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American Carnage

On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump
Written by: Tim Alberta
Narrated by: Jason Culp
Length: 26 hrs and 23 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Politico Magazine’s chief political correspondent provides a rollicking insider’s look at the making of the modern Republican Party - how a decade of cultural upheaval, populist outrage, and ideological warfare made the GOP vulnerable to a hostile takeover from the unlikeliest of insurgents: Donald J. Trump.

The 2016 election was a watershed for the United States. But, as Tim Alberta explains in American Carnage, to understand Trump’s victory is to view him not as the creator of this era of polarization and bruising partisanship, but rather as its most manifest consequence. 

American Carnage is the story of a president’s rise based on a country’s evolution and a party’s collapse. As George W. Bush left office with record-low approval ratings and Barack Obama led a Democratic takeover of Washington, Republicans faced a moment of reckoning: They had no vision, no generation of new leaders, and no energy in the party’s base. Yet Obama’s forceful pursuit of his progressive agenda, coupled with the nation’s rapidly changing cultural and demographic landscape, lit a fire under the right, returning Republicans to power and inviting a bloody struggle for the party’s identity in the post-Bush era. The factions that emerged - one led by absolutists like Jim Jordan and Ted Cruz, the other led by pragmatists like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell - engaged in a series of devastating internecine clashes and attempted coups for control. With the GOP’s internal fissures rendering it legislatively impotent, and that impotence fueling a growing resentment toward the political class and its institutions, the stage was set for an outsider to crash the party. When Trump descended a gilded escalator to announce his run in the summer of 2015, the candidate had met the moment. 

Only by viewing Trump as the culmination of a decade-long civil war inside the Republican Party - and of the parallel sense of cultural, socioeconomic, and technological disruption during that period - can we appreciate how he won the White House and consider the fundamental questions at the center of America’s current turmoil. How did a party obsessed with the national debt vote for trillion-dollar deficits and record-setting spending increases? How did the party of compassionate conservatism become the party of Muslim bans and walls? How did the party of family values elect a thrice-divorced philanderer? And, most important, how long can such a party survive? 

Loaded with exclusive reporting and based off hundreds of interviews - including with key players such as President Trump, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Jim DeMint, and Reince Priebus, and many others - American Carnage takes us behind the scenes of this tumultuous period as we’ve never seen it before and establishes Tim Alberta as the premier chronicler of this political era.

©2019 Tim Alberta (P)2019 HarperAudio

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Good start but went off the rails halfway through

The author did a great job with the first half documenting the GOP during Bush and Obama years. It was riveting back room political drama and power plays. But as soon as Trump is introduced it turns into an empty and biased Trump bashing, Democrat party talking point saturated hit piece. Im Canadian and don't have a dog in the race but the blatant omitting of facts and labeling everything a conspiracy theory was hugely disappointing. The author doesn't dig deep on most subject Trump, so its all surface level bias aimed to make Trump look as bad as possible. I guess that's predictable but i had higher hopes. Had to stop at chapter 22 and call it. Tim Alberta, do better.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Solid account of an important political phenom

Read the subtitle. If you're interested in that subject, you should read this book. It's focused and well organized and decently written. The audio performance was well done too. Only qualification would be that, if you're a political news junkie you will already know most of the information presented.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Good, but loonnnnnggggg

A very comprehensive overview of the system that brought Trump to power, and where America may go after he leaves office. It’s very thorough, but also very long.

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Entertaining but...

It’s a well written book, but if you’re news savvy and junky, nothing seems new! Nothing is groundbreaking. Even if Paul Ryan was a source of information. All you learn is that most republicans didn’t feel comfortable with Trump, but supported him because they were power hungry. Overall, ok book!

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  • ZZ
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 2019-07-26

masterpiece

this book isn't about the president. And the author doesn't waste time attacking him. Or anyone else. It is nuanced, meticulously sourced timeline of how the gop was captured. He interviews everyone, Paul Ryan, bohner, the president, everyone. An amazing book and enthralling. I couldn't put it down. I lost a whole weekend binging a book, you guys. A book. that's how good it is.

24 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • kimberly stewart
  • Olympia WA
  • 2019-07-25

We've met the enemy, and it is us

This isn't a 'mea culpa' or a bashing of the Republican party at all. It's the story of Americans, in particular, a subset of those who tended to vote for the GOP over the years. This book is about how the Republican party pols, like Paul Ryan, John Boehner and even the late John McCain found themselves alarmingly out of step with the voters once so loyal to them.

It's also about the Republican pols like Michelle Bachman and Tim Huelskamp, who were very much in step with the evolving GOP voter base, They and other like-minded 'fiscal conservatives' (think Freedom caucus) listened closely to their constituents, indulged their requests and requirements, and midwifed them forth to their natural, logical result -- the election of Donald Trump.

It's about the Democrats and Burkian Republicans who, puzzled but mostly clueless, kept on doing what they always did, over and over again one day they were the bad guys, the 'elites' engineering the multicultural globalist take-over, who turned their backs on true Americans.

Donald Trump was the only real choice for what's become of the GOP. He is bringing them out of the desert and restoring them to their rightful stations as we speak.

This book is definitely above average in its exploding cohort of political non-fiction. I doubt a Rand Paul or Trump devotee will agree, but if you are a casualty of the current administration, and you need a more in-depth explanation than "GOP + Trump = evil bad!!", this book will take you there. I read a lot (ie, too much) political non fiction, but this one is what I was looking for. And no, I was not given a free copy to promo, I honestly mean it.

23 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • Pam
  • 2019-07-19

Interesting

I liked this book a lot. Author did not seem bias. Things in this book were told that I never heard. Gives you another way to see the people that you may have never known. Only problem I had was a funny whoosh noise through out the book. May be just me. So glad I got this book. You get to see how the back stabbers work and who they are.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • doris wood
  • 2019-07-20

Insightful

Well researched, non-biased and well written. This book gives an insight into the goings on of Politicians behind the scenes.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 2019-08-26

Doesn't offer that much if you follow the news

This book is essentially a recap of the last 20 years of the GOP trajectory. It attempts to give insight on certain inflection points and political pivots, then it tries to graph how we traversed from a Bush-centric Republican doctrine to that of alt-right, Trumpism. I think the author succeeds for the most part but the book still feels like a fast-forward montage of things I already knew.

It does however provide some interesting details about what went on behind the scenes and a lot of personal dialog between Trump and his inner circle. It also provides a few insights into the thought processes of the Romneys, the Marco Rubios, and the Lindsay Grahams of the story and why they did or didn't do all of the things they either did or didn't do. I think this provides the bulk of whatever value one might take from this book.

My main criticism would be that the author's conservative bias shows at several points when he seems to be rationalizing on behalf of Republicans for abandoning their previously stated values in order to survive politically in the era of Trump. YMMV.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Kurt
  • Cambridge, MA
  • 2019-07-27

Essential book for those who follow politics.

Reader was excellent if a little slow in pace for some. I listened at 1.1x and it was very good.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Tom Quirk
  • Newton, MA, United States
  • 2019-07-26

Contemporary History at its Finest

Tim Alberta’s engagingly thorough examination of the Republican Party over the past 12 years provides the most comprehensive explanation to date of how we have arrived at our current political moment.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-07-22

Should have picked George Will’s book

Political junkies will find this plodding. Does not have the elegance or insight of “beautiful country, burn again”. we do get to hear some insider stuff from Paul Ryan. otherwise, this is a well written news aggregate.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Craig Beckett
  • 2019-10-01

The Boehner/Ryan perspective?

If the Wolff books are largely from Bannon’s perspective, this is largely from Boehner’s perspective. Overall pretty sympathetic to GOP. Well written, but I don’t think he gets at how terrible Trump is at his job. The initial description of the internal struggle within the GOP post GWB was fascinating. He doesn’t add much to Trump’s reign however.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Martinez
  • Hasbrouck Heights, NJ USA
  • 2019-07-29

Revelatory

Very well written. Bias kept to a minimum. Narration made listening to enjoyable ad opposed to lectern reading.

Must read/listen for political junkies. The best book out there on the Trump phenomenona

1 of 1 people found this review helpful