The United States today is bitterly divided. It is less an aspirational melting pot of immigrants and more a salad bowl made up of distinct, often clashing flavors. The successive elections of two divisive presidents—one committed to the perennial leftist dream of “fundamental change” and the other to a conservative vision of “Making America Great Again”—have exacerbated what is arguably the greatest rift in politics since the election of Abraham Lincoln. Taking inspiration from Coleridge’s belief that all humans are temperamentally destined to follow the path of Plato the Idealist or Aristotle the Realist, this book examines the political divide in terms of these temperamental differences.
Liberals’ and conservatives’ views of human nature have a large bearing on the political policies they espouse, but their temperaments and personalities have the most significant impact. This book analyses the personality traits of liberals and conservatives in terms of the “Big Five” model—openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Conservatives are found in almost all studies to be more conscientious, agreeable, and extroverted, while liberals are found to be more open to new experience and neurotic. The political divisions I explore in this book are all essentially fueled by personality differences.
There is a deepening divide between liberals and conservatives in the battle for America’s soul: one side seeks to steer the nation sharply to the left into socialist selfdom, whereas the other side desires a wealthy and free America under the watchful eye of God’s providence. A preponderance of academic texts belongs to the liberal tradition. Conservatives have long lacked a comparable intellectual tradition of their own, although an incipient one is now beginning to form. This book, while maintaining a measure of scholarly distance, is unashamedly written from a conservative point of view.
Beginning with an examination of the dramatic 2016 election, Nelson’s book follows Trump as he takes office under mostly favorable conditions, with relative stability at home and abroad and his party in control of both houses of Congress. Trump leveraged this successfully in some ways, from the confirmation of his nominee Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to the passage of his tax-reform bill. But many more actions were perceived as failures or even threats to a safe, functional democracy, including immigration policies defied by state and local governments, volatile dealings with North Korea, unsuccessful attempts to pass major legislation, and the inability to fill government positions or maintain consistent White House staff.
As Nelson demonstrates in a substantial addition to the original book, Trump’s effectiveness, or lack thereof, did not change significantly in his second year in office, but his approach often did. With the Mueller investigation and the midterm elections looming, Trump threw off his advisors’ restraints and acted more directly on his impulses, reverting to the instincts and rhetoric that had won him the election. While opposition to Trump remained strong in many quarters, resistance among GOP leaders crumbled as they were confronted with their constituents’ support of the president.
Published on the second anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, Nelson’s book offers the most complete and up-to-date assessment of this still-unfolding story.
Praise for the first edition:
"Measured, scholarly, and always accessible, this is a cogent analysis of the first year of the Trump presidency."--the Independent
" Trump’s First Year won't generate the bombshell headlines of more sensationalist and gossipy books, but it provides context and balance for its conclusions, ones that are consistently at odds with Trump's own assessment of his performance."--Kirkus Reviews
"Providing one of the earliest objective evaluations of President Donald J. Trump’s administration, Nelson demonstrates why he remains a leading figure in the field of presidency studies."--Choice
So, just what's happening out there? The American Empire is dying, says Bill Kauffman in this incisive, eye-opening investigation into modern-day secession-the next radical idea poised to enter mainstream discourse. And those rising up to topple that empire are a surprising mix of conservatives, liberals, regionalists, and independents who-from movement to movement-may share few political beliefs but who have one thing in common: a sense that our nation has grown too large, and too powerfully centralized, to stay true to its founding principles.
Bye Bye, Miss American Empire traces the historical roots of the secessionist spirit, and introduces us to the often radical, sometimes quixotic, and highly charged movements that want to decentralize and re-localize power.
During the George W. Bush administration, frustrated liberals talked secession back to within hailing distance of the margins of national debate, a place it had not occupied since 1861. Now, secessionist voices on the left and right and everywhere in between are amplifying. Writes Kauffman, "The noise is the sweet hum of revolution, of subjects learning how to be citizens, of people shaking off . . . their Wall Street and Pentagon overlords and taking charge of their lives once more."
Engaging, illuminating, even sometimes troubling, Bye Bye, Miss American Empire is a must-read for those taking the pulse of the nation.
Ten leading scholars explore how, over the past two centuries, the changing positions of the United States in the world economy and in the international political order have shaped U.S. political institutions and domestic politics. Ira Katznelson, Aristide R. Zolberg, and Robert O. Keohane demonstrate the central role that efforts to contend with foreign military and economic competition played in forming the major institutions of U.S. government from the framing of the Constitution through the Civil War. Martin Shefter, Theda Skocpol (writing with Ziad Munson, Andrew Karch, and Bayliss Camp), Ronald Rogowski, and Judith Goldstein show how the nation's political institutions were transformed by problems of war and trade the U.S. subsequently faced. Aaron L. Friedberg, Bartholomew H. Sparrow, and Peter A. Gourevitch conclude the volume by analyzing how international conflicts during and after the Cold War influenced governmental institutions and domestic politics in the United States over the past fifty years. Shaped by War and Trade sets the agenda for further exploration of a topic whose discussion is long overdue.
In The Red and the Blue, cable news star and acclaimed journalist Steve Kornacki follows the twin paths of Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, two larger-than-life politicians who exploited the weakened structure of their respective parties to attain the highest offices. For Clinton, that meant contorting himself around the various factions of the Democratic party to win the presidency. Gingrich employed a scorched-earth strategy to upend the permanent Republican minority in the House, making him Speaker.
The Clinton/Gingrich battles were bare-knuckled brawls that brought about massive policy shifts and high-stakes showdowns—their collisions had far-reaching political consequences. But the ’90s were not just about them. Kornacki writes about Mario Cuomo’s stubborn presence around Clinton’s 1992 campaign; Hillary Clinton’s star turn during the 1998 midterms, seeding the idea for her own candidacy; Ross Perot’s wild run in 1992 that inspired him to launch the Reform Party, giving Donald Trump his first taste of electoral politics in 1999; and many others.
With novelistic prose and a clear sense of history, Steve Kornacki masterfully weaves together the various elements of this rambunctious and hugely impactful era in American history, whose effects set the stage for our current political landscape.