'An indispensable voice of and for this moment' Timothy Snyder, author of On Tyranny
Many of us are consumed by news cycles reporting on Trump's latest astonishing policy or declaration, and the overwhelming sense we have is one of confusion and incredulity - how could this be happening?
As the 2020 US Presidential race takes shape, SURVIVING AUTOCRACY provides an indispensable overview of the calamitous trajectory of the past few years. Drawing on her Soviet childhood and two decades covering the resurgence of totalitarianism in Russia, acclaimed New Yorker journalist and prize-winning author Masha Gessen links together seemingly disparate elements of Trump's regime to offer a roadmap for understanding Trump's approach, policies and ultimate aims. Highlighting an inventory of ravages to liberal democracy, including the corrosion of the media, the justice system and cultural norms, she posits that America is in the throws of an autocratic attempt.
Gessen's penetrating analysis offers a new political discourse to replace that which has been so thoroughly degraded, and with it, a clearer path to action. Manifesto-like, Surviving Autocracy is threaded with solutions to the current situation, such as developing a political language that encompasses autocratic impulses, a more agile and honest media, and a visionary moral politics to counter Trump's extraordinary on-going assault.
National Book Award winner Gessen (The Future Is History) delivers a scathing indictment of the Trump administration's impact on "the American system of government." Drawing on Hungarian sociologist B lint Magyar's concept of "autocratic transformation," Gessen links Trump's dominance over the Republican Party; "disdain for excellence," particularly in the workings of government; manipulation of state institutions for personal gain; and packing of the federal courts with ultra-conservative judges to developments in "post-Communist countries" following the collapse of the Soviet Union. She also dissects Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric and castigates the U.S. media for normalizing the behavior of education secretary Betsy DeVos and other Trump appointees by "privileg neutrality above all else, including substance" and "plac artificial limits on a journalist's ability to observe reality." Gessen ends her brisk, trenchant account with a call for "political figures of powerful moral authority" (she nominates the four freshman congresswomen known as "the Squad") to combat Trumpism with a more inclusive and dignified vision of "America as it could be." Gessen's meticulous research and familiarity with the political and cultural history of post-Soviet Russia lend her arguments an authority lacking in other takedowns of Trump. Liberals looking to make sense of what they're up against in the 2020 elections should consider this a must-read.