Some books of interest to help us understand.
The Steal: The Attempt to Overturn the 2020 Election and the People who Stopped It
by Mark Bowden & Matthew Teague
(Atlantic Monthly Press, $28)
In The Steal, veteran journalists Mark Bowden and Matthew Teague offer a week-by-week, state-by-state account of the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
In the sixty-four days between November 3 and January 6, President Donald Trump and his allies fought to reverse the outcome of the vote. Focusing on six states–Arizona,
Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin–Trump’s supporters claimed widespread voter fraud.Caught up in this effort were scores of activists, lawyers, judges,
and state and local officials. Working with a team of researchers and reporters, Bowden and Teague uncover never-before-told accounts from the election
officials fighting to do their jobs amid outlandish claims and threats to themselves, their colleagues, and their families. The Steal is an engaging, in-depth report on what happened during those crucial nine weeks and a portrait of the dedicated individuals who did their duty and stood firm against the unprecedented, sustained attack on our election system and ensured that every legal vote was counted and that the will of the people prevailed.
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How Civil Wars Start
by Barbara F. Walter
A leading political scientist examines the dramatic rise in violent extremism around the globe and sounds the alarm on the increasing likelihood of a second civil war in the United States
MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK—The New York Times • “An imperative book for our time.”—Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist
“When one of the world’s leading scholars of civil war tells us that the United States stands at the brink of violent conflict, we should pay attention.”—Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, authors of How Democracies Die
Political violence rips apart several towns in southwest Texas. A far-right militia plots to kidnap the governor of Michigan and try her for treason. An armed mob of Trump supporters and conspiracy theorists storms the U.S. Capitol. Are these isolated incidents? Or is this the start of something bigger? Barbara F. Walter has spent her career studying civil conflict in places like Iraq and Sri Lanka, but now she has become increasingly worried about her own country.
Perhaps surprisingly, both autocracies and healthy democracies are largely immune from civil war; it’s the countries in the middle ground that are most vulnerable. And this is where more and more countries, including the United States, are finding themselves today.
Over the last two decades, the number of active civil wars around the world has almost doubled. Walter reveals the warning signs—where wars tend to start, who initiates them, what triggers them—and why some countries tip over into conflict while others remain stable. Drawing on the latest international research and lessons from over twenty countries, Walter identifies the crucial risk factors, from democratic backsliding to factionalization and the politics of resentment. A civil war today won’t look like America in the 1860s, Russia in the 1920s, or Spain in the 1930s. It will begin with sporadic acts of violence and terror, accelerated by social media. It will sneak up on us and leave us wondering how we could have been so blind.
In this urgent and insightful book, Walter redefines civil war for a new age, providing the framework we need to confront the danger we now face—and the knowledge to stop it before it’s too late.
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It Could Happen Here: Why America Is Tipping from Hate
to the Unthinkable—And How We Can Stop It
by Jonathan Greenblatt
(Mariner Books, $25)
From the dynamic head of ADL, an impassioned argument about the terrifying path that America finds itself on today—and how we can save ourselves
It’s almost impossible to imagine that unbridled hate and systematic violence could come for us or our families. But it has happened in our lifetimes in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. And it could happen here.
Today, as CEO of the storied ADL (the Anti-Defamation League), Jonathan Greenblatt has made it his personal mission to demonstrate how antisemitism, racism, and other insidious forms of intolerance can destroy a society, taking root as quiet prejudices but mutating over time into horrific acts of brutality. In this urgent book, Greenblatt sounds an alarm, warning that this age-old trend is gathering momentum in the United States—and that violence on an even larger, more catastrophic scale could be just around the corner.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Drawing on ADL’s decades of experience in fighting hate through investigative research, education programs, and legislative victories as well as his own personal story and his background in business and government, Greenblatt offers a bracing primer on how we—as individuals, as organizations, and as a society—can strike back against hate. Just because it could happen here, he shows, does not mean that the unthinkable is inevitable.
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Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism
by Anne Applebaum
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by The Washington Post and The Financial Times • “How did our democracy go wrong? This extraordinary document … is Applebaum’s answer.” —Timothy Snyder, author of On Tyranny
A Pulitzer Prize–winning historian explains, with electrifying clarity, why elites in democracies around the world are turning toward nationalism and authoritarianism.
From the United States and Britain to continental Europe and beyond, liberal democracy is under siege, while authoritarianism is on the rise. In Twilight of Democracy, Anne Applebaum, an award-winning historian of Soviet atrocities who was one of the first American journalists to raise an alarm about antidemocratic trends in the West, explains the lure of nationalism and autocracy. In this captivating essay, she contends that political systems with radically simple beliefs are inherently appealing, especially when they benefit the loyal to the exclusion of everyone else. Elegantly written and urgently argued, Twilight of Democracy is a brilliant dissection of a world-shaking shift and a stirring glimpse of the road back to democratic values.
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Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy
by Jamie Raskin
In this searing memoir, Congressman Jamie Raskin tells the story of the forty-five days at the start of 2021 that permanently changed his life—and his family’s—as he confronted the painful loss of his son to suicide, lived through the violent insurrection in our nation’s Capitol, and led the impeachment effort to hold President Trump accountable for inciting the political violence.
On December 31, 2020, Tommy Raskin, the only son of Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin, tragically took his own life after a long struggle with depression. Seven days later on January 6, Congressman Raskin returned to Congress to help certify the 2020 Presidential election results, when violent insurrectionists led by right wing extremist groups stormed the U.S. Capitol hoping to hand four more years of power to President Donald Trump. As our reeling nation mourned the deaths of numerous people and lamented the injuries of more than 140 police officers hurt in the attack, Congressman Raskin, a Constitutional law professor, was called upon to put aside his overwhelming grief—both personal and professional—and lead the impeachment effort against President Trump for inciting the violence. Together this nine-member team of House impeachment managers riveted a nation still in anguish, putting on an unprecedented Senate trial that produced the most bipartisan Presidential impeachment vote in American history.
Now for the first time, Congressman Raskin discusses this unimaginable convergence of personal and public trauma, detailing how the painful loss of his son and the power of Tommy’s convictions fueled the Congressman’s work in the aftermath of modern democracy’s darkest day. Going inside Congress on January 6, he recounts the horror of that day, a day that he and other Democrats had spent months preparing for under the correct assumption that they would encounter an attempted electoral coup—not against a President but for one. And yet, on January 6, he faced the one thing he had failed to anticipate: mass political violence designed to block Biden’s election. With an inside account of leading the team prosecuting President Trump in the Senate, Congressman Raskin shares never before told stories of just how close we came to losing our democracy that fateful day and lays out the methodical prosecution that convinced Democrats and Republicans alike of Trump’s responsibility for inciting insurrectionary violence against our government.
Through it all, he reckons with the loss of his brilliant, remarkable son, a Harvard Law student whose values and memory continually inspired the Congressman to confront the dark impulses unleashed by Donald Trump. At turns, a moving story of a father coping with his pain and a revealing examination of holding President Trump accountable for the violence he fomented, this book is a vital reminder of the ongoing struggle for the soul of American democracy and the perseverance that our Constitution demands from us all.
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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century
by Timothy Snyder
#1 New York Times Bestseller • A historian of fascism offers a guide for surviving and resisting America’s turn towards authoritarianism.
The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.
On Tyranny is a call to arms and a guide to resistance, with invaluable ideas for how we can preserve our freedoms in the uncertain years to come.
“Mr. Snyder is a rising public intellectual unafraid to make bold connections between past and present.” —The New York Times
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by Bob Woodward & Robert Costa
(Simon & Schuster, $30)
The transition from President Donald J. Trump to President Joseph R. Biden Jr. stands as one of the most dangerous periods in American history.
But as # 1 internationally bestselling author Bob Woodward and acclaimed reporter Robert Costa reveal for the first time, it was far more than just a domestic political crisis.
Woodward and Costa interviewed more than 200 people at the center of the turmoil, resulting in more than 6,000 pages of transcripts—and a spellbinding and definitive portrait of a nation on the brink.
This classic study of Washington takes readers deep inside the Trump White House, the Biden White House, the 2020 campaign, and the Pentagon and Congress, with vivid, eyewitness accounts of what really happened.
Peril is supplemented throughout with never-before-seen material from secret orders, transcripts of confidential calls, diaries, emails, meeting notes and other personal and government records, making for an unparalleled history.
It is also the first inside look at Biden’s presidency as he faces the challenges of a lifetime: the continuing deadly pandemic and millions of Americans facing soul-crushing economic pain, all the while navigating a bitter and disabling partisan divide, a world rife with threats, and the hovering, dark shadow of the former president.
“We have much to do in this winter of peril,” Biden declared at his inauguration, an event marked by a nerve-wracking security alert and the threat of domestic terrorism.
Peril is the extraordinary story of the end of one presidency and the beginning of another, and represents the culmination of Bob Woodward’s news-making trilogy on the Trump presidency, along with Fear and Rage. And it is the beginning of a collaboration with fellow Washington Post reporter Robert Costa that will remind readers of Woodward’s coverage, with Carl Bernstein, of President Richard M. Nixon’s final days.
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Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could
by Adam Schiff
(Random House, $30)
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The vital inside account of American democracy in its darkest hour, from the rise of autocracy unleashed by Trump to the January 6 insurrection, and a warning that those forces remain as potent as ever—from the congressman who led the first impeachment of Donald J. Trump
“Engaging and informative . . . a manual for how to probe and question power, how to hold leaders accountable in a time of diminishing responsibility.”—The Washington Post
In the years leading up to the election of Donald Trump, Congressman Adam Schiff had already been sounding the alarm over the resurgence of autocracy around the world, and the threat this posed to the United States. But as he led the probe into Donald Trump’s Russia and Ukraine-related abuses of presidential power, Schiff came to the terrible conclusion that the principal threat to American democracy now came from within.
In Midnight in Washington, Schiff argues that the Trump presidency has so weakened our institutions and compromised the Republican Party that the peril will last for years, requiring unprecedented vigilance against the growing and dangerous appeal of authoritarianism. The congressman chronicles step by step just how our democracy was put at such risk, and traces his own path to meeting the crisis—from serious prosecutor, to congressman with an expertise in national security and a reputation for bipartisanship, to liberal lightning rod, scourge of the right, and archenemy of a president. Schiff takes us inside his team of impeachment managers and their desperate defense of the constitution amid the rise of a distinctly American brand of autocracy.
Deepening our understanding of prominent public moments, Schiff reveals the private struggles, the internal conflicts, and the triumphs of courage that came with defending the republic against a lawless president—but also the slow surrender of people that he had worked with and admired to the dangerous immorality of a president engaged in an historic betrayal of his office. Schiff’s fight for democracy is one of the great dramas of our time, told by the man who became the president’s principal antagonist. It is a story that began with Trump but does not end with him, taking us through the disastrous culmination of the presidency and Schiff’s account of January 6, 2021, and how the anti-democratic forces Trump unleashed continue to define his party, making the future of democracy in America more uncertain than ever.
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The Origins of Totalitarianism
by Hannah Arendt
(Mariner Books, $19)
Hannah Arendt’s definitive work on totalitarianism??—??an essential component of any study of twentieth-century political history.
The Origins of Totalitarianism begins with the rise of anti-Semitism in central and western Europe in the 1800s and continues with an examination of European colonial imperialism from 1884 to the outbreak of World War I. Arendt explores the institutions and operations of totalitarian movements, focusing on the two genuine forms of totalitarian government in our time??—??Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia??—??which she adroitly recognizes were two sides of the same coin, rather than opposing philosophies of Right and Left. From this vantage point, she discusses the evolution of classes into masses, the role of propaganda in dealing with the nontotalitarian world, the use of terror, and the nature of isolation and loneliness as preconditions for total domination.