The book presidency of Donald J. Trump is an example of the value of historical analyses of very recent events, this book gives some historians’ first takes on the Trump presidency. “The Trump presidency was not an aberration but the culmination of more than three decades in the GOP’s evolution,” writes editor Zelizer, encapsulating a primary theme. With all of the essayists supporting that claim, the book demonstrates unusual coherence as well as admirable clarity and the individual essays cover a vast array of topics: the Republican and Democratic parties, right-wing media, truth and disinformation, White supremacy, Latinx issues, women’s issues, immigration, infrastructure, climate change, race, class, technology, international relations, the FBI, and Covid-19. It is a testament to the overall quality that one wishes for even wider coverage—essays, say, on the psychopathology of politics and on political language.
Yet despite such gaps, the book’s contents, just as historical writing should, supersede earlier on-the-spot journalistic reportage of the Trump administration. Each essay adds context and fresh perspective to the events of a precedent-shattering presidency as well as causal explanations of much of what occurred. Occasionally, the contributors repeat oft-quoted words and cite well-known episodes, and facts about many front-page figures and events fill its pages. But little of what they write fails to cast welcome light on how and why the U.S. entered a new political era in 2016.
Zelizer himself offers an excellent concise history of the Republican Party’s recent history and other essayists conform to his balanced, sober, scholarly approach, which will be demanding for general readers. What’s most commendable is that all of their arguments and extensive knowledge are advanced in nonpartisan, critically fair, and neutral form. Given the variety of subjects, the result is an authoritative multi-authored contemporary history. The book is an important historical account of the Trump era from a wide range of perspectives that nonetheless coheres. TW
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