US Politics

The events of January 6 shocked the world. In this episode of the ABR Podcast Samuel Watts reads his article 'This Is America' and offers a historical perspective. As Watts notes, 'To view the assault on the US Capitol as the climax of a dramatic, but brief, period of authoritarianism in the US is a potentially dangerous mistake. This attack was just the latest iteration in a long-lasting tradition of anti-democratic, white supremacist violence that has plagued the Republic since, at least, the Civil War.'

Samuel Watts’s article ‘This Is America’ is one of a series of commentaries funded by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.

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On the morning of 6 January 2021, President Donald Trump addressed a crowd of his supporters outside the White House for more than an hour. The president urged protesters who had already begun gathering along the National Mall to go to the Capitol Building where both houses of Congress were about to start the process of certifying the results of the electoral college, formalising Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 election. The election had been stolen, Trump told them: it was time for them to take it back and march on Congress: ‘You will never take back our country with weakness,’ said the president. 

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Whatever we might think of him, Donald Trump has proven to be one of the most transformative figures in recent history. In today's episode, Timothy J. Lynch talks to ABR Editor Peter Rose about three new and highly critical books on Trump: Too Much and Never Enough by Mary Trump, A Very Stable Genius by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, and The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton. As Lynch writes in his review, 'There is a paradox that these books illustrate but cannot resolve: why is a man so chaotic, so reviled, so malignant also so transformational?’

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In this week’s ABR Podcast, Peter Rose speaks to Michael L. Ondaatje (Professor of History at the Australian Catholic University) about black American voters’ attitudes towards Donald Trump and the Republican Party. They also discuss recent startling developments in an already tumultuous presidential election. 

Michael L. Ondaatje’s article ‘Black and Republican in the age of Trump’ is one of a series of commentaries funded by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund. It appears in the October issue.

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Rage by Bob Woodward

by
November 2020, no. 426

Tom Lehrer famously believed that Henry Kissinger’s Nobel Prize for Peace rendered satire impossible. Has Donald Trump’s presidency made the same true of political journalism? This may sound counterintuitive. After all, Trump has been a boon for news outlets and book publishing, as well as for social media. Bob Woodward’s Rage sold 600,000 copies in its first week. And that the dean of White House scribes herein abandons his trademark disinterest and pronounces authoritatively that ‘Trump is the wrong man for the job’ has been treated as news in itself. Yet so what?

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While on the campaign trail against Hillary Clinton in 2016, Donald Trump appeared to deviate from a scripted speech he was delivering in Dimondale, Michigan. What followed was remarkable: ‘At the end of four years, I guarantee you that I will get over ninety-five per cent of the African-American vote. I promise you.’ Undaunted by six decades of black voting behaviour and his own poor standing with African-Americans, not to mention the fact that he had yet to defeat Clinton, Trump promised a ‘new deal for black America’ that would spark a decisive black shift to the Republican Party. African-Americans had long been the nation’s most partisan racial group: since 1964, no Republican presidential candidate had won more than thirteen per cent of the black vote, and no Democrat less than eighty-two per cent. Yet Trump, a man with a long and divisive racial history, vowed that he would soon rival Barack Obama for electoral appeal among African-Americans.

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In year four of their respective terms, George W. Bush and Barack Obama enjoyed a mixed press. Some accounts lauded them, others were sceptical. The assessments were uniformly partisan. The titles of contemporary books reflected how Republicans backed Bush (he was ‘The Right Man’), Democrats Obama (for successfully ‘Bending History’). Donald Trump, on the other hand, stands as one of the most vilified presidents in American history, from all points of the spectrum. Indeed, these books together make the case that the forty-fifth president is a man so psychologically flawed he poses a clear and present danger to American democracy.

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The Princeton Post Office, as befits this famed university town, has a certain grandeur. It is small – Princeton is a village after all – and modest in its proportions, but grand in aspiration. As you step through its panelled doors your gaze is drawn by the long parade of milk-glass and bronze lights towards the mural that adorns the far wall. Like the White House murals, it is lofty, but almost domestic in its depictions of American history, American hope, American mythology.

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