AN UNCIVIL WAR by Greg Sargent


Taking Back Our Democracy in an Age of Trumpian Disinformation and Thunderdome Politics
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A gimlet-eyed look at the mean corridors of power in Washington, with a welcome reminder that this, too, shall—might?—pass.

How did we arrive at our current appalling state of affairs, politically speaking? There are many ingredients in that particular stew, writes Washington Post political blogger Sargent. There’s the free-floating rage that has descended on the land, encouraging what the author calls “thunderdome politics,” the decline of the political conversation into some sort of degenerate blood sport that may be amusing to a few but that drives away others who should be participating. There’s gerrymandering and, with it, vote suppression and what Sargent calls “vote wasting”—and if readers are unclear about how those things work, the author’s explanation is crystal-clear, if alarming. There are the sitting president’s attacks on democratic institutions and his clear autocratic tendencies, all enabled by a weak congressional cohort and a host of willing sycophants. “The GOP Congress,” writes Sargent with nice thunder, “largely remains Trump’s faithful enabler, effectively shielding his corruption from public scrutiny and accountability, and actively aiding and abetting his efforts to undermine the independence of law enforcement in the quest to avoid scrutiny and accountability.” And then there’s the president’s constant lying, a trope that turns up again and again in these pages, as if we should somehow be surprised by it after all this time. The recitation might be tiresome if Sargent had not ventured some counterpunches, including his useful suggestion that, given their supposed status as enemies, journalists and publications should band together in resistance and “redouble their commitment” to core democratic values. Throughout, Sargent reassures readers that we’ve seen worse and lived to tell the tale and that "there are reasons to be optimistic that our institutions are, while battered and black-eyed, largely holding up in the face of Trump’s degradations.”

Not much to surprise politically aware readers, but a solid appeal to small-r republican virtues and an altogether readable polemic.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-06-269845-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Custom House/Morrow
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2018


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