Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic by David Frum Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic

Bestselling author, former White House speechwriter, and Atlantic columnist and media commentator David Frum explains why President Trump has undermined our most important institutions in ways even the most critical media has missed, in this thoughtful and hard-hitting book that is a warning for democracy and America’s future.

“From Russia to South Africa, from Turkey to t


Bestselling author, former White House speechwriter, and Atlantic columnist and media commentator David Frum explains why President Trump has undermined our most important institutions in ways even the most critical media has missed, in this thoughtful and hard-hitting book that is a warning for democracy and America’s future.

“From Russia to South Africa, from Turkey to the Philippines, from Venezuela to Hungary, authoritarian leaders have smashed restraints on their power. Media freedom and judicial independence have eroded. The right to vote remains, but the right to have one’s vote counted fairly may not. Until the US presidential election of 2016, the global decline of democracy seemed a concern for other peoples in other lands. . . . That complacent optimism has been upended by the political rise of Donald Trump. The crisis is upon Americans, here and now.”

Quietly, steadily, Trump and his administration are damaging the tenets and accepted practices of American democracy, perhaps irrevocably. As he and his family enrich themselves, the presidency itself falls into the hands of the generals and financiers who surround him.

While much of the country has been focused on Russia, David Frum has been collecting the lies, obfuscations, and flagrant disregard for the traditional limits placed on the office of the presidency. In Trumpocracy, he documents how Trump and his administration are steadily damaging the tenets and accepted practices of American democracy. During his own White House tenure as George W. Bush’s speechwriter, Frum witnessed the ways the presidency is limited not by law but by tradition, propriety, and public outcry, all now weakened. Whether the Trump presidency lasts two, four, or eight more years, he has changed the nature of the office for the worse, and likely for decades.

In this powerful and eye-opening book, Frum makes clear that the hard work of recovery starts at home. Trumpocracy outlines how Trump could push America toward illiberalism, what the consequences could be for our nation and our everyday lives, and what we can do to prevent it.


…more


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    Will Byrnes

    Feb 20, 2018

    rated it
    really liked it

     · 
    review of another edition

    Democracy dies in darkness, opines a great American newspaper, but it would be more accurate to say that it dies by degrees. Where constitutional democracy has been lost, it has been lost because political actors have broken its rules turn by turn to achieve some immediately urgent goal. Each rule breaking then justifies the next, in a cycle of revenge that ends only in the formal or informal abrogation of the constitutional order.

    David Frum pisses me off. He is not someone I would normally

    Democracy dies in darkness, opines a great American newspaper, but it would be more accurate to say that it dies by degrees. Where constitutional democracy has been lost, it has been lost because political actors have broken its rules turn by turn to achieve some immediately urgent goal. Each rule breaking then justifies the next, in a cycle of revenge that ends only in the formal or informal abrogation of the constitutional order.

    David Frum pisses me off. He is not someone I would normally read. He is a die-hard Republican political commentator, who served as a speechwriter in the Dubyah administration, wrote for the right-wing-toxic editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, was an editor on the neo-conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, as well as being a regular opinion contributor on NPR and MSNBC, the latter being where I have gotten a bit more exposure to his views. His Reaganaut take on government is not particularly in synch with mine, but he is among the many, of both red and blue inclination, who find the current president existentially alarming. More importantly, beyond the distaste any thinking person has for Swamp Thing, Frum is concerned about the road the nation has traveled in allowing such a travesty to take place, and the ability of so many to stand silent, or even to abet, as norms of small-d democratic norms are routinely treated like an attractive woman The Orange One just cornered in an elevator.

    description
    David Frum – image from Front Page Magazine

    In terms of factual material, there is not a lot that is new here, for those who have been keeping up with the news. Of course, the daily news churn is so fast and voluminous that it is impossible to keep up with it all. As a result, there is certain to be material in Trumpocracy that is news to you.

    The danger Frum sees is not the rise of an autocratic, constitution-burning strongman, but a crumbling of the institutional norms that have made the USA, flawed, though it may be, a democracy worth preserving.

    The thing to fear from the Trump presidency is not the bold overthrow of the Constitution, but the stealthy paralysis of governance; not the open defiance of law, but an accumulating subversion of norms; not the deployment of state power to intimidate dissidents, but the incitement of private violence to radicalize supporters. Trump operates not by strategy, but by instinct. His great skill is to sniff his opponents’ vulnerabilities: “low energy,” “little,” “crooked,” “fake.” In the same way, Trump has intuited weak points in the American political system and in American political culture. Trump gambled that Americans resent each other’s differences more than they cherish their shared democracy. So far, that gamble has paid off.

    This is less a book about Trump, the person, and more about the underlying currents that have pushed him to the surface of the swamp. Where Fire and Fury was a gossipy look at the personal goings on in the White House, Frum’s book is an intellectual analysis of social and political changes, their impacts, and their implications.

    He begins with a look at the history of increasing partisanship, citing back and forth pulls from left and right. Frum sees the end of the Cold War as the condition that allowed the parties to commence a further divergence, the shock of the Great Recession as generating a smaller pie, with more competition for the slices, continuing rage over Bush v. Gore, and accelerating ethnic and cultural diversity. Unfortunately, there are instances where the obfuscatory urge clearly overwhelmed and Frum manages to omit some relevant points while making this or that case, devolving to GOP talking points.

    Bush v. Gore was a judicial travesty, and not one that anyone should forget, ever. It reinforced the notion that corruption rules, the voters be damned. The Great Recession may have taken a slice out of the American pie but some slices are bigger than others. Wall Street, largely responsible for the disaster, got bailed out, except for a few early crash-and-burns, while homeowners got thrown out. Jobs continued to be lost by the hundreds of thousands while profitability, after a dip in 20009, did just fine. And as for diminishing the pie, that may have been true in the short term, but in the years since, the pie has grown large and flavorful, but only the well-to-do have been given forks. Of course corporate profits as a percentage of GDP have gone up while corporate taxes over the same period have fallen as a percent of GDP. As he acknowledges this later, it seems odd that he would cite competition over reduced resources as a rationale for political divergence.

    Citing an absence of Obama willingness to compromise with Republicans eager to kill Obamacare, he manages to omit the fact that it was Republican legislators who had essentially refused to negotiate, despite pleas from the president. It was purely a one-sided crime. I call BS!

    He decries all-or-nothing politics as if both sides were equally at fault. While making an interesting point about the legality of DACA and the president’s diverse views on that, Frum then offers another misleading item about the Democratic party being unable to pass immigration legislation despite being in the majority at the time, which, of course, ignores the fact that a majority was meaningless when the opposition was committed to filibustering anything Democrats proposed.

    He cites Democratic refusal to approve ten of Dubyah’s appellate court judgeship nominations. Fails to mention that Dubyah had diverged from tradition in dumping the usual procedure of submitting nominee names to the ABA for their review prior to official submission. Also, the GOP ditched another tradition. It had been the case that Appeals Court nominations were submitted to both Senators of the state in which the seat was located. And if either Senator objected the nomination was quashed. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch decided that henceforth it would require rejection of a nominee by both senators to kill an appointment. Hatch would then go ahead and ignore his own rule when it conflicted with his political goals, holding hearings on nominees even after both Senators from some appellate seat states withheld their ok, if he wanted that nominee installed. Rules are, apparently, only for the minority party. Frum also neglects to mention that Republicans had killed the nominations of several Clinton era candidates, so a bit of payback was to be expected. And then there were the nominees who were clearly well outside the mainstream of legal thought at the time. Also, Frum does not mention that Dubyah had sixty-one Appeals Court judges approved. So, painting with a wide brush is less revelatory than it is obfuscatory. And he then uses this as an excuse for Mitch McConnell refusing to bring to a vote Obama’s choice to fill the SCOTUS seat opened by the death of Antonin Scalia. I call BS! (I have added a link in EXTRA STUFF to an interesting article that offers some detail on the Appeals Court nominees issue.)

    Despite his issues on broad-brushing issues like those above, Frum is clear-eyed about more things than one might have expected. His take on the continuing attempt to overturn Obama Care is spot on. He also rightly points out that the benefits of our expanding economy have devolved mainly to those already middle class or higher, with little or no benefit accruing to the poor and working class. He is, after all, a guy who was kicked out of his gig at the American Enterprise Institute for daring to tell Republicans that they were wasting their time opposing Obamacare and should look to making it better.

    Frum decries what he sees as a rising tolerance for violence. Somehow equating Occupy Wall Street with the white guy who showed up at an Obama rally with a loaded rifle in 2009. He mentions that dozens of rifles were carried at a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas, but makes no mention of how many unarmed blacks were killed by armed police. I take his overall point that there has been a general increase in violence in the political sphere, (although crime statistics report a decrease in violent crime overall) but the Occupy leaders, to the extent that there were any, rejected the actions of extremists who parasited onto that movement and others, to vent their kinetic spleens. That it occurred at all should not necessarily be taken as evidence that it was actually “tolerated.” And how about Charlottesville, where the white supremacists were planning violence on counter protesters. It seems somewhat tilted to view the people who went to Charlottesville to protect peaceful demonstrators from right wing thugs as the equivalent of those very thugs. Violence on the left has been episodic, with the intrusion of dark elements into otherwise peaceful undertakings, whereas violence and increasing armament on the right has been encouraged by the NRA, and a need to resort to violence to defend against imagined threats has been encouraged by a wide swath of right-wing psycho media. So, while I agree with Frum that there seems a rising tolerance for political violence, it is primarily on the right. Leaders of progressive actions typically reject violent methods. So, for another false equivalence, I call BS!

    Frum quite correctly points to enablers who allow Trump to be Trump to the detriment of us all, particularly our bear-like enemy abroad, and GOP members more than happy to promote known lies to further political ends. He offers a sharp, if depressing look at the Trump plunder machine

    A rule-of law state can withstand a certain amount of official corruption. What it cannot withstand is a culture of impunity. So long as officials believe that corruption will usually be detected—and if detected, then certainly punished—for just that long they will believe that corruption is wrong. It is for this reason that corrupt regimes swiftly evolve toward authoritarianism, and authoritarian regimes toward corruption.

    It is certainly clear that the Republican Quislings in Congress will do nothing to stop Swamp Thing from siphoning as much of the national treasure into the accounts of his family and friends as possible, which differentiates the USA from any banana republic how? But Frum notes an international trend toward kleptocracy, as a non-ideological form of awfulness. Makes one wonder if we are better off with a morally challenged, insecurity and greed driven narcissist bent on stealing everything he can grab, or his potential replacement, a religious ideologue, who thinks God speaks to him directly.

    Frum points out the obvious betrayals Swamp Thing has engaged in, the back-stabbing of erstwhile supporters, the campaign promises laid waste. But then he wanders off into a discussion of deficits that returns us to the missing information methodology that seems to permeate his writing. He gripes about deficits soaring after the Bush administration, yet makes no mention of why it soared. Wonder why that could be. Hmmm. Maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with the fact that Dubyah and the Republican-supported (with some Democratic help from Bill Clinton) policy of financial industry de-regulation had allowed Wall Street to run roughshod over sanity and cause the biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression. Maybe Frum neglected to note that the amount Obama wound up having to spend to forestall a repeat of the Great Depression was remarkably similar to the amounts that Dubyah himself had proposed before running as fast as he could away from the mess that he’d made. One can only presume that there is dishonesty at play here. Because David Frum is not, unlike Trump, an idiot.

    And then he offers a cogent analysis of why the Trump White House is such a bedlam. He also understands that Paul Ryan’s economic program is distilled madness, leavened with a Trumpian capacity for cruelty. Frum gets that the Republican bubble has become incapable of considering facts beyond the bubble’s border. Even more alarmingly, he notes that instead of de-regulating industries by reducing state involvement as prior presidents had done, Trump is seeking to break the state in order to plunder it. His analysis of how Trump treats the press and even truth itself is incisive and frightening.

    Frum’s policy solutions, aside from the whole raging authoritarian thing, are a sure cure for low blood pressure. He says, for example, that Tax subsidies for college tuition incentivize above-inflation fee increases. And there is probably some truth there. But since Republicans seem hell bent on reducing any form of overt subsidy to actual humans, this would mean that only the well-to-do would have access to higher education. Unless the GOP is eager for a return to heads being lopped in town squares by enraged peasants, it might be wiser to come up with ways to make college affordable for working people, whether that means (heaven forfend!) price controls on higher education, direct subsidies to those unable to afford such a critical means of educational, economic and social advancement, or tax incentives, which really only work for people who already have enough income to take advantage of such things.

    He offers looks at how the GOP has been undermining democracy itself.

    The American economic system might feel “rigged” against Trump supporters. But the American political system of 2016 had in important ways been rigged in Trump’s favor. Yet as Trump and his supporters looked to the future, how secure could they feel? Their hold on the electorate was weak. Foreign governments’ hold over them was possibly very strong. Maybe the answer—the only answer—was not to rig less, but to rig much more.

    But then he argues for the two-party system.

    Maybe you do not much care about the future of the Republican Party. You should. Conservatives will always be with us. If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy. The stability of American society depends on conservatives’ ability to find a way forward from the Trump dead end, toward a conservatism that can not only win elections but also govern responsibly, a conservatism that is culturally modern, economically inclusive, and environmentally responsible, that upholds markets at home and US leadership internationally.

    It seems clear that Frum has not been paying much attention to some obvious trends in US politics. The Republican party has been engaged in a policy of disenfranchising non-Republican voters for a long time. In the form of extreme gerrymandering, manufactured claims of voter fraud as a smokescreen for chipping away at voting rights of minorities and the elderly, for lifting up rural and suburban districts and underrepresenting urban areas. They have long since rejected democracy, and need no further encouragement.

    In the same vein,

    A post-Trump GOP will need to get serious again about honesty in government, after Donald Trump’s immolation of ethical standards. It should fiercely uphold US democracy and sovereignty against the sinister clandestine influences, foreign and domestic, that held so much sway over the Trump presidency.

    Give me a break yet again. Trump’s “immolation of ethical standards” is nothing less than the realization of the know-nothings’ dream ever since the Fairness Doctrine
    was torched under Reagan. The cancer-like growth of right wing propaganda machines has transformed public discourse from the bad to the straight-jacket ready. Trump is not an outlier among liars, he is the epitome of the lie-based Republican party. Remember when Reagan ran on balancing the budget? How every Republican runs on cutting the deficit, a promise that is nicely extinguished on inauguration day, gleefully sacrificed on the altar where they all worship, tax cuts for their donor-class corporate sponsors. Remember Swiftboating? How about Ben Gazi? The Whitewater non-scandal? It is all lies all the time, 24/7/365 and in alternate dimensions if they can manage. So puh-leez spare me pontifications about Trump being the one setting the immolation fires. He is merely enjoying the warmth of the bonfire of humanity into which the GOP has been tossing logs for decades.

    The GOP may get it together to oppose foreign interference in our elections, (although I have yet to see any evidence of that happening) while joining a goodly number of their Democratic colleagues in being perfectly fine with us interfering in other countries’ elections. As for upholding US democracy, they have been seeking to undermine it at almost every turn, preferring a system that relies on the principle one-Republican-one-vote.

    I could go on. As is no doubt obvious, Frum very successfully pisses me off. And yet…there is much in this book to admire. Frum seems, at heart, a mainstream sort of person, even with his rightward tilt, and eagerness to omit information that does not support his positions. He has stood up for sanity on plenty of occasions, even when it was not fashionable, even when it came at personal cost. I rage at his historical omissions, but I do believe he cares about the big tent America that a large majority favors. He is not among the heartless hard-core. He is someone you can have a discussion with about policy matters without it devolving into the sort of screaming match you might indulge in with that uncle who insists that Obama was born in Kenya. He is someone you can learn from. He may see ways forward on policy issues that are at odds with what a progressive would see, but at least his positions are based on reason, not on tribal anxieties, or worse. He is clearly a very bright guy and offers interesting analysis of historical and sociopolitical trends. You will definitely learn a lot in reading Trumpocracy, both from the book itself and from the googling it will prompt you to indulge in. On top of that he is simply a marvelous writer, able to make his points in an often compelling, if sometimes rage-inducing, manner. He has successfully pulled together threads of Trump-relevant content from many places and woven them into a compelling fabric. Trumpocracy offers a flashing red light for the dangers that not only lie ahead, but which are pounding at our door today. I strongly urge you to check it out.

    Published – 1/16/18

    Review posted – 2/23/18

    Other Trump-related books
    —– The Case for Impeachment
    —–Fire and Fury

    Due to space considerations, I have relocated the EXTRA STUFF section to comment #1 below
    …more

    Lewis Weinstein

    Jan 31, 2018

    rated it
    really liked it

     · 
    review of another edition

    Shelves:
    non-fiction

    UPDATE 2/4/17 …

    Since I have followed the disgusting news about Trump and his presidency, much that Frum writes is familiar to me. Frum despises Trump, as do I, and over 235 pages he makes the case that such a view is well justified. How America is going to exit from this travesty of governance is another matter, one that should concern all thinking Americans, especially those who have besmirched themselves by lying down with Trump.

    ***

    I just started reading … I’ll take my notes here, and edit

    Since I have followed the disgusting news about Trump and his presidency, much that Frum writes is familiar to me. Frum despises Trump, as do I, and over 235 pages he makes the case that such a view is well justified. How America is going to exit from this travesty of governance is another matter, one that should concern all thinking Americans, especially those who have besmirched themselves by lying down with Trump.

    ***

    I just started reading … I’ll take my notes here, and edit later …

    FRUM WRITES …

    … Trump’s government has failed not only because of indifference and incompetence, although he abounds in both, but because from the start it has been redirected from the service of the public to the aggrandizement of one domineering man and his shamelessly grasping extended family … p. xiii

    … the Trump family came to loot … p. 49 … no president in history has burned more public money to sustain his personal lifestyle … jaunts to Mar-a-Lago $3 million each … Kushner family ski vacation $330,000 … millions to the Trump hotel in DC

    …the message went forth … everywhere dirty money is laundered … you can find him in Trump Tower … p. 61

    … a rollback of the ethics rule … tax disclosure refused … conflict-of-interest rules ignored … running a business while president … (and on and on)

    LEW: this is so sickening it’s hard to read … more later (maybe)


    …more

    Steve

    Feb 02, 2018

    rated it
    it was amazing

    Shelves:
    non-fiction

    First, this is a really good book published at a uniquely, critically important moment in time. It’s a worthwhile investment of time and, as a bonus, it’s an easy read. (OK, I struggled to put it down, and decided that, once I started it, I’d rather finish it then get a good night’s sleep or do some of the work that, temporarily, was put on hold.)

    While I’m hesitant to (broadly) recommend this book to others, I’m pleased that I bought it (it makes me feel good to have provided a pittance of royal

    While I’m hesitant to (broadly) recommend this book to others, I’m pleased that I bought it (it makes me feel good to have provided a pittance of royalties to the author) and read it. The author’s work represents a valuable public service, and, frankly, it would be good (nay, great) thing if it became a best-seller (and millions of Americans read it) – but I’m not holding my breath.

    And (duh) Frum can write. I’ve already collected a wonderful selection of quotes – both pithy and fulsome – that I can’t wait to use/deploy in different contexts/forums (or fora). The book is chock full of nicely packaged anecdotes, potential teaching points, and language … that … sings. I expect to get a fair amount of additional mileage out of the book over time!

    A caveat. If you’re obsessively following current events (particularly politics and policy and governance), familiar with the author, or, more broadly, if you’re a regular Atlantic reader, my sense is that you’re not going to “learn” much new from reading this. Much of it represents a collection, concatenation, or repackaging of Frum’s prior published work,
    but the book is something more:
    Even for an obsessive consumer of news (I begin each day by sampling the Washington Post with breakfast, followed by the online versions of both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, and that’s before I turn to steady stream of alternative sources that populate my email box, Twitter feed and professional community), Frum’s book was a nicely organized, thematically coherent, easy-to-read and comfortably digestible summary or overview or saga of how did we get here? how could this have happened? how bad is it? and are we doomed or is there hope for the future?

    The book covers an extraordinary amount of material … and consistently provides it with sufficient context such that it actually makes sense. It’s an impressive, bravura achievement. And (at least to me), in that regard, the book is helpful and valuable because so many of us simply cannot keep up, can’t keep track, and struggle to categorize the innumerable phenomena, issues, scandals, policies, practices, stories, players, reactions, and evolving anxieties that dominate the news cycle and distract us on a daily basis.

    And before you reject the book as mere (or more) partisan pablum, remember that Frum is long-time conservative struggling to make sense of a world where Republicans control the Presidency, the Senate, and the House, but, nonetheless, is despondent with the current state of affairs and the nation’s trajectory. Of course, he’s not alone, and you could just as easily read – on a daily basis – Max Boot, Jennifer Rubin, or even Bill Kristol… But the background and bona fides matter, and … and this is important … Frum (and these others) hasn’t changed his stripes; he just doesn’t recognize our government, nor can he reconcile the current state of affairs with what he understood to be “conservative” leadership, policy, aspiration, or behavior.

    I can’t say that I’ve read any significant slice of the tsunami of new literature rapidly coming to press attempting to describe and unpack our current state of affairs. Having said that, I think this would be a fine companion to Timothy D. Snyder’s pithy but compelling On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, which I recommend without hesitation. But the bottom line is we’d all be better off if the public (if everyone) was reading more – particularly more credible reporting and analysis. Knowledge is power, and, in a representative democracy, our union is beholden to a (minimally) informed and cognizant electorate.
    …more