The Crisis of the Two Party System

The Crisis of the Two Party System
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Here is a version of the old rock-paper-scissors game, on a topic that should be of urgent concern to people on the left: How did Trump’s America happen, and what can we do to dislodge its hold on our politics? One can argue that Donald Trump didn’t really win the 2016 election or that he won it only through some combination of voter suppression, Russian meddling, and the peculiarities of the American constitutional system. Even so, somebody who shouldn’t have been a serious candidate got tens of millions of votes, and it’s legitimate (urgent, if we are to avoid a repeat performance this November) to ask why. Was it racism? Misdirected economic frustration? Expert manipulation of public opinion? A deterioration of democratic norms? All of these combined? Three new books by prominent liberal intellectuals—Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson’s Let Them Eat Tweets, Robert B. Reich’s The System, and Robert P. Saldin and Steven M. Teles’s Never Trump—give strikingly different answers to these questions. Each book’s argument is strong and important, and yet each one also vitiates the others.

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