The presidency of Donald Trump has wreaked havoc on American democracy, divided American society, unsettled foreign allies and partners, and heartened dictators around the world. The damage at home and abroad is likely to cast a long shadow into the future. Trump has also defiled the past, most notably America's origin and its soul.
The Founders counted on their successors to protect and perfect their prodigy with its fundamental ideals, laws, and procedures. They also aspired to a code of personal morals and character. Paramount were honesty, rationality, empathy, and responsibility to the citizenry.
These liberal, revolutionary criteria for public service and leadership derived from the European Enlightenment. The spirit of that movement and its American version is alien to Trump, and many of his predecessors would find him abhorrent and dangerous.
Strobe Talbott tells that story from the vantage of the Age of Trump, bringing out the stark contrast between the 45th president and the first sixWashington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, who were children of the Age of Reason.
Amid myriad books on the Trump phenomenon in these dark days, Talbott shines a light on our history in hope that the Founders' legacy, now in peril, will be vindicated.
Strobe Talbott is a scholar in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution. Talbott, whose career spans journalism, government service, and academe, is an expert on U.S. foreign policy, with specialties on Europe, Russia, South Asia, and nuclear arms control.
1. The Man Who Would Be King
2. Heaven, Earth, and the Mind
3. An Errand in the Wilderness
4. Books from Beyond the Sea
5. Tea and Enmity
6. Red Sky at Morning
7. Indictments and Ideals
8. A World Awaiting
9. A Nation Born
10. The Founding Creed
This book provides some much-needed clarity to the ideas and actions of the American founders—primarily Franklin, Washington, Madison, and Hamilton—in creating the United States and its government and how Donald Trump and Trumpism challenge these founding ideas and institutions. Important to this examination is the influence of Enlightenment and even earlier political philosophers on the founders. Political thought created a valuable learning tool for the founders and demonstrated the constancy of behavior and government. Talbott (Brookings Institution) simply and concisely traces the founders' connections to political thought and explains how and why these ideas impacted their actions. Trumpism upends the founders' work by rejecting the norms they created through these foundational ideas. Talbott clearly expresses the conflict between founding ideas, including fears and warnings, and the actions of Trump and his administration up to September 2020. This book provides a valuable introduction to comparing founding ideas and the effects of the initial output of Trumpism on American government. Recommended.