Trumpo cracy: The Cor­rup­tion of the Amer­i­can Re­pub­lic by David Frum

Policy - - In This Issue - Re­view by James Baxter

David Frum

Trumpoc­racy: The Cor­rup­tion of the Amer­i­can Re­pub­lic. New York, HarperCollins, 2018.

The man who coined the term Axis of Evil might have fi­nally run out of words to de­scribe some­thing that is pos­si­bly more dis­turb­ing: Trumpoc­racy.

David Frum, the Toronto-born speech­writer for Ge­orge W. Bush and now a se­nior edi­tor for The At­lantic, has ei­ther writ­ten an im­pres­sive call to arms or a de­flat­ing tome that leaves one with a pro­found sense of in­evitabil­ity and hope­less­ness. In his fore­word to Trumpoc­racy: The Cor­rup­tion of the Amer­i­can Re­pub­lic, Frum clearly tries to sound the alarm that some­thing has gone ter­ri­bly wrong not with the United States, but with democ­racy as a sys­tem of gov­ern­ment.

The col­lapse of democ­racy is a world­wide phe­nom­e­non, but a made-inthe-USA prob­lem. At the root of all of Frum’s crit­i­cisms is the reck­less­ness with which the Repub­li­cans— his party of choice—and Democrats have eroded the ba­sic ci­vil­ity and give-and-take that is the foun­da­tion of all demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions. He poignantly quotes Ge­orge H. W. Bush’s 1992 con­ces­sion speech which called for na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion af­ter a long, tough, some­times ugly elec­tion cam­paign. “Here’s the way we see it and the coun­try should see it—that the peo­ple have spo­ken and we re­spect the majesty of the demo­cratic sys­tem. I just called Gov­er­nor Clin­ton over in Lit­tle Rock and of­fered my con­grat­u­la­tions. He did run a strong cam­paign. I wish him well in the White House.

“And I want the coun­try to know that our en­tire Ad­min­is­tra­tion will work closely with his team to in­sure the smooth tran­si­tion of power. There is im­por­tant work to be done, and Amer­ica must al­ways come first. So we will get be­hind this new Pres­i­dent and wish him—wish him well.”

To Frum, that was the last high-wa­ter mark in U.S. pol­i­tics and it was more than a quar­ter cen­tury ago. Since then, there were the hy­per-par­ti­san at­tacks on Clin­ton’s pres­i­dency, the “hang­ing chad” elec­tion that set the tone for the pres­i­dency of Ge­orge W. Bush, and the shame­fully racist Obama era that ce­mented the trib­al­ism that now af­flicts a once-great coun­try.

While Trump has promised to “make Amer­ica great again,” Frum demon­strates how patently ab­surd those words have be­come. In just one year, Trump has pre­var­i­cated on Nazism, openly lied on a daily ba­sis, en­cour­aged the ero­sion of pub­lic trust in the coun­try’s in­sti­tu­tions, and em­braced a ruinous fis­cal pol­icy that loads al­most unimag­in­able debt on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

And why? Easy, says Frum. It’s all about “the ag­gran­dize­ment of one dom­i­neer­ing man and his shame­lessly grasp­ing ex­tended fam­ily.”

In one of the more telling mes­sages of the book, Frum notes that Amer­i­cans are turn­ing a blind eye to their re­duced free­doms and the ac­cep­tance of au­thor­i­tar­ian ten­den­cies—think Trump’s love of gen­er­als and pa­rades—and laments that rather than Rus­sia be­com­ing more like Amer­ica, the United States seems to be evolv­ing into Rus­sia.

While Frum is thor­ough in call­ing out Trump for his per­sonal fail­ings, he be­lieves the U.S. sys­tem of checks and bal­ances can and al­ready is mov­ing to rein in the worst of the 45th pres­i­dent’s ex­cesses. The U.S. is still strong enough to cope with the dam­age Trump does and even emerge stronger for it, but not with­out Repub­li­cans be­ing will­ing to bell the cat and not with­out all Amer­i­cans be­ing will­ing to de­mand an end to hy­per­par­ti­san­ship and in­ci­vil­ity.

It is here that Frum lev­els his most with­er­ing crit­i­cism at the en­ablers and apol­o­gists who have brought this pox upon the coun­try and the world. It is clear he thinks some are too stupid to know bet­ter, and some are reck­less, but most are just out to

Taken at its best, Frum’s

Trumpoc­racy is a hope­ful book that counts on Amer­i­cans be­ing will­ing and able to ad­mit their mis­takes, fix them and build a bet­ter coun­try.

amass power in a bro­ken sys­tem. The so­ci­etal can­cers that have given rise to Trump and Trump­ism—greed, racism, en­ti­tle­ment, ap­a­thy among them—need to be rooted out be­fore heal­ing can be­gin.

Taken at its best, Frum’s Trumpoc­racy is a hope­ful book that counts on Amer­i­cans be­ing will­ing and able to ad­mit their mis­takes, fix them and build a bet­ter coun­try. If one doesn’t read it that way, it might just be the most dis­tress­ing book ever writ­ten.

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