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American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the…

de Tim Alberta

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1268166,930 (3.82)12
New York Times' Top Books of 2019 New York Times Bestseller 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 off hundreds of exclusive interviews--including with key players such as President 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.… (mais)
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  BillGour | Mar 20, 2021 |
Though the title is taken from Donald Trump’s 2017 inaugural address, this book is about more than just the 45th president of the United States and his impact on the Republican Party. Instead what Tim Alberta provides is a Washington-eye view of the evolution of the national GOP from the 2008 election to the midway point of Trump’s presidency. A longtime political reporter, Alberta draws upon a wealth of interviews with many of the key Republicans in Congress, featuring them as they key figures in their party’s evolution from the pro-immigration supporters of free trade and fiscal restraint into the more nativist, protectionist, and xenophobic party they have become since 2016.

As Alberta demonstrates, the factors that led to this transformation were present well before Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency. By the end of George W. Bush’s presidency Congressional Republicans faced a lot of internal discontent with their deficit spending habits and the costs of two interminable wars in the Middle East, to which was added the onset of a severe recession. With Barack Obama’s victory over John McCain in 2008, Republican leaders feared they might be politically marginalized for the next generation. Even in the afterglow of Obama’s victory, though, his team recognized that they would likely face a backlash because of the dismal economic conditions and the hard choices before them.

That backlash was the Tea Party movement. Its energy translated into Republican victories up and down the ballot in the midterm election. Yet even as Republicans benefited electorally from public dissatisfaction with Obama’s administration, Alberta notes the emerging tension between the party leadership and the new members of the caucus, many of whom rode to victory on the basis of this dissatisfaction. The new House Speaker, John Boehner, bore the brunt of this conflict, as the more radicalized members of his majority often pressed for actions that Boehner (who at one time was considered on the extreme wing of the House Republican caucus) resisted as pointless. Such extremism proved counter-productive in the Senate races that year, as Alberta notes how the selection of the more radical candidates cost the Republicans winnable races that would have given them unified control of Congress.

This tension only grew over the next six years, inspiring ambitious Republicans and frustrating legislative achievements. With Obama’s reelection victory in 2012, many within the party worried that they were on an electorally unsustainable course that would prove disastrous. Three years later the Republicans had a primary field notable for its considerable diversity, yet in the end what the base desired most was not ideological extremism or detailed conservative proposals, but someone who tapped into their cultural anxieties. Enter Donald Trump, whose often outrageous rhetoric and media savvy combined to win the nomination over a number of prominent party figures. Though many Republican officeholders blanched at his statements, his unexpected victory cuffed them to a mercurial figure who demanded total loyalty and who was even willing to sacrifice political power to get it.

Drawing as he does from conversations with many of the key individuals involved, Alberta offers an insider’s account of a decade’s worth of American politics. As perceptive of much of his analysis is, though, Alberta’s book suffers from some unfortunate limitations. These are a consequence of his “inside the Beltway” focus, with little consideration of developments at the state and the local level. With only a marginal effort made to unpack the dynamics that often drove many of the events he describes, the Congressional maneuvering and political infighting he describes can assume a greater importance than it might otherwise possess. A more expansive coverage might have made for a stronger book, albeit perhaps a less readable one. For with its mixture of reporting and retrospective commentary, Alberta’s book serves as a compulsively readable record of an important moment in the history of the Republican Party, one the consequences of which continue to ripple outward. ( )
  MacDad | Aug 20, 2020 |
I really enjoyed the audio version of this -- listened to on long drives, walks, while cooking. I remember many of the events, but Alberta adds not only the context and timeline but deep and original reporting. The book helped me understand that Trump is the symptom, not the disease, of the GOP. Once he's gone -- and he will be gone, sooner than later -- this party will confront a reckoning unlike any they've seen. While I sometimes disagreed with Alberta's analysis, I found many of his arguments about why things turned out the way they did very persuasive. The Covington Catholic incident was one example. Alberta rightly corrects the record about the facts of the event -- the students did not instigate, and the mélee was much more complicated -- but he leaves the impression that Omaha elder Nathan Phillips lied about his Vietnam service. That's much murkier -- Phillips is a vet and has often described himself as a Vietnam-times or era vet, which is true. Phillips spent four years in the Marine Corps Reserve and left in 1976 with the rank of private, or E-1. Snopes has the rundown of the controversy here: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/nathan-phillips-vietnam-veteran/. Alberta utterly misses the structural violence that underlay that encounter, symbolized by Covington's virtually all-white enrollment and their continued used of a Confederate colonel as a mascot. In other words, the encounter wasn't some clash of "kids" and lefties, but has deeper and more complex roots. Where Alberta really sines is his portrayals of some of the real people in the news, especially the moral vacuum that is Paul Ryan, the gabfests with John Boehner, and especially the impossible position held by Tim Scott (R-SC). Very worth a read! ( )
  MaximusStripus | Jul 7, 2020 |
This is a dissection of the Republican Party covering the last 20 years or so and details the conditions under which Donald Trump was able to take over the GOP and totally change it. It's a very long book (600+ pages), but engrossing if you're into the subject matter. The state of affairs of politics and the behavior of the elected officials in our nation is disgusting and disgraceful, and frankly I can't see how we're ever going to make our way back to the days when both parties in Congress actually worked with each other and compromised in order to accomplish big things. It's very disheartening and troubling. ( )
  flourgirl49 | Dec 1, 2019 |
Readers looking for an exhaustive recap of Donald Trump's tumultuous trip to the White House — and his two-and-a--half years in office — won't be disappointed by Alberta's work. For those of who closely follow political developments, "American Carnage" will offer few surprises. But Alberta's systematic recounting of the many controversies gives readers an insightful bird's eye view of what is clearly among the most twist-filled eras in U.S. history. When I saw that this audiobook spanned 21 discs, I almost put it back on the library shelf. I'm glad I didn't. ( )
  brianinbuffalo | Nov 22, 2019 |
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New York Times' Top Books of 2019 New York Times Bestseller 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 off hundreds of exclusive interviews--including with key players such as President 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.

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