The MSNBC anchor knows how to pick an interview and how to organise her sources. Her book is a valuable compendium
How did we get Donald Trump? And how will we ever undo the damage he has done?
These are the two questions Joy-Ann Reid focuses on in her new book, with much more about the former than the latter. There isnt a lot here that hasnt been reported before, but Reid does a fine job of summarizing all the factors in the perfect storm that brought us a Trump presidency.
Among things that helped to defeat Hillary Clinton, she identifies aggressive, full-throttle voter suppression deployed by Republicans in Georgia, Wisconsin, Ohio and Texas, an effort which took full advantage of the supreme courts gutting of the Voting Rights Act.
There is also the political presss fixation on Clintons use of a private e-mail sever, and the FBI investigation it spawned, which consumed the coverage, even as the media lapped up The Trump Show.
And there is the barely disguised sexism that crosses ethnic, cultural and even gender lines to punish women who vie for power.
Reid is good on specifics about states where voting lists have been ravaged by Republicans. Wisconsin voter ID laws which stripped some 300,000 mostly minority voters of their right to vote in 2016 helped Trump win in November by 22,748 votes. In North Dakota, Native Americans are disenfranchised en masse by a state law requiring them to show IDs with specific street addresses on them, even though many lived on reservations, where street addresses werent used.
After Trumps most recent transgressions, much of what Reid has written is especially relevant, including her description of some of the most open appeals to racial fear the country had seen in the modern political era.
Noam Chomsky, one of Americas last public intellectuals, memorably described the Republican party as the most dangerous organization in human history, because of its single-minded commitment to the destruction of organized human life on Earth.
In Reids book, Republican apostate Bruce Bartlett says the party is dominated by anarchists who stand for nothing except slashing taxes on the rich and gutting benefits for the poor. The purpose of the Bush and Trump tax cuts is to destroy government, to downsize it to such a point where we have virtual anarchy.
Bartlett adds: Although all Republicans are not racist, virtually all racists are Republicans.
Trump talked like a populist but presided over massive tax cuts for the super rich, Reid writes, and a no-look government that unleashed an American oligarchy to do as it pleased.
Trump is the president brought to you by Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham and Fox News. He has normalized corruption, cronyism, kleptocracy and the public display of of thuggery and open racism by white Americans who felt empowered to assert themselves as the arbiters of cultural legitimacy. And to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and evangelical Christians, all of this was worth it because the only thing they really care about is the transformation of the judiciary for a generation.
Of course, Trumps policies have also accelerated income inequality, which is now so extreme that it has made America comparable to Russia. As Reid writes, the rich in both countries control approximately equal shares of the wealth and income. America, in a very real sense, has its own oligarchs. That agenda is the only one with which Republicans in Congress are genuinely concerned.