An old saying defines a camel as “a horse designed by a committee.” So what about a current events book written by three authors about President Donald Trump?
Consider “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate and the Not-Yet-Deported” (St. Martin’s Press, 352 pages) by E.J. Dionne Jr., Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann.
The authors are all progressive intellectuals of the Beltway variety: Dionne Jr., a Washington Post political columnist and senior fellow in governance studies at the Washington-based Brookings Institution; Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; and Mann, also a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
The trio coherently — for the most part — make sense of a bizarre 2016 election cycle. It is as if they recorded MSNBC for 12 months and presented it in a fast-forward version. But be warned: some of it is long-winded, as if all three were typing at the same time.
For instance, one sentence alone runs for 189 words. It’s on Page 2. It is about Trump. In it, the authors use the word “fear” nine times.
A somewhat shorter sentence indicates the view of the authors about the Chief Executive. They write:
“His highly unconventional and often offensive campaign, his behavior as president, and the ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil’ response so far from his fellow partisans in Congress present the most serious challenges to the norms of our democracy since the period leading up to the Civil War.”
The authors like the root word “norm.” They write the 45th president ignores norms, that he is not normal and that he is “normless.” They never use the word “abnormal,” although it is implied.
To explain his rise, in the first half of the book, released last month, the authors portray him as a demagogue amidst decaying American optimism who took advantage of the backlash mood and the right-wing drift of the Republican Party.
“Consider the aspects of Trumps persona and approach that incite such disquiet and rage,” they write. “The ease with which he demonizes whole groups of Americans; his indifference to fact; his willingness to lie with impunity; his lack of even elementary knowledge or intellectual curiosity about policy; his proclivity toward shifting positions again and again; his quest to tote up ‘wins’ without any concern about the content of the proposals he is pushing; his lack of any historical sense; his belief that everything is about a ‘deal’; and his refusal to acknowledge any need to separate his personal financial interests from his public duties.”
Trump benefited, they also write, from the decline of traditional media — major TV networks, big-city newspapers — as gatekeepers of true news and real facts in an internet era of “fake news” from Russian troll farms or even the White House.
What would a Founding Father say? The authors tell you. “Disorienting the public by blurring the line between fact and falsehood, Alexander Hamilton warned, is the trick of the despot whose ‘object is to throw things into confusion that he may ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’ ”
The second half of the book — the optimistic part called “The Way Forward” — doesn’t feel nearly as sure-footed. It is a grab bag and a wish list for a fuzzy future.
Don’t worry, they seem to say. Trump will go away.
Better days will come, they suggest, if only we abolish the Electoral College, stop gerrymandering Congressional districts, “restore economics to its central place in progressive politics,” rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, guarantee jobs, allow Medicare “buy-in” at age 55 — and on it goes.
Good luck with all that.
Joe Lapointe is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.
‘One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate and the Not-Yet-Deported’
by E.J. Dionne Jr., Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann
St. Martin’s Press (352 pages)