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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 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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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 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.

30 review for American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    There was absolutely nothing new in this book that a regular reader of the New York Times and reader of political blogs and twitter would not have already known. I stopped this book near the half way point where Trump was winning the Iowa caucus and ‘lying Ted’ was trying to make a comeback and ‘little Rubio’ the ‘freedom caucus’ favorite was self inflicting. For those who raved about this book, I would challenge them to find me one fact that wasn’t generally already known by most political foll There was absolutely nothing new in this book that a regular reader of the New York Times and reader of political blogs and twitter would not have already known. I stopped this book near the half way point where Trump was winning the Iowa caucus and ‘lying Ted’ was trying to make a comeback and ‘little Rubio’ the ‘freedom caucus’ favorite was self inflicting. For those who raved about this book, I would challenge them to find me one fact that wasn’t generally already known by most political followers except some of the self serving spin provided by the people the author had obviously interviewed. The author compounds his familiar story telling by shading it with the narrative from those he interviewed such as Boehner, Cantor, and Ryan. He tells their story by blaming the Democrats such as Obama for not ‘compromising’ with the Republicans and therefore creating a political mess that leads to Trump. What the author tries to unconvincingly show is the Democrats are to blame for creating Trump rather than the Republican noise machine and the Republicans themselves. Trump is a monster. He did not create the hate that’s in the Republican Party. Their hate enabled him. He channels their hate. The one book that everyone should read today is Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’. Hitler, the monster, was only saying out loud what the people believed in whispers just as Trump is doing today. The hate was there, Hitler only channeled it. Trump channels it too. Did you see Trumps KKK/Nuremburg rally last night? (That would be, 7/17/2019). Most Republicans saw nothing wrong when Trump tweeted ‘go back to your own country’, and the fascist KKK members in the audience led the chant ‘send her back’. There’s a reason why the New York Times referred to the KKK as America’s Fascist in 1925 and the KKK/fascist label still resonates within bigots who think it’s okay to tell Americans ‘go back to the country you came from’. This author doesn’t get it. Ben Carson Trump’s secretary of something or another said ‘vaccines cause autism’, Trump said ‘climate change is a Chinese hoax’. Those are ignorant statements embraceable only by fools who want to be led into chants of ‘send her back’. Fascism needs feelings as justification over logic or reason. The first lady Melania and Trump led the birther movement embraced by Republicans, a movement that is racist to its core, just as the members in Trump’s KKK/Nuremberg rally are as they shout ‘send her back’. This author tries to separate Trump from the Republican Party and the racist or fascist who attend his rallies of hate. Trump and Republicans are entwined and are one with each other’s hate. The author marginalizes Trumps birtherism, and how Republicans continue to lap up that brand of hate; because that is who they are (watch last night’s KKK/Nuremberg rally if you doubt they hate without just cause). They created Trump and the author acts as if it is Trump that created them and pretends that the Tea Party tri-color hat wearers cared about deficits and spending and weren’t really motivated by a ‘black man in the white house’. I got my credit back on this book. I’ve only done that two other times and I’ve purchased over 1000 books from audible. This author should never have written this book if he had nothing to add to the conversation besides what the average well informed person already knows. The country is led by a racist, makes racist tweets, holds racist rallies and is fully supported by his fellow Republicans. Hate radio emboldens Trump and the Republicans who created him, Fox News supports his alternative facts, and authors like this one add nothing to the conversation that wasn’t already known and minimizes the complicity that the Republicans have in creating a monster who is them because he is one of them.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    The latest entry in books looking at Donald Trump and his presidency is "American Carnage", by Politico author Tim Alberta. He takes a slightly different tack than many books about Trump in that he examines Trump's place in the Republican Party. In fact, the book is as much an examination of the party of Trump as it is about Donald Trump, himself. The book is described as "rollicking" but I truly don't think the last two years of the Donald Trump presidency can be described with any humor. Tim A The latest entry in books looking at Donald Trump and his presidency is "American Carnage", by Politico author Tim Alberta. He takes a slightly different tack than many books about Trump in that he examines Trump's place in the Republican Party. In fact, the book is as much an examination of the party of Trump as it is about Donald Trump, himself. The book is described as "rollicking" but I truly don't think the last two years of the Donald Trump presidency can be described with any humor. Tim Alberta is a good writer and he gives some new info about Trump and his party. Various administration members give some good "dish", as do non-administration Republicans. I don't buy every book about Donald Trump, but this one has been interesting reading. If you're a Trump afficianado, you probably won't like the book. If you don't like Trump, you'll like this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    Tim Alberta is a strange creature, a political nerd seemingly without a party. Reading him, he at times appears to have sympathies for old-time conservatives, libertarian outrage, and the broader liberal message. He is chief political correspondent for Politico but covered the 2016 election for the National Review and National Journal. He has reported for the conservative-leaning Wall Street Journal as well. He came to Washington, D.C. at the end of the 2nd Bush administration, and had a front r Tim Alberta is a strange creature, a political nerd seemingly without a party. Reading him, he at times appears to have sympathies for old-time conservatives, libertarian outrage, and the broader liberal message. He is chief political correspondent for Politico but covered the 2016 election for the National Review and National Journal. He has reported for the conservative-leaning Wall Street Journal as well. He came to Washington, D.C. at the end of the 2nd Bush administration, and had a front row seat at the self-described “Republican civil war.” The most stressful part of the book revisits the horror show of the past four years—those stomach-churning moments when you wonder how any of us will survive this headless, brainless dog-and-pony show. At points in the book we hear John Boehner say “There is no Republican Party” and Alberta himself conclude, “The party itself was contracting.” Alberta quotes several people important at one time or another to the party, giving a lot of space to the man I once held responsible for the damage of the past twenty years: Paul Ryan. I don’t know the man, I just know the aura that surrounded him…’youngest’ ‘brightest’ ‘budget wonk’ slavishly flipping through a dogeared copy of von Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. It is enough to make you detest the folks so eager to pass on all effort (and blame) by declaring the hungriest should figure it all out while they watch. The Fall of Rome comes to mind. One thing I appreciate is Ryan’s definition of a ‘paleocon’: isolationist, protectionist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant: “kind of what you have now.” The end of the book has Karl Rove saying the party is forever, unchangeable by Trump. Kellyanne Conway insists the GOP is now a Trumpian party, which is absurd on its face since no one except Trump can pull off that particular sleight of hand—thank god—so it will die with him. Younger members of the diaspora of the destroyed center predict a third party. Of course there will be a third party, but just how and when it will manifest will be the struggle of the future. What I wonder is how many consequential parties there will be. What struck me about the story of this internecine GOP battle is how the regular GOP was not supportive of the argumentative and politically insane Tea Partiers that preceded Trump, and they actually hated Trump. One had to suspect it—I mean the guy is a destructive loser—but given Republicans general intransigence and lack of coherence over the years, it was difficult for an outsider to discern. Their unwillingness to deep six Trump’s candidacy—something they could have done with an iota of moral fortitude, makes me unwilling to give them much brain space. They deserve to participate in the funeral for their party in their own way. I am surprised at my disgust at how deep the rot goes. I suspected both parties were bankrupt, but it has been confirmed by those I blamed for the problem: Paul Ryan again. Alberta tell us a principal reason that Ryan quit is the he found it impossible to set a good example:”The incentive structures are too warped, the allure of money and fame and self-preservation too powerful, for individuals to change the system from within.”We also get disturbing glimpses of the Democratic party, another example of the rot in the system. Eric Holder told a group of Georgia crowd that Michelle Obama’s “when they go low, we go high,” wasn’t right. “No,” Holder said. “When they go low, we kick them.” Cripes. The Republicans were clever with the Red Map strategy in 2010. Too clever by half, perhaps, but they did figure out a way to win a huge proportion of seats legally, if unfairly. You mean to tell me we can’t do better than the team that is so full of their own crap they couldn’t win a race fairly if they tried? It’s not money, folks. Money makes you comfortable, so in a way, that makes it is a little harder. Get ready to be uncomfortable. Justin Amash, the Michigan congressman elected in 2010 who defected from the Republican party is quoted in 2018 as saying "The Tea Party is gone. It doesn’t exist anymore. There just aren’t that many Republicans now who are that concerned about spending, about debt, about big government."If only that were true. They’re dead, they just don’t know it. The Undead. So in the end I feel worse about both parties and our political future. I know it will all change and there will be the dysfunction of trying to operate a new party with the corruption of the old ones. One just has to be able to stand back and assess from a position of strength, and for that we need to be smarter. When they defund your schools, throw them out. Don’t be ignorant. You’re gonna need every edge you can get.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Raymond

    Alberta has written an amazing book which chronicles the 11 year journey of the Republican Party, going from a party in a civil war while out of power to its return to power with the Trump Presidency. I'm someone who follows politics very closely and remembers all of the events that took place in this book but Alberta effectively gives an unbiased look at where the political right was and is during this last decade. The book ends in the Spring of 2019, alot has happened since. A sequel is defini Alberta has written an amazing book which chronicles the 11 year journey of the Republican Party, going from a party in a civil war while out of power to its return to power with the Trump Presidency. I'm someone who follows politics very closely and remembers all of the events that took place in this book but Alberta effectively gives an unbiased look at where the political right was and is during this last decade. The book ends in the Spring of 2019, alot has happened since. A sequel is definitely needed, I hope he writes one.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Miracle Jones

    A fairly comprehensive yet painfully lifeless and mediocre history of the....present? The only thing here that hasn't been reported better elsewhere by reporters less interested in flattering Republicans for dubious reasons is the primary contest between Trump and Cruz, so if you can find those chapters excerpted elsewhere, you will get all you need from this one. It is actually a colossal failure that this journalist manages to talk about the current Republican party without seeming to venture A fairly comprehensive yet painfully lifeless and mediocre history of the....present? The only thing here that hasn't been reported better elsewhere by reporters less interested in flattering Republicans for dubious reasons is the primary contest between Trump and Cruz, so if you can find those chapters excerpted elsewhere, you will get all you need from this one. It is actually a colossal failure that this journalist manages to talk about the current Republican party without seeming to venture once into the seething, torrid, hateful online world that has given rise to the Trump phenomenon in the first place. How can you really understand how the right is thinking without investigating the fucked-up places where they are getting their poisonous marching orders?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    Why read a book recounting major things that happened in the Republican party over the last 12 years? Especially when you're someone like me, who spent that time editing coverage of the Republican party? What I didn't realize when I embarked on Tim Alberta's well-reported book, American Carnage, was that he is slowly, carefully constructing an argument about the state of the Republican party. Alberta points out astutely that Republicans, through a series of decisions — some intentional and some Why read a book recounting major things that happened in the Republican party over the last 12 years? Especially when you're someone like me, who spent that time editing coverage of the Republican party? What I didn't realize when I embarked on Tim Alberta's well-reported book, American Carnage, was that he is slowly, carefully constructing an argument about the state of the Republican party. Alberta points out astutely that Republicans, through a series of decisions — some intentional and some accidental — were so desperate to regain power in the wake of President Obama's election in 2008, made a deal with some of the more unsavory elements of the party. It's a "Faustian bargain," as he refers to a few times throughout the book. First, John Boehner, desperate to become House Speaker again, looked to this new wave of Tea Party activists, only to have them challenge his leadership over and over again. He assumed the freshmen congressmen would fall in line because "freshmen always fall in line" — but not this time. This was a class of politicians sick of the way Washington works, and they weren't going to take "no" for an answer. This is a well-trod story, but what Alberta carefully constructs over telling the story of the next few years, is that each of these types of people, even the Tea Party, touches power they get thirsty for more, sells out to its more evil influences. He talks about how a supposedly principled g,broup like the House Freedom Caucus simply became a mouthpiece for Trump to an absurd degree. (I might quibble a bit with the premise — the Freedom Caucus was never that principled and instead engaged in good branding to garner media coverage.) Despite it's hefty 687-page length (actually about 600 pages of text), it's written in the same engaging style as other "news novels." (Though I hate to compare a book like this to something like Game Change.) Alberta is clearly well sourced with Paul Ryan, John Boehner, and Ted Cruz, figures he finds sympathetic in trying to strike a balance between power and principle, though you could argue with it. He uses other reporting, cited clearly, to flesh out his narrative and build his argument. The arrival of Trump, in particular, is presented as the ultimate tradeoff between power and the more unsavory aspects of populism. Over and over, the sympathetic figures he presents are caught trying to condemn white nationalism, only to be subsumed by the Trumpian aspects of the party. The story he tells isn't yet complete — after all, we don't yet know what all these Faustian bargains will bring us.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stewart Sternberg

    This is surprisingly long. But it is worth a read, especially for people twenty years from now as they wonder how they got where they are. How did the right wing grow so strong in the US? Why do we have such tribalism? How did Trump exploit it?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Trey Grayson

    It’s long. But worth it. I forgive him for calling me MM’s hand-picked candidate instead of my actual name. :)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adam Schrecengost

    This is an odd book. There's nothing really new, and I'm struck that Alberta decided to structure it similar to how events played out in the public eye instead of what was really going on behind the scenes. Because of this, it feels Iike a Wikipedia summary of the past 10 years, and none of the interviews have bite. I expected a lot more.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Craig

    Politico's Tim Alberta has written a great "second draft" of recent history. He sketches out the last 11 years of Republican Party history to figure out how it became Trump's party. Well worth your time.

  11. 5 out of 5

    BookTrib.com

    POLITICO’s Tim Alberta, author of American Carnage (Harper), asked a “blissfully retired” John Boehner over lunch whether he believed that the Republican Party “could survive Trumpism.” Boehner’s response? “There is no Rep—” Here he stops, hesitates, and when pressed, offers “There is [a Republican Party]. But what does that even mean? Donald Trump’s not a Republican. He’s not a Democrat. He’s a populist.” After nearly three years of finger-wagging “I told you sos” bandied about by pundits and com POLITICO’s Tim Alberta, author of American Carnage (Harper), asked a “blissfully retired” John Boehner over lunch whether he believed that the Republican Party “could survive Trumpism.” Boehner’s response? “There is no Rep—” Here he stops, hesitates, and when pressed, offers “There is [a Republican Party]. But what does that even mean? Donald Trump’s not a Republican. He’s not a Democrat. He’s a populist.” After nearly three years of finger-wagging “I told you sos” bandied about by pundits and commentators who blame Donald Trump’s surprise 2016 win on everything from millennial ambivalence to an immensely unpopular DNC pick to a couple thousand idiots who actually wrote in the name of a dead gorilla on their ballots, it’s nice to see a book that explains the rise of Trumpism as a consequence of the fractured Republican Party. I mean, that’s only part of it, and all the aforementioned reasons are still legitimate, and it’s at least a little bit Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s fault, but the “Republican Civil War,” as Alberta calls it, definitely helps to explain how things got so bananas. Trump is barely mentioned for the first third of American Carnage, but his schlubby shadow looms large over the chapters on John McCain and Paul Ryan’s failed presidential runs in addition to the chapters in between that describe Obama’s bipartisan relationship with the Republican Party and their attempts to reclaim power. While Trump is the inevitable conclusion to a party mismanaged for decades, he’s hardly one of the lead characters of this book, which manages to humanize polarizing figures from John Boehner to George W. Bush. The rest of the review: https://booktrib.com/2019/07/carnage-...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Robert P. Hoffman

    This is an outstanding book. The author does an extraordinary job of telling what happened in the Republican party over the last ten years and what happened to our political world during that time period. It reads like a novel where the author laments the state of the world we find ourselves in. There are no evil people, just people who compromised themselves, abandoned principles, justified what they did, and failed to take account of the results of their lack of principles. He is a first rate s This is an outstanding book. The author does an extraordinary job of telling what happened in the Republican party over the last ten years and what happened to our political world during that time period. It reads like a novel where the author laments the state of the world we find ourselves in. There are no evil people, just people who compromised themselves, abandoned principles, justified what they did, and failed to take account of the results of their lack of principles. He is a first rate storyteller and he tells stories of importance. He makes appropriate editorial comments along the way and he paints full portraits of all the people he writes about. I was surprised by how central a role Pence played in selecting Cabinet officials and other top administration appointees. The end of the book contains an emotional and powerful cry for us to recover the values that made us great and can make us great again. I cannot imagine anyone doing a better job of describing the rise of Trump. I look forward to a future book by Alberta in which he can chronicle the fall of Trump.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ben Deutsch

    I was going to put down the modern political books for a while until a good friend recommended American Carnage and it restored my faith in Trump-era non-fiction. That was probably in large part due to this being much more than a “how did we get here” Trump book. It is a comprehensive history of the Republican Party’s civil war which began to simmer in the Bush administration, boiled hot throughout the Obama years, and completely exploded out of the pot in the Trump era. Alberta’s access is phen I was going to put down the modern political books for a while until a good friend recommended American Carnage and it restored my faith in Trump-era non-fiction. That was probably in large part due to this being much more than a “how did we get here” Trump book. It is a comprehensive history of the Republican Party’s civil war which began to simmer in the Bush administration, boiled hot throughout the Obama years, and completely exploded out of the pot in the Trump era. Alberta’s access is phenomenal and interviews with principals like Boehner, Trump, Cantor, and Ryan are sprinkled throughout the text. In the day of the Twitter news cycle, the book does a wonderful job of connecting why events matter and how they informed the larger trends of a dramatically divided and changing party. Alberta for the most part avoids coloring the text with bias and shoots straight on the Republican Party’s growing disdain for facts, while also highlighting the Democratic Party’s failure to connect with huge and meaningful demographics as they try to micro-target their way back into power.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Wow. Since November 2016 I’ve been reading lots of books about politics, trying to understand how Trump happened. This is the best book I’ve read so far. The most interesting parts for me were the end of the Bush years and the shifts during Obama’s presidency. It also chronicles the rise of Trump but exposes the forces that made that rise possible. Highly recommend.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    In a few years, this book will offer an invaluable historical perspective on the insane and terrifying Trump moment. I blasted through this 600-page tome in about two weeks because it's compelling and hard to put down. It's as hard to look away from Alberta's writing as it is to look away from Trump himself, as much as I deeply loathe the president. Notably, Alberta now writes for Politico, but spent most of his career with deeply conservative publications. I was reading this while trying to und In a few years, this book will offer an invaluable historical perspective on the insane and terrifying Trump moment. I blasted through this 600-page tome in about two weeks because it's compelling and hard to put down. It's as hard to look away from Alberta's writing as it is to look away from Trump himself, as much as I deeply loathe the president. Notably, Alberta now writes for Politico, but spent most of his career with deeply conservative publications. I was reading this while trying to understand GOP senators' reluctance to cross Trump during the impeachment turmoil of October 2019. It helped offer some valuable perspective. For my own historical record (and yours, I suppose), I wrote up this little summary of the book. Spoiler alert, I suppose, but if you read the news, the big picture "plot" should not be a surprise. How to let Trump take over your Republican Party in 26 steps (chapters), according to Tim Alberta: 1. Become annoyed by the centrism and “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush, then get even more miffed that John McCain, even less of a conservative ideologue, is his successor candidate. Get a little excited about Sarah Palin. At least she will stand up to Obama, not the good patriots who call him a Kenyan Muslim. Stunning tidbit: Six days before he left office, the president convened a goup of conservative talk radio hosts in the Oval Office. The firebreathers, such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, were not invited; they were hopeless causes. Bush wanted to speak to the “reasonable right-wingers,” … “Look, I asked you here for one reason,” Bush said in a solemn tone. “I want you to go easy on the new guy.” 2. Blame Obama for being too inexperienced to compromise and reach across the aisle, while putting up a solid obstructionist wall from day one of his administration. The Stimulus Bill, in Obama’s first month, got zero Republican votes. Let Joe Wilson set the blueprint for the Republican future by yelling “You Lie” at Obama’s SOTU address. 3. Let a TEA Party rise up, nominally as fiscal conservatives, and primary any reasonable moderate conservative. Deliver Obama his “shellacking” with a large Republican wave in local, state and national elections in 2010, but keep yourself from taking over the Senate by finding kooky candidates that can’t win even in a very anti-Democratic environment. 4. Use your new TEA Party-led majority to sideline John Boehner, Eric Cantor and their like, and push the party rightward into the party of “no,” and gradually make it clear that you aren’t all that interested in deficit reduction or fiscal conservatism. It was a culture war all along. Stunning tidbit: “The demands were fine in theory, but put into practice it just didn’t work,” Eric Cantor said. “Conservatism was always about trying to effect some progress toward limiting the reach of government. It wasn’t being a revolutionary to light it on fire and burn it down to rebuild it. But somehow that’s what the definition of conservative became.” 5. Rally behind Newt Gingrich’s nasty attacks on Romney and Obama, then watch him realize that your base really relishes attacks on the press. After Juan Williams asks Gingrich about his racist attacks on Obama, “Gingrich scolded him with a lecture on political correctness that elicited a standing ovation.” “You could get a stronger response by taking the media head-on than you could with any other single topic,” said Gingrich. Watch Mitt Romney respectfully run against Obama without race or negative attacks, and lose. Watch your party, and even Sean Hannity start to embrace comprehensive Immigration reform. 6. Rally your new Tea Party members to block tax increases for the wealthy and immigration reform, while your party leadership attempts to pass both. 7. Shut down the government to block Obama are funding because the most important principle in GOP politics is fighting. Your voters don’t care because you represent deeply red gerrymandered districts. P. 176 Watch Paul Ryan get less hard-line and form a reasonable budget deal that ignores the TEA party rage. 8. Watch Fox News and talk radio get more conservative and angry. Watch your Republican leadership throw a lot of money at primaries to make sure TEA Party nominees don’t win. Fume over your dissatisfaction with every presidential nominee since Reagan. Start working on uniting behind a single conservative candidate to beat Jeb Bush, the moderate standard-bearer. 9. Watch Trump slide toward his campaign with bombast and bravado and bullshit, and watch your base eat it all up. Watch Freedom Caucus and other GOP House members go ever further to the right. 10. Watch Trump take over your party and be completely helpless. See Rubio refuse to step down from the race, which might have allowed Cruz one final chance to take the nomination for the relatively sane wing of the party. 11. MORE OF THE SAME 12. MORE OF THE SAME 13. Watch Fox News go all in on Trump, and convince the faithful. 14. Start trying to work with Trump as he sews up the nomination, and realize he is completely clueless about the functions of government. Worse, he doesn’t care how clueless he is, and is bored by discussions that should inform him. Watch Trump choose Pence as his running mate to appease the right wing. At the same time, realize just how much hatred there is for Clinton. “I had no idea how important Supreme Court judges were to a voter,” Trump admits. “When I got involved, deep into it, I realized that there was a tremendous amount of distrust of me because they didn’t know — was I a conservative? Was I a liberal? They didn’t know anything about me.” He pauses, sensing how this might sound demeaning to his celebrity. “They knew me very well. The Apprentice was one of the most successful shows on television by far.” 15. Get ready for Trump to lose the election, and face a reckoning for your party. Let Ted Cruz and Jeff Flake stand up for traditional Republican principles, and watch them get pilloried by Trump. 16. Watch Access Hollywood tape almost torpedo Trump’s presidential bid, and call on him to step down, only to watch him recover and come back in the base’s good graces. 17. Watch Trump win. Shut up and rally behind him in the interest of passing tax cuts, reforming entitlements and appointing conservative judges. “His friends called it ‘Paul’s deal with the devil.’ And Ryan, like most Republicans, did not think twice about making it.” 18. Watch Trump start to divide the country further, and try to get him to work on your conservative agenda — to little effect. Tidbit: In 1992, Clinton won 61 percent of Whole Foods counties and 40 percent of Cracker Barrel counties — a 21 point “culture gap.” In 2016, Trump won 76 percent of Cracker Barrel counties and 22 percent of Whole Foods counties — a 54 point “culture gap.” 19. Witness a dark and gloomy inauguration speech followed by a constant whirlwind of scandals. 20. Watch Trump blow up your Obamacare repeal by calling it “mean.” Realize the Republican brand is now meaningless. Trump runs your party according to his own rules, whims, wishes and grievances. 21. Watch Trump cause more controversies and further enrage and divide the nation with Charlottesville rhetoric, etc. But pass your stupid tax bill. 22. Realize that your long-splintered party has come together. Under the mantle of Trump. “If the first year of Donald Trump’s term witnessed a president adapting to the philosophies of his party, the second year saw a party bending to the will, and the whims, of its president.” 23. Watch your party faithful give up all principles, other than Trumpism. And watch him continue his jaw-dropping cult of personality. “I think President Trump is one of a kind — you can’t replicate what he’s doing,” said right-wing rep Justin Amash. “It requires you to not feel shame. Most people feel shame when they do or say something wrong, especially when it’s so public.” 24. See your party to shift from the party of limited government, economic freedom, individual responsibility and free trade to a nationalist, nativist, anti-immigrant party. Adapt or leave (like Jeff Flake). 25. Watch the Democrats have a landslide victory in 2018, which your president denies and diminishes. 26. Go to the brink of a shutdown and strike a deal, only to have it fall apart because Trump saw some Fox News talking heads call him weak. Let the government shut down over the wall, with Trump pre-emptively taking all the blame. EPILOGUE: Trump will drag all other politicians down into the mud with him, but he has been effective for Republicans. He got all your judges confirmed, which will shape the nation for at least a generation. And meanwhile he has either destroyed the Republican party or saved it, finally creating a unified party that acts on its promises. It’s hard to know what shape the post-Trump GOP will take. “Rarely has a president so thoroughly altered the identity of his party. Never has a president so ruthlessly exploited the insecurity of his people.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    Steve Solnick

    Alberta offers a book that is at once too detailed and not deep enough - chronicling the transformation of the Republican party from 2008 to 2019. I found the first half of the book more illuminating than the second, and better structured. The dance between McCain and Romney, the rise and fall of the Tea Party, the emergence of the Freedom Caucus, the trials and tribulations of Speaker Boehner - all make for compelling, if familiar, reading. Into this narrative of rightward drift, Trump lands li Alberta offers a book that is at once too detailed and not deep enough - chronicling the transformation of the Republican party from 2008 to 2019. I found the first half of the book more illuminating than the second, and better structured. The dance between McCain and Romney, the rise and fall of the Tea Party, the emergence of the Freedom Caucus, the trials and tribulations of Speaker Boehner - all make for compelling, if familiar, reading. Into this narrative of rightward drift, Trump lands like a meteor. The second half of the book - Trump's rise through the primaries and tumultuous first two years in power - seems too much for Alberta to take in, and the book loses some of its focus on the GOP. Also the book takes a long time to end - with Alberta's veil of objectivity ultimately shredded by his sheer distaste for Trump and what he is doing to the country. In many ways, this book offers a view of Trump from the perspective of the old GOP - Boehner and Ryan are obvious sources, as is Cruz and probably Romney. There's limited reporting from within the White House, and Alberta can't seem to decide whether Mueller and impeachment are really part of the story or not. The book ends with a long epilogue offering Ryan and Boehner (and Romney, I believe) opportunities for some parting spin on what went wrong - analyses Alberta presents sympathetically. Yet their common themes - a collapse of civic discourse in the country, increasing silo-ization of political camps - aren't really given much play in the body of the narrative. Instead we get mostly hubris and ambition, with a large dose of transactional hypocrisy from the evangelical lobby. In the end, I put the book down deeply depressed, and reminded of accounts like Barbara Tuchman's Guns of August, or Ullrich's recent account of Hitler's ascent - tales of smug cloistered elites sleepwalking into disaster. A small nugget tacked into the rambling epilogue did leave me wishing Alberta had taken the time to structure his conclusions more effectively. Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, speculates that Trump may have *saved* the GOP by forcing it out of its insularity. It was an intriguing thought, and a comforting reminder that this epoch may just be part of a cycle. I wished Alberta had given that a bit more oxygen, rather than taking the time to peer in on the growing chasm in the Democratic Party. The Democrats belongs in another book, and if Alberta writes it, I'll be happy to read it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    (Audiobook) A modern history of the modern Republican Party, this work analyzes the inner politics and external forces that played such a critical part in defining and creating the Republican Party as it functions today. Relying on interviews and insights from various power players, from John Boehner to Donald Trump, this work offers an account that isn’t just rehashing the political headlines from the Washington Post or other national news sources. I learned a great deal about the inside baseba (Audiobook) A modern history of the modern Republican Party, this work analyzes the inner politics and external forces that played such a critical part in defining and creating the Republican Party as it functions today. Relying on interviews and insights from various power players, from John Boehner to Donald Trump, this work offers an account that isn’t just rehashing the political headlines from the Washington Post or other national news sources. I learned a great deal about the inside baseball that so dominated the party. The struggle between pragmatism and idealism always strikes in politics and the Republican Party is no exception. Leaders such as Boehner, Ryan, McConnell did all they could to balance those forces, all while dealing with opposition Democratic Party. The infighting was both petty and of national significance. Yet, while the party seemed at war with itself, it was also gaining in strength and influence. Yet, what really came to define the party was none other than Donald Trump. The vulgar political novice, who so repulsed and scared many in the party came to control the entity and all but ended the infighting. However, at what cost? The author is not sure what the future holds, but he is not all that enthused about its future. While a writer for Politico, he does manage to get extensive insights from individuals who might publicly view him as a threat. He acknowledged the successes, but does not suffer any semblance of hypocrisy, especially from Paul Ryan, who condemned, but then allied himself with Trump, only to then slam him after retiring. Like so many other books in the era of Trump, it is mainly driven by the man, but it does well to analyze the Party in the days before Trump. It is interesting to see how personalities evolved and what they did or didn’t do in certain situations. Of interest, what could a Cruz/Rubio ticket have done if they had joined together in 2016? Would it have blunted Trump? Perhaps. But I did not know about that option until this work. The positions of Pence were already reported, but the status of the relations between Ryan and Trump were also enlightening. Overall, a work for the political junkie, but probably not more than worth one read, either via audio or hard/e-copy.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    First off--there's nothing wrong with this book, if you want to read a competently written, single-perspective take on what's gone wrong in the Republican party, since the great disaster of 2008 (Obama's election). Tim Alberta writes in endless, numbing, day-by-day detail, about strategic errors the Republicans made, in trying to salvage their noble party. In Alberta's POV, calling them errors is probably too harsh. His overarching point is that Republicans still are (or could be) the kind of pa First off--there's nothing wrong with this book, if you want to read a competently written, single-perspective take on what's gone wrong in the Republican party, since the great disaster of 2008 (Obama's election). Tim Alberta writes in endless, numbing, day-by-day detail, about strategic errors the Republicans made, in trying to salvage their noble party. In Alberta's POV, calling them errors is probably too harsh. His overarching point is that Republicans still are (or could be) the kind of party that represents true conservative (meaning conserving tradition) values. It's not too late to reel in the more rambunctious and doctrinaire right-wingers, and rebuild the party. If you don't agree with that point--if you think that Republicans are champion excuse makers, and fully responsible for not calling their boy (Trump) in, leading to the genuinely dangerous point we're at now, globally and domestically, this book will feel endless. It's 688 pages long. I dutifully read the first 450 pages and skimmed the rest. And then I tried to imagine who would enjoy reading this book, who could joyfully dig into Alberta's defensive analysis of someone like John Boehner or Mitt Romney or (and this is unreal) Mitch McConnell. I am thinking the target reader is someone with a wide nostalgic streak, longing for good old Ike or--better yet--Reagan. There isn't much that's new in the book. It's a thorough review of all the crappy political machinations of the past decade, from a loyal Republican soldier. Who writes well. Unfortunately, 'American Carnage' is not the book we need now. We're a decade past Mitch McConnell's emerging greed and power-mongering. We've seen what happens to would be moderates (Flake, Corker, Mattis) who try to straddle conservatism and common sense. Enough with the turning a blind eye.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alex Mulligan

    Wow. It’s hard to believe this book is real, and not fiction. Loaded with interviews from major players (Trump, Ryan, Bohner, Cruz etc etc) this book is an authoritative text on the rise of Donald Trump and the tectonic shifts in the the Republican Party. Alberta’s hypothesis is simple: The Bush administration left republicans tired and defeated. There were me young leaders to take the reins, no infusion of conservative thought, and a dwindling difference between Republicans and Democrats. Betwe Wow. It’s hard to believe this book is real, and not fiction. Loaded with interviews from major players (Trump, Ryan, Bohner, Cruz etc etc) this book is an authoritative text on the rise of Donald Trump and the tectonic shifts in the the Republican Party. Alberta’s hypothesis is simple: The Bush administration left republicans tired and defeated. There were me young leaders to take the reins, no infusion of conservative thought, and a dwindling difference between Republicans and Democrats. Between 2008 and 2015 Republicans engaged in a civil war between ideological side of the party. All along the way warning signs popped up that someone like Trump would come along and take control of the party. Early players like the Tea Party and Sarah Palin showed a massive shift in the patty and an increasingly out of touch establishment. Alberta meticulously documents this Republican Civil war and the rise of Trump. Relying on first hand accounts from major Republican Players, including Trump himself, Alberta weaves together a coherent narrative to describe the status and recent history of the Republicans. The untold stories, and first hand accounts from Republicans is sure to make you laugh, scratch your head, and leave you with a new appreciation or how Trump took over the GOP.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cath

    The implied promise of giving us analysis of what went on within the party that resulted in an intra-party civil war, wasn't kept. This is mostly a recitation of events and actions, much of which was already covered in other media sources. If one hasn't been closely following the news, I suppose there is new information, though even then there are important events that are missing or given short shrift. There is some interesting behind-the-scenes information about the personalities and thoughts The implied promise of giving us analysis of what went on within the party that resulted in an intra-party civil war, wasn't kept. This is mostly a recitation of events and actions, much of which was already covered in other media sources. If one hasn't been closely following the news, I suppose there is new information, though even then there are important events that are missing or given short shrift. There is some interesting behind-the-scenes information about the personalities and thoughts of various members of GOP, but again, no in-depth analysis, which would have been interesting. At times, the author's opinions seem to breakthrough in unexpected areas which can be a bit startling, as for the most part the books seems to strive for objective narrative. An entertaining and easy read, but again mostly a recitation of events already well-covered elsewhere.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    ExHAUSTively reported and exhausting to read. No new information, no really new insights into the Trump Administration. Mostly an almost minute-by-minute recounting of Trump’s rise to power... Thoroughly depressing and disheartening.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Misfit

    Meh. Not what I expected. Returning to library and moving on.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I rarely read books like this: it's about modern politics, it's written by a moderate conservative, and it's MASSIVE. But, I listened to the NYT best-of-year podcast roundup (which was a roundtable discussion) and one of the reviewers just gushed about this book, how it deepened her understanding of how we got in this mess, so I picked it up. I am not precisely sure it did for me what it did for that reviewer, but it really helped me take a big step back and look at the last 10 years from a 30,00 I rarely read books like this: it's about modern politics, it's written by a moderate conservative, and it's MASSIVE. But, I listened to the NYT best-of-year podcast roundup (which was a roundtable discussion) and one of the reviewers just gushed about this book, how it deepened her understanding of how we got in this mess, so I picked it up. I am not precisely sure it did for me what it did for that reviewer, but it really helped me take a big step back and look at the last 10 years from a 30,000-foot view. It is useful, when caught in the maelstrom of daily crises, to be able to get that kind of perspective. It might even be essential. And Alberta pretty much earned my trust as a guide. He is not hysterical, even though histrionics are in fact warranted. If you want an all-caps tone to match what's going on in the world, I'm sure there are other books, but I found Alberta's calm, matter-of-fact tone to be soothing. While he is a journalist and mostly narrates events fairly journalistically, his values do come through in what he focuses on, who he clearly admires, and some turns of phrases he uses. (view spoiler)[ I'm spoiler-tagging these even though this is nonfiction because when I enumerate, some people will simply refuse to pick up the book ... *I* would have. He admires the hell out of Paul Ryan, who is as close as one gets to a protagonist in this thing—though Alberta does save special condemnation for Ryan in the end as refusing to do enough to stop Trump. Alberta also (un-ironically) uses terms like "illegal immigrant" and "partial-birth abortion," which I would expect from a much more right-of-center author when he otherwise comes across as pretty moderate. (hide spoiler)] As the title indicates, the book is about how the GOP shifted from the party of "fiscal conservatism," hawkishness, free trade, and "family values," to the party of isolationism, racism, jingoism, nativism, and populism. "These isms," he quotes George Bush saying, "Are gonna eat us alive." (I put those particular isms in scare quotes because unlike Alberta I don't think the GOP has ever really been about those things.) In other words, how did the party go from the likes of Boehner and Paul Ryan to that of Steve King, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon (EVIL STEVES) and of course Trump. His answer is not really new, I think we all know it: social media, social isolation, and massive demographic changes have inflamed the divisions already present and have poured gasoline on the always-smoldering coals of xenophobia, racism, and other forms of white identity politics. Alberta might say all identity politics, but the most virulent, harmful form is clearly the white kind, and I bet from reading this book that he'd acknowledge that. Those "massive demographic changes" aren't just immigration, but the hollowing out of the heartland through job losses. He rightfully pins this much more on automation than jobs being shipped to India or taken up by immigrants. Blue-collar jobs are disappearing everywhere due to automation, although the resulting joblessness is attributed poisonously to brown people "stealing jobs." There are plenty of nursing-home and home-health-aid jobs available, but white men would rather be jobless than take those on. As soon as robots start taking care of grandma, no doubt jobless men staring angrily at Fox News in living rooms across Wyoming, North Dakota, and Tennessee will blame, somehow, brown people. But I digress. Alberta does get into this, but he is much more interested in back-room politics than he is in wandering through Indiana to find out what caused resentful whites to vote for Trump. So, the book is structured as a timeline, a steady march from February 2008 to December 2018, with a chapter for each significant month. Each month is focused on various GOP campaigns, either for candidates or for policies. Alberta gets into the inner-workings and deal-makings behind the scenes, which will be boring for some but fascinating to those, like me, who enjoy palace intrigue. Underneath each exchange and negotiation, there's a theme of "how did this person lose his soul." You can watch how people with integrity slowly lose that integrity in order to stay in the game at all; and how people without any integrity shoot right to the top. Sometimes this happens slowly, but sometimes it happens in a single conversation that somehow Alberta was privy to, which is depressing but fascinating. (He says he uses direct interviews, taped interviews, emails, audio files, and contemporary memos to obtain all the quotes. Some of the stuff he quotes is really jaw-dropping, so it's good he has receipts.) I am glad in the end that I made it all the way through this tome (and before the library book went overdue!), simply because it has helped me approach the news with a more distant, analytical, less reactive eye. And that is a perspective I have badly needed. Edition note: I went back and forth between the paper library book and the audiobook and liked both, but I made way more progress when I was listening, and I felt more engaged. The audiobook narrator is fantastic: sometimes I would re-listen to a section I had already read in the paper book and just the way he narrated it, I felt I understood it better.

  24. 5 out of 5

    CoachJim

    American Carnage by Tim Alberta Finished Wednesday, February 12, 2020 Tim Alberta, a reporter with Politico, brings a journalist’s skill to this history of the Republican Party from the 2008 election of Barack Obama through the 2018 midterm elections. This is a chronological history of the period with all the characters of the GOP from the Tea Party to Sarah Palin to the Freedom Caucus until Trump takes over the party. As the story begins we are faced with an economic crisis. The Republicans, in a w American Carnage by Tim Alberta Finished Wednesday, February 12, 2020 Tim Alberta, a reporter with Politico, brings a journalist’s skill to this history of the Republican Party from the 2008 election of Barack Obama through the 2018 midterm elections. This is a chronological history of the period with all the characters of the GOP from the Tea Party to Sarah Palin to the Freedom Caucus until Trump takes over the party. As the story begins we are faced with an economic crisis. The Republicans, in a weak position, are handed a gift when the Democratic stimulus package to address the crisis is loaded down with liberal pet projects instead of more instant help to energize the flat economy. This is blamed on Obama’s lack of experience in partisan politics. (Page 47) There is a description of the culture wars that came to dominate the traditional fiscal conservatives in Congress. The overthrow of John Boehner as the House Majority leader after the 2010 midterm elections is described resembling a Greek Tragedy with conspiracies, secret meetings, spies and backstabbing. Also described is the ugly racial politics practiced by some Republicans, who simultaneously embraced the Christian values preached by their supporters. The campaign for the Republican nomination is described fully. There is an observation by John Boehner that: “The only Republican who Hillary Clinton possibly could have beaten was Donald Trump, and the only Democrat that Trump possibly could have beaten was Clinton.” … (“Three hundred and thirty million Americans,” Boehner says of Trump and Clinton, sighing. “and we got those two.”) (Page 398) This is similar to the quote by Joseph Ellis in his 2018 book American Dialogue that I have mentioned in other reviews. The Republican party becomes the party of Trump as the previous divisions of libertarians and neocons, evangelicals and cultural moderates, big-spending pragmatists and small government purists are replaced with an either with Trump or against him agenda. This was in part because of the fear of alienating the base which Trump had so energized. As I said the book is a chronological history, but the last 2 or 3 chapters ramble a little as the author tries to come to grips with what has happened. However, the Epilogue is an excellent essay on the current political state in this country. He describes the current condition of each of the 2 major parties, the circumstances faced in the 2020 election, and an analysis of what the future of our politics might look like. An interesting observation here was that the current Progressive wing of the Democrats could create the same problems for that party as the tea-party did for the Republicans.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Scotty

    Solid reporting, good analysis Alberta does a great job tracking the final devolution of the modern Republican Party into the irrational, power-mad monster it is today. From the rise of the Tea Party to current the descent into Trumpism, this is a fascinating and chilling portrait of a political party in its apparent (and still dangerous) death throws. But there’s some context missing here. I understand why Alberta chose to focus on how the party changed after the election of Obama, but to truly Solid reporting, good analysis Alberta does a great job tracking the final devolution of the modern Republican Party into the irrational, power-mad monster it is today. From the rise of the Tea Party to current the descent into Trumpism, this is a fascinating and chilling portrait of a political party in its apparent (and still dangerous) death throws. But there’s some context missing here. I understand why Alberta chose to focus on how the party changed after the election of Obama, but to truly understand where we’re at I think he needed to go back further, at least to Gingrich and possibly to Reagan. Even some sort of summary would have been helpful. We open with a Republican Party already in crisis, so it’s hard to see the 30,000 foot view. It’s like watching the last 20 seconds of a multi-car pileup; I would have liked to have seen more of the incremental decisions that lead to the initial collision. That said, for what it is this is a powerful and frightening read. I can’t say it left me with a lot of hope for the future of the GOP, but it did give me a fresh perspective on the catastrophe they’re currently faced with. Also, I never thought I’d have an iota of sympathy for John Boehner and Paul Ryan. Kudos to Alberta for making me understand the impossible vice they found themselves in.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Regan

    Wow. What a super read. This is, from what I can see, Alberta's first book. He's a writer, yes, but for a first book this is a really super read. Based on the entities he has written for I believe he is a republican, but in American Carnage he presents a very objective perspective on the republicans, democrats and Trump. He takes his reader back through the last few administrations and what went right and what went wrong. While some is his opinion, he includes observations and references to supp Wow. What a super read. This is, from what I can see, Alberta's first book. He's a writer, yes, but for a first book this is a really super read. Based on the entities he has written for I believe he is a republican, but in American Carnage he presents a very objective perspective on the republicans, democrats and Trump. He takes his reader back through the last few administrations and what went right and what went wrong. While some is his opinion, he includes observations and references to support most of those conclusions. Much of the background and history could be dry reading, but Alberta's writing is engaging and readable. With so many books about Trump on both sides of the equation it becomes hard to choose which to read -- Alberta's American Carnage is definitely one to put at the top of your list.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Again)

    The guy in the White House didn't change the Republican Party. He just exposed them for what they've always been and made them own it. If they had ever believed in any of the principles they pretended to care about for decades, they wouldn't be openly and proudly disregarding the Constitution and promoting authoritarian rule the way they currently are.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tejas Sathian

    An engaging account of the GOP's drift into Trumpism and the battles between the party's factions that paved the way for Trump's takeover. Beyond the ex-GOP presidents and nominees (whose stories are well known), I thought the most interesting and complex characters in the book were the GOP's pre-Trump congressional leaders (Boehner, Ryan) - they attempted to leave Washington on their own terms with self-declared legacies independent of Trump, but they were brought down by a GOP culture they hel An engaging account of the GOP's drift into Trumpism and the battles between the party's factions that paved the way for Trump's takeover. Beyond the ex-GOP presidents and nominees (whose stories are well known), I thought the most interesting and complex characters in the book were the GOP's pre-Trump congressional leaders (Boehner, Ryan) - they attempted to leave Washington on their own terms with self-declared legacies independent of Trump, but they were brought down by a GOP culture they helped shape and the obvious question is how much responsibility they share in their own tragedies. Begins with warnings issued by Bush about 3 'isms' rising late in his presidency: protectionism, isolationism, nativism - against a backdrop of GOP dissatisfaction with Bush's late presidency (losing faith in foreign wars, growing deficits, bank bailouts touching a populist nerve). McCain as a choice forced on the base of the party (with right wing preferring Romney as a solidly conservative alternative) who amplified these late Bush discomforts - little feel for the economy made McCain the wrong nominee for the moment. Early signs of worry from House GOP that Obama meant bipartisanship and would divide their opposition, but party line votes (cap and trade, stimulus) combined with lingering economic weakness created ammo for opposition and rise of Tea Party - which arguably underperformed its potential in 2010 midterms (some terrible candidates) and created an unusual freshman crop in House. Steele and attempt at more diverse GOP, ended by internal politics (Steele forced out by Preibus). Fiscal debates: failure of the Bowles-Simpson commission and a fiscal grand bargain - represented a last gasp for genuine compromise which may have forestalled other developments; Obama’s takedown of Ryan after Bowles Simpson failure. Rise of professional right changed incentives for new representatives - more extremism and catering to a different constituency. 2012: Romney evolved from conservative alternative to McCain in 08 to establishment favorite. Debate about approach to election: referendum on economy (favored Romney) or choice of candidate (favored Obama), and Romney failed to tack narrowly enough to the former; Ryan’s policy persona (fiscal cuts) combined with Romney’s portrayal as an out of touch PE investor served Obama well - Romney’s failure to connect with average American doomed him. Racial breakdow in 2012 - Obama won 39% of whites in 2012 - worst performance by a Democrat with whites since Mondale (comment from DeMint: ‘Obama played race card.. took us back to 60s’). Recognition following 2012 of GOP's need to diversify (back to Bush sensibilities of Hispanic outreach) - Hannity calling for immigration reform, Cant0r and Boehner leading in Congress on this stance. Congress and Obama during second term: 2013 fiscal cliff bargain; first signs of challenges to Boehner speakership by Tea Party conspirators (led by Labrador); fights over Obamacare; pointless government shutdown when McConnell couldn't control conference; cultural conflicts in the backdrop (SCOTUS gay marriage decision, Obama's attacks on guns; action on climate change); modest wins for Boehner/Ryan on fiscal compromise with Murray on sequester cuts/spending, having stared down base. Immigration in the foreground of many debates - a problem for the party at large, but not for the districts where House GOP members feared primary challenges (white districts with little interest in immigration compromise); failure of gang of eight compromise that tarred participants (Rubio). House of Cards debuting in 2013 - Meadows as Frank Underwood. Changes in conservative media, and growth into a dangerous force for party elites. Boehner: Murdoch cared about his ratings, Ailes believed this crazy stuff. 2014 focus: GOP establishment attempts to suffocate Tea party in primaries; Cantor’s shocking primary defeat, shaking up Boehner’s retirement plans. Boehner eventual retirement forced by Freedom Caucus. Post-midterm quick shift to focus on 2016 - conservatives possessed a single minded focus on unifying behind one anti-establishment candidate (Cruz, Huckabee) as an early and compelling alternative to Jeb Bush's spending. Beginning of Ryan speakership (3rd act of his career after 14 years as a smart fiscal outsider, then 4 years as a reluctant and jaded leader after 2012 experience on Romney ticket) - had been forced into job he didn't want after Boehner's exit - goal to re-establish the GOP as the party of ideas (focused on poverty, healthcare, taxes) - then Trump overshadowed it all. 2016 primary race: Bush’s fade (pushed aside not by Trump but by ex-protege Rubio), causing hte race to quickly coalesce into a top three of Trump, Cruz, Rubio. Cruz’s previously strong insurgent identity was undermined by Trump’s ability to play the part more effectively with fewer constraints on what he could say; Rubio's noted failure to capitalize on center right vote that wanted an alternative to Trump/Cruz (fiscal, hawkish foreign policy, pro-business). Rove's shock upon first meeting Trump at Trump's total ignorance (belief he could win Oregon/California/NY but disbelief he could win Iowa). Trump distinguished himself as his front-runner status cemented by making promises to evangelicals that most Republicans wouldn’t. Whittling down VP pick to Pence (need for evangelical option led to cutting of Giuliani, Christie, Corker). Chaotic scenes at the RNC following Cruz's non-endorsement keynote speech ('vote your conscience'). Backdrop of culture in 2016: Kaepernick, media hysteria - fit perfectly into narrative of American culture under attack. Ryan split with Trump post-Access Hollywood tape; led to House GOP plot to depose Ryan for Pompeo. Teflon Trump - 3 reasons for his ability to weather storms: 1) distrust of media leading to tuning out of controversies; 2) strong hatred of Clinton and corruption narrative; 3) unflinching support of evangelicals even after tape (with court vacancies looming thanks to McConnell, Trump possessing a strong understanding of this constituency’s needs). Pence’s stabilizing influence - sticking with Trump through Access Hollywood, the only person in his camp who believed they would win, convincing himself Trump was reformed and being skewered by liberal media. 2016 aftermath: Clinton's unique failures to mobilize - focused on running up score by contesting Arizona while ignoring Wisconsin, not believing it was in play - won 600k fewer votes than Obama in PA/MI/WI (margin of 77k). Irony - GOP had sought to diversify for last decade, but Trump won with an inside straight delivered by small margins of working class white votes; Trump win likely would have been impossible without the 2014 GOP senate takeover allowing a SCOTUS nomination to be central issue. Culture gap - presidential vote share in counties with Whole Foods vs counties with Cracker Barrel - 20% in 1992, constantly widening in ensuing years, at 54% in 2016. Congress during Trump presidency: GOP failure on healthcare despite controlling government; inability to control Freedom Caucus, Ryan backing down; proof the GOP was not yet ready to govern. Tax reform easier to push through (Ryan’s swan song, key role of the interesting figure of Tim Scott - opportunity zones). Ideologies and battles within party gave way to simple loyalty questions - all that mattered to voters. Donors refusing to write checks for ‘academic conservatism’ - needed to be cultural (immigration, national anthem - whatever works). 2018 midterms: Democrats won women by 59-40 margin, particularly strong with college educated women in suburbs - notable that they won suburban districts recently drawn by Republicans who had figured these voters were GOP lifers. Democrats won nonwhite vote by 76-22 margin, while white vote share continued to fall. Harris County, Texas as a harbinger: 1/3 Hispanic, 1/3 black, 1/3 white with growing college educated population - Cruz lost to Beto O'Rourke by 200k votes. Unusual situation of party losing House seats despite record presidential popularity - only possible if party is contracting. GOP after 2018 left controlling only 2/30 districts with most college degrees. 102 women in house - only 13 GOP (cut in half vs previous congress). Bipartisan criminal justice reform - aided by Tim Scott - but rather than end 2018 on high note Trump shut down government. Irony of will Hurd - only GOP congressman whose district included a long stretch of border, yet was entirely ignored during shutdown / wall debate. Boehner / Ryan - reference to coalition government without the benefits of parliamentary system. Ends with interview of Ryan in retirement trying to make sense of these changes, and the prospect of Romney as a white night - 'we've seen this type of division before.. but we had Abraham Lincoln then.'

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    This extremely long book is worthy of an extensive review that I don't feel qualified to write. Though I do follow politics, Tim Alberta's detailed reporting made me realize how much I don't know about what goes on from day to day in the House, the Senate, and behind the scenes within small study groups, large fundraising organizations, and party leadership. I found it all fascinating. American Carnage is a critical history of the evolution of the Republican Party from the end of Bush 43's leader This extremely long book is worthy of an extensive review that I don't feel qualified to write. Though I do follow politics, Tim Alberta's detailed reporting made me realize how much I don't know about what goes on from day to day in the House, the Senate, and behind the scenes within small study groups, large fundraising organizations, and party leadership. I found it all fascinating. American Carnage is a critical history of the evolution of the Republican Party from the end of Bush 43's leadership to the second year of Trump's presidency. The GOP was forced to recognize that the changing demographics of the country had diluted their traditional base (conservative, white, middle-class) and that the average educated urbanite was sliding gradually leftward. With the Tea Party Movement conservatives began to harness the anger and isolation of the far right, a technique that Donald Trump took to new heights. Alberta is critical of Trump's morality and knowledge base, yet credits him with being a master of populism. The author explains his leadership style thus: he saw a parade coming and jumped in front to lead it. Yet he has been loyal to that parade, giving them the conservative judges and tax cuts they clamored for, completely abandoning the politics he once personally embodied. Even the Christian evangelical movement has forgiven him his personal sins in return for his nomination of pro-life judges who will shape the future. But will this be enough to save the Republican Party? Analysis of the 2016 election shows how narrow Trump's victory truly was, and how difficult it may be to reproduce. Alberta also lays open the split in the party, with "Never Trumpers" fighting the pressure to the "right," even while proclaimed fiscal conservatives jump on the Trump bandwagon in hopes of capturing the votes of his loyal base. This wasn't enough to save the seats of many in the 2018 midterm elections, as the House turned blue, and doesn't bode well for the GOP in 2020. Within the administration loyalty is also key, as Trump has shown he values sycophancy over merit (and I'm not afraid to reveal my own personal bias with that statement). I learned so much from Tim Alberta's book. He was the chief political correspondent for Politico magazine during the time all this was happening, and called on his interviews of over 300 political figures - insiders and outsiders - for his synthesis. He makes his biases clear in his writing: he is a sincere Christian and judges those who do not live their proclaimed faith. He values ideology over party and personal loyalty. But with those caveats, he tries to be objective in his reporting, showing the good and bad in political actors, and giving separate credit for motives and results. I particularly appreciated all the information he gave about what went on in the House of Representatives; I am embarrassed at how little I knew about John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, the Freedom Caucus, and more. I am SO glad I read this book, as it has renewed my faith in the American political system overall. Yes, politics feels like a big mess right now, and I am a bit horrified by the personal cult of Trump, and have worries about the outlook for centrist policies (as I identify as a centrist Republican), but I feel assured that the mechanics of balance are still intact, and in the long run we will be okay. 4.25 stars.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Maureen Sepulveda

    I enjoyed reading this book. Some of the information I had read before. Yet, it’s an interesting look at the splintering of Republican Party and how it led to election of Trump. Lots of interviews with Key GOP players and good sources.

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