Constitution. He makes a strong case that voters have increasingly placed values over interests and that public opinion often rules: The “intensity of opinion matters, not just numbers.” Much of his book is a detailed examination of recent presidential elections studded with sharp observations drawn from the author’s extensive reporting career: “We do have class politics in the United States,” he writes, “but these days, the class division is mostly inside the two parties rather than between them”; “The American people want to be left alone, with just enough government restrictions to protect the public welfare”; “White working-class men see political correctness as a way of shutting them out.” Schneider covers such issues as abortion and gun control as well as the rise of tribal politics, America’s “deeply religious culture,” and Trump’s “perpetual political war” on the “cosmopolitan ruling class.” His examples of how Americans segregate themselves politically are vividly drawn: “People in Kennesaw [Georgia] worry about their children getting into heaven. People in Bethesda [Maryland] worry about their children getting into Yale.” He says our system of limited government is “particularly important when the country has a president with the temperament of a megalomaniac.”

A good choice for political junkies.

Pub Date: May 15th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4516-0622-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2018


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