Our Own Worst Enemy Review: A Caustic Diagnosis of America After Trump | Books


THEIberian democracy is attacked from within. Institutional trust is eroding. Less than one in six Americans think democracy works well, almost half think democracy doesn’t work well, and 38% say democracy only does meh. Atomization, bowling alone and nihilism converged at the polls.

Republicans are determined to postpone the events of January 6, when supporters of Donald Trump attacked the United States Capitol, with a deep memory hole. GOP governors in Florida, Mississippi and Texas remain optimistic as Covid-19 sends children to intensive care. Seven months into his presidency, Joe Biden looks like some like Jimmy Carter redux, skill and judgment seriously questioned, allies tense and divided. FDR, it certainly isn’t.

In this quagmire parachute Tom Nichols, with a meditation on the state of American democracy. Nichols grew up in a working-class family in Massachusetts and is now a professor at the US Naval War College and Harvard Extension School. He is also a conservative of Never Trump.

In his eighth book, Nichols is pessimistic.

“Decades of constant complaints,” he writes, “steadily disseminated amid continual improvements in living standards, have finally taken their toll.”

The enemy, says Nichols, is “us.” Citizens of democracies, he writes, “must now live with the undeniable certainty that they are capable of embracing illiberal movements and attacking their own freedoms.”

As if to prove his point, Chuck Grassley, the leading Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, recently shed light on Trump’s attempts to get the Justice Department to reverse the election result. Even with Trump out of office, Senator Lindsay Graham continues to play the first golf buddy, Renfield to Trump’s Count Dracula. A majority of Congressional Republicans voted against certification of the 2020 election.

In 2016, Nichols urged Conservatives to vote for Hillary Clinton because Trump was “too mentally unstable” – far from the “very stable genius” he would later claim to be.

In Our Own Worst Enemy, Nichols quotes Abraham Lincoln on how threats to American democracy always come from within: “If destruction is our lot, we ourselves must be its author and finisher. Nichols sees the Internet and the “communications revolution” as the means by which we have reached this dark spot.

Public life has become increasingly focused on dopamine shots, instant reaction, and heightened animosity. Our fellow citizens are also our enemies. Electronic proximity breeds contempt, not introspection. Social media and cable TV are a community for those who don’t have a three-dimensional version.

Nichols looks to ancient Greece to remember that nothing lasts forever. With admiration, he quotes Pericles, the Athenian general and orator – but observes that Pericles was not there when his city-state collapsed. He died two years earlier, behind “the besieged walls of Athens – from a plague”.

History can repeat itself.

In September 2016, writing in the Claremont Journal of Books under the pseudonym Publius Decius Mus, Michael Anton declared the contest between Trump and Clinton “Flight 93 Election”: a reference to the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on the 11th. September when the passengers attacked their hijackers. Clinton, he argued, simply had to be arrested. The first principles of conservatism could therefore be dropped.

“Load up the cockpit or you’ll die,” thundered Anton. “You can die anyway… There is no guarantee.”

What, he asked, must be done “against a tidal wave of dysfunction, immorality and corruption? For Anton, for the right, respect for “democratic and constitutional niceties” was ultimately a goblet game. Culture has stacked up against them.

After a stint as Rudy Giuliani’s speechwriter and other stops along the way, Anton joined Trump’s National Security Council.

Later this year, the Claremont Institute will honor Ron DeSantis. At a press conference earlier this month, the governor of Florida asked, “Would I rather have 5,000 [Covid-19] cases in 20 years or 500 cases in seniors? I would prefer to have the youngest.

Few weeks later, the Sunshine State suffers the worst of both worlds.

Simple decency, it seems, is for the losers. In the midst of the last presidential campaign, comparisons between the United States and the Weimar Republic were commonplace. The January uprising was considered our “Reichstag fire”. The attackers came from the right.

Nichols absorbs and abhors everything. Unsurprisingly, he particularly targets the populist right, which he says has been the “main threat” to liberal democracy for the past two decades. This is subject to debate, which Nichols acknowledges. Either way, he writes that the populist right “is a movement rooted in nostalgia and social revenge.”

As if to make Nichols’ point of view, Lauren Boebert, the far-right Republican MP from Colorado, not adjacent to QA, recently trashed Biden for leaving American friends in Afghanistan embarrassed – after voting the last month against granting 8,000 immigration visas to Afghans which aided the US military.

Other GOP diehards who opposed the legislation include Marjorie Taylor Greene, Mo Brooks and Paul Gosar. Greene and Gosar were founding members of the de facto white nationalist America First caucus. After a bomb threat on the Capitol this week, Brooks tweeted, “I understand the citizens’ anger directed at dictatorial socialism and its threat to liberty, liberty and the very fabric of American society. “

Given what plagues America, Nichols offers limited prescriptions. It supports the rapprochement between civilian and military life. The offspring of coastal elites opt for Ivy League colleges rather than service academies, reinstatement of the project is unlikely and notions of national service too often amount to “a little more” than a paid internship, he writes.

At the same time, right-wing “Spartanism” generates the unbearable idea that “citizens” and “soldiers” are not the same people ”.

Nichols urges young Americans to spend a summer in uniform, exposed to military life and skills. Most will not join the army, he thinks, but will leave with a better knowledge of the soldier’s life. At present, he laments, “there is no longer a common experience linked to national defense”.

Indeed. America has become a nation separated by a common language.


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