One of the nation’s darkest chapters, brilliantly exhumed and analyzed with due attention to its obvious contemporary...

FRAUD OF THE CENTURY

RUTHERFORD B. HAYES, SAMUEL TILDEN, AND THE STOLEN ELECTION OF 1876

Respected biographer Morris (Ambrose Bierce, 1996, etc.) reconstructs in amazing detail a presidential election that profaned the rule of law and nearly rekindled the Civil War.

A vivid past portrayer of such diverse Victorian personalities as General Phil Sheridan and Walt Whitman, the author here meticulously fleshes out the character and influences of the antagonists: Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican Governor of Ohio, and Democrat Samuel Tilden, Hayes’s counterpart from New York. The contest, in the country’s centennial year, pitted an affable born politician and bona fide war hero (Hayes) against a bookish, lifelong bachelor barrister who had once dropped out of Yale because he didn’t like the food. Morris lets the reader smell the corruption accrued over 16 years of Republican administration, indelibly tarred as “Grantism” even though the two-term president in 1876 had never been touched directly by scandal. The wounded South still festered under Reconstruction, which brought carpetbaggers into sway in legislatures vacated by disqualified rebels, plus regular visits by federal troops anytime things threatened to get violent. In those days, the Democrats were the reformist party, out to curtail the size and power of the federal government while the entrenched Republicans strove to preserve and enhance it. Blacks in the South were free by decree only: armed white intimidators waited at the polls, and some local codes enabled the arrest for vagrancy of any refusing to work for their former masters at subsistence wages. The negation of Tilden’s eventual 265,000-vote plurality devolved into three southern states with Republican governors, and the fraud progressed from Florida (even then) to Congress and the Electoral College. By the time Morris documents the entire process, with Hayes’s victory declared official in February, democracy seems as dead as Wild Bill Hickok, gunned down that August in Deadwood, South Dakota.

One of the nation’s darkest chapters, brilliantly exhumed and analyzed with due attention to its obvious contemporary relevance.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7432-2386-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more