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American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump Hardcover – July 16, 2019
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“A masterful must-read. Alberta has written a compelling, alarming and scoop-heavy history of the fall of the party of Lincoln. American Carnage is filled with scoop. It is an exercise in a pulling back the curtain, not breathlessness.” -- The Guardian
“A fascinating look at a Republican Party that initially scoffed at the incursion of a philandering reality-TV star with zero political experience and now readily accommodates him. [Alberta] brings more than a decade of reporting and a real understanding of the conservative movement to American Carnage.” -- New York Times Book Review
“Alberta offers something more ambitious than a tale of palace intrigue.... The abiding theme of the book is that almost every influential figure in the Party has come to accept or submit to the President. Although Alberta is clearly not an admirer of the President, he is not unsympathetic to the voters who have embraced him and their feelings of resentment toward what they see as an increasingly liberal culture.” -- The New Yorker
“One of the deepest and most fascinating reads about the transformation of the Republican Party over the last 15 or so years.” -- Politico
“Mandatory reading for anyone who genuinely desires to know how we got to this point. It’s not a shooting civil war within the GOP or within the country at large. It’s not even 1968 or remotely close to the divisions that cleaved the nation during the Vietnam War and Watergate. But it is a serious divide.” -- Washington Post
“Alberta argues that Trump won the presidency by channeling anxious Americans’ indignation and darker impulses. Trump’s challenge now, Alberta writes, is to turn a “freakish if not fluky” victory into a transformational redefinition of the GOP.” -- Axios
“Now comes Tim Alberta, one of the best political reporters we have, especially on the internecine bloodletting on the political right, with a new book that details not only how the president stomped to the Republican nomination, but also the sordid calculations that allowed the GOP to make its peace with him.” -- Esquire
“American Carnage isn’t an all-about-Trump book. It’s a book that reaches into the depths of the Republican Party and their relationship with the president.” -- USA Today
“In this new book, American Carnage, by Tim Alberta, we are reminded about how so many who staked their reputation on principle caved to political convenience in this administration.” -- CNN
“An eyes-wide-open analysis of right-wing populism.” -- New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice
“A deeply reported account of internal Republican deliberations over the past decade. Alberta is admirably merciless as he shows his subjects abandoning their putative principles and falling in line behind Trump. (And the reporting is truly impressive — the scenes he reconstructs are both far more numerous and far more interesting than those in almost any “behind-the-scenes” reported political book I can recall.)” -- New York
“An excellent book where Alberta uses the depth of his reporting to really bring the receipts and show the extent to which, until [Trump] beat Hillary Clinton, many of the people who are now his most loyal allies were deeply skeptical of his fitness for office.” -- Vox
“Drawing on extensive interviews with politicians and pundits, Alberta’s engrossing narrative is full of sharp intrigues and vivid personalities....Incorporating trenchant analysis and a wealth of detail in stylish prose, Alberta highlights the broad currents beneath the chaos of recent politics.” -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Alberta brings the receipts, and if nothing else, it’s a helluva portrait of how principles are traded for power.” -- The Ezra Klein Show, Vox
“In American Carnage, his fascinating and exhaustive account of the path of the Republican Party in the past decade, Tim Alberta of Politico explains how the party’s leadership got so out of touch with its voters at the end of George W. Bush’s administration and in the early years of Barack Obama’s.” -- Wall Street Journal
From the Back Cover
Politico Magazine’s chief political correspondent provides a rollicking insider’s look at the making of the modern Republican Party—how a decade of cultural upheaval, populist outrage, and ideological warfare made the GOP vulnerable to a hostile takeover from the unlikeliest of insurgents: Donald J. Trump.
The 2016 election was a watershed for the United States. But, as Tim Alberta explains in American Carnage, to understand Trump’s victory is to view him not as the creator of this era of polarization and bruising partisanship but rather as its most manifest consequence.
American Carnage is the story of a president’s rise based on a country’s evolution and a party’s collapse. As George W. Bush left office with record-low approval ratings and Barack Obama led a Democratic takeover of Washington, Republicans faced a moment of reckoning: They had no vision, no generation of new leaders, and no energy in the party’s base. Yet Obama’s forceful pursuit of his progressive agenda, coupled with the nation’s rapidly changing societal and demographic identity, lit a fire under the right, returning Republicans to power and inviting a bloody struggle for the party’s identity in the post-Bush era. The factions that emerged—one led by absolutists like Jim Jordan and Ted Cruz, the other led by pragmatists like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell—engaged in a series of devastating internecine clashes and attempted coups for control. With the GOP’s internal fissures rendering it legislatively impotent, and that impotence fueling a growing resentment toward the political class and its institutions, the stage was set for an outsider to crash the party. When Trump descended a gilded escalator to announce his run in the summer of 2015, the candidate had met the moment.
Only by viewing Trump as the culmination of a decade-long civil war inside the GOP—and of the parallel sense of cultural, socioeconomic, and technological disruption during that period—can we appreciate how he won the White House and consider the fundamental questions at the center of America’s current turmoil. How did a party once obsessed with national insolvency come to champion trillion-dollar deficits? How did the party of compassionate conservatism become the party of Muslim bans and family separation? How did the party of family values elect a thrice-married philanderer? And, most important, how long can such a party survive?Loaded with explosive original reporting and based on hundreds of exclusive interviews—including with key players such as President Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Jim DeMint, and Reince Priebus, among many others—American Carnage takes us behind the scenes of this tumultuous period as we’ve never seen it before and establishes Tim Alberta as the premier chronicler of this political era.
- Publisher : Harper (July 16, 2019)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 688 pages
- ISBN-10 : 006289644X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062896445
- Item Weight : 1.83 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 1.63 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #130,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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My first draft of this review was scrapped, because it was less a review of the book than a report of my epiphany after reading “American Carnage.”
Briefly: During the first decade of the current century, terrorism, two major conflicts and Mother nature combined to wreak havoc on Planet Earth and the world as molded by the Roosevelt Years. Finally, in 2008, it collapsed in a manner reminiscent of Hoover. So devastating were the consequences that a new type of leader was found to meet the needs:
‘…IN PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS, THE CANDIDATE MUST MEET THE MOMENT. Barack Obama could not have won the White House with his dovish foreign policy platform in 2004, an election decided on the question of whom Americans wanted as their wartime president. It was not until 2008, with the country weary from intervention, and his heavily favored Democratic rival tainted with a vote for the Iraq invasion, that the electorate was primed for his candidacy…’
Alberta, Tim. American Carnage (p. vii). Harper. Kindle Edition.
What I’m getting at is the solid investigation by the writer immersed me into the analysis in a way only Hunter Thompson could have. In realizing that, I concluded that there is a very real possibility that President Trump is going to dismantle much of the New Deal underpinnings of our nation. The risk of such is increased exponentially by radical left socialist thinkers, but that must be addressed someplace other than in a book review.
Insofar as this book, I found myself highlighting more passages than I’ve highlighted since university days. This one, though, is worth repeating again and again:
‘…“I’m going to do something I haven’t done for the entire campaign. . . . I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump,” Cruz told reporters shortly after Trump’s Fox News appearance.15 “This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth, and in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist—a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen. Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and…’
Alberta, Tim. American Carnage (p. 317). Harper. Kindle Edition.
BLUSH FACTOR: The eff-word pops up now and then with more frequency and more regularity than many might prefer, but, hey, this is politics in the age of Trump. You probably won’t want to read this to your children, but, honestly, it remains an informative history.
WRITING & EDITING: First rate editing and the writing is solid. I’m tempted to tell you it grabbed me and wouldn’t let go, but then there would be some wise guys who would snarkily refer to the Billy Bush tapes.
‘…On October 22, two and a half years removed from Trump’s accusing Cruz’s father of aiding the assassination of JFK and Cruz calling Trump “a pathological liar,” the former foes shared the stage in Houston. The president couldn’t help but remind everyone of their “nasty” feud in 2016. But that was all behind them now. (“He’s not Lyin’ Ted anymore,” Trump said earlier in the day. “He’s Beautiful Ted.”) The president credited the Texas senator with leading the charge to pass the GOP agenda, devoting much of the rest of his speech to apocalyptic immigration talk. Democrats, he said, wanted to “give aliens free welfare and the right to vote,” and also let in MS-13 gang members, who “like cutting people up, slicing them” instead of using guns. Trump also embraced the term “nationalist,” calling himself by that controversial label for the first time.
The Cruz team breathed a sigh of liberation when the event concluded, believing disaster had been avoided. They were right. But the damage was undeniable nonetheless: Cruz’s support dropped 5 points overnight in the Houston market, and the local Republican congressman, John Culberson, saw an even steeper decline…’
Alberta, Tim. American Carnage (pp. 536-537). Harper. Kindle Edition.
Five stars out of five.
Finally, I need to close with a simple thought. My fear, actually, is that Trump gets re-elected and fully dismantles the constructive developments within our government that resulted from Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society. Mind you, I don’t expect to live to see the results, but imagine a nation with no social security, no national health care system, and no welfare/food stamp social net. That is the dream of the old guard within the Republican Party and that is the direction President Trump is taking this nation. “American Carnage” is more than merely a study of the Republican Civil War, it is a study of the chaos following the American Era between the Two Great Depressions.
I can relate to how Tim Alberta answers that question. Although I usually vote Republican, I give all candidates a fair hearing. I voted for, and campaigned for, Obama in 2012. I wrote Bernie Sanders a fan letter when he became prominent in the early 2000’s. In 2014 I wrote Vice President Joe Biden and urged him to run for president in 2016, as I expected to vote Democrat, but did not believe Ms. Clinton could be elected. When Biden declined to run, I supported Jeb Bush, a popular Republican governor of my state of Florida.
I didn’t vote in Florida’s Republican primary on March 9, 2016. A family emergency took me out of the state on that day. I couldn’t make up my mind that morning whether to vote for Kasich, Rubio, or Trump (Jeb was pretty much out of the race by that time) so I left without voting.
As the general election approached, I warmed to Trump. I traveled most of the country that summer and saw Trump’s appeal. A Liberal environmentalist in Colorado told me: “Trump is saying a lot of things that need to be said.” My wife, who despised Trump in early 2016, became an enthusiastic Trump voter as did many of her Hispanic relatives.
I’m not a stereotypical Trump voter. I’ve lived in central cities from Atlanta to Chicago and have voted for a few Democrats in local and statewide races. I am married into a Hispanic immigrant family. I founded a business that developed computer software to manage international trade. At one time I believed that international trade is always beneficial and that population growth from immigration unconditionally boosts the economy. Then there was Trump’s unsubtle demeanor. However, my opinion softened, then congealed around supporting him. Tim Alberta succinctly explains why:
IN PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS, THE CANDIDATE MUST MEET THE MOMENT. Barack Obama could not have won the White House with his dovish foreign policy platform in 2004, an election decided on the question of whom Americans wanted as their wartime president. It was not until 2008, with the country weary from intervention, and his heavily favored Democratic rival [Hillary Clinton] tainted with a vote for the Iraq invasion, that the electorate was primed for his candidacy. Similarly, Trump’s appeals to America’s darker impulses would have fallen flat in 2000. The nation was too peaceful, too prosperous, too cohesive.
Eight years later, the scenery had changed. The country was trapped in two deeply unpopular military conflicts. It was shedding jobs at an alarming rate, particularly in the manufacturing hubs of middle America. And its electorate was increasingly bifurcated, with partisans estranged from one another not just ideologically but geographically and culturally as well….
Alberta, Tim. American Carnage (pp. vii-viii). Harper. Kindle Edition.
I think Alberta is right and wrong.
IMO, he’s wrong about Ms. Clinton losing in 2008 and 2016 because she voted for the Iraq intervention. Obama beat her in 2008 because he had superior character and competence. Trump won in 2016 because he was more aligned with voters’ economic interests, and because many voters perceived Ms. Clinton to be ethically challenged, and perhaps too blatantly unfair in rigging the Democratic primaries against Bernie Sanders.
Why did Trump so thoroughly defeat the Republican Establishment candidates of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich? Tim Alberta nails it when he says that the Republican Establishment was “not just weak in the sense of campaign infrastructure or policy positions, but weak in spirit, weak in manner, weak in appearance.” Then came the general election. Many voters were just as fed up with Ms. Clinton’s free trade and open borders policies as they were with the Republican Party Establishment’s.
Our “free trade” treaties were sold to the public on the promise of creating “well-paying jobs for American workers who will be producing product to export.” Instead, millions of American jobs were moved to Mexico and China so product could be made with cheap foreign labor then imported back into the United States. Politicians of both parties first ignored, then vilified, people who’d been cheated out of their jobs by trade treaties based on a pack of lies. Many saw themselves heading into indigent old age. They were outraged to see foreigners entering the country illegally and being lavished with all the generosity of the welfare state, at a time when American citizens were having trouble finding work. Democrat activist Michael Moore explained it three months before the election:
5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win
Midwest Math, or Welcome to Our Rust Belt Brexit.
Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the Rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes – Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states....How can the race be this close...? Well maybe it’s because he’s said (correctly) that the Clintons’ support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest. Trump is going to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states.
And this is where the math comes in. In 2012, Mitt Romney lost by 64 electoral votes. Add up the electoral votes cast by Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It’s 64. All Trump needs to win.
A blogger on the Liberal Dailykos explained to his dejected Liberal friends on election night: "People are suffering financially in ways that we haven't seen since the 1920s…. The country is still poor. The job market still s***. Bernie tapped into that anger and so did Trump. This was a referendum on poverty and what causes it."
“The country was hurting. People were scared,” agrees Tim Alberta. Trump understood that. Ms. Clinton and the Republican Establishment stable of Jeb Bush, John Kasich, etc. didn’t.
Whether you see it that way, or in more malevolent terms that Trump was elected by votes of bigots, you’ll likely enjoy Tim Alberta’s thorough and conversationally written take. A caveat is that Alberta engages in the distortions you’d expect from a Never-Trumper. For example: "There was the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton, whose deception in the face of extramarital scandal might have angered more Democrats had Republicans not brimmed with hypocritical and opportunistic…" In truth, the Republicans’ annoyance with Clinton is that he is alleged to have sexually assaulted numerous women, and lied about it under oath, while pretending to be a friend of women’s rights.
He portrays British citizen Christopher Steele, whose dubious "Steele Dossier" was used by Trump opponents in the FBI to instigate FISA surveillance on Trump's campaign, as a conscientious retired intelligence officer, rather than a political hack paid by the Clinton campaign to gin up muck against Trump, including discredited allegations of "Russian Collusion."
These distortions did not diminish Alberta’s bigger picture of the campaign. There is much intense criticism of Trump, but also many quotes that show him in a very fair light. He gives Trump due credit for being consistent and principled on some issues, going back to the 1980’s
It’s a long book because it is comprehensive in covering many prominent political events and issues since 2000, not just the 2016 election. There are many interesting stories of how the Republican supporting cast of Reince Priebus, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, John McCain, George H.W. and W Bush, John Boehner, Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, Ted Cruz, et. al. reacted favorably and unfavorably to Trump.
Tim Alberta deserves kudos for writing such a comprehensive book covering the last decade of political upheaval that culminated with Trump.
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It is a view based on the failure of the GOP to prevent America from having its first black president, and almost let a woman president following Obama’s footsteps into the White House. This is also a chronicle of the race and gender prejudice that were born with the nation. It is a view that explains the rise of Donald Trump and the failure of the GOP in allowing Trump to turn autocratic.
This book also reveals all the inside fights within the GOP in Congressional and gubernatorial positions. If you have heard of the phrase, ‘Politics make strange bedfellows’, you will find multiple examples of that in action in this book. Pence, who is opposite in all ways to Trump, and who was anti-Trump in the beginning, ended up as the Donald’s quiet and obedient servant. This book also casts the spotlight on the treacheries in Congress – how Eric Cantor and John Boehner the big wigs in the party were ousted by a series of conspiratorial rebellions.
There is, of course, much material on Trump himself, but Trump is not the star in this book. It is a book of the workings of American politics and reveals, tellingly, why it does not work, and the mess the country is in. Republicans, though, may see a different picture.
I went for this book. A loooong book on my Kindle reader.
I was in for an excellent read. This book is easy among the best ten political books I have ever read.
The book reads as a thriller, as a tragedy and as a witty observation of the Republican Party and the Trump presidency. I have learnt a lot from it and I now see clearly what happened.
This is a great book. A long book but still a great read and one book that has moved me to both recommend it on Facebook and here in Amazon. A big thank you to the author and to the publisher. This is a book well worth a lot of hours on the sofa with some soft drinks and snacks.
My personal thoughts are just that, be assured though, this book lays the scene for what we see and endure now.