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Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America

di Heather Cox Richardson

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314883,842 (4.19)8
History. Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:??Engaging and highly accessible.???Boston Globe
??A vibrant, and essential history of America's unending, enraging and utterly compelling struggle since its founding to live up to its own best ideals? It's both a cause for hope, and a call to arms.???Jane Mayer, author Dark Money
From historian and author of the popular daily newsletter LETTERS FROM AN AMERICAN, a vital narrative that explains how America, once  a beacon of democracy, now teeters on the brink of autocracy ?? and how we can turn back.

In the midst of the impeachment crisis of 2019, Heather Cox Richardson launched a daily Facebook essay providing the historical background of the daily torrent of news. It soon turned into a newsletter and its readership ballooned to more than 2 million dedicated readers who rely on her plainspoken and informed take on the present and past in America. 
In Democracy Awakening, Richardson crafts a compelling and original narrative, explaining how, over the decades, a small group of wealthy people have made war on American ideals. By weaponizing language and promoting false history they have led us into authoritarianism ?? creating a disaffected population and then promising to recreate an imagined past where those people could feel important again. She argues that taking our country back starts by remembering the elements of the nation??s true history that marginalized Americans have always upheld. Their dedication to the principles on which this nation was founded has enabled us to renew and expand our commitment to democracy in the past. Richardson sees this history as a roadmap for the nation??s future.
Richardson??s talent is to wrangle our giant, meandering, and confusing news feed into a coherent story that singles out what we should pay attention to, what the precedents are, and what possible paths lie ahead. In her trademark calm prose, she is realistic and optimistic about the future of democracy. Her command of history allows her to pivot effortlessly from the Founders to the abolitionists to Reconstruction to Goldwater to Mitch McConnell, highlighting the political legacies of the New Deal, the lingering fears of socialism, the death of the liberal consensus and birth of ??movement conservatism.?  
Many books tell us what has happened over the last five years. Democracy Awakening explains how we got to this perilous point, what our history really tells us about ourselves
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Read this for a book club. Not at all what I expected it to be. She was showing a timeline of things that led to the current embrace of authoritarianism in America, kind of a cause and effect thing. But there really wasn't much in the way of analysis and zero regarding actions to be taken to stem the tide of it. It was one big downer. I can see how it might help someone younger than I am to understand this stuff, but I knew probably 90% of what was in the book and none of the rest of it particularly changed my general thoughts. I just didn't understand the point. It wasn't quite pure history, but was close enough that she should just have gone that route. ( )
  AliceAnna | May 22, 2024 |
History Professor Richardson tells a history of American democracy—a belief that all people should have equal rights and have a government by their consent—from a pluralistic viewpoint, which stands in stark contrast to the America of late that seems to be leaning toward authoritarianism. Richardson traces the rise of the modern right wing back the New Deal as backlash against government intervention through the Reagan-era rise of White Christianity and trickle-down economics and right up through the authoritarian excesses of recent years. It is a very lucid explanation for the horrifying ascendency of anti-democratic Donald Trump. While Richardson seems to have faith that there is a liberal consensus in this country, the obvious bias detracts a bit from the potential value of her analysis; i.e., the faithful will remain faithful, but she is unlikely to convince anyone else that “our common good is our common interest and our individual responsibility.” ( )
  bschweiger | Feb 4, 2024 |
This is a good summary of how the USA got so polarized. Unfortunately, it seems like this has been the case since the founding. I am doubtful that much of this will end anytime soon. Most of the details that Cox covers should be known for any student of American history and current events. There are few surprises and a lot of it seems like "preaching to the choir." ( )
2 vota ozzer | Nov 12, 2023 |
I never really understood the great effort that went into Conservative polarization of the United States population following the civil war. I see now that it was much more than simply two parties which disagreed, and the division in our country has always been more pronounced than I ever believed.

I don’t particularly like reading about politics, but I have always felt reassured by Heather Cox Richardson’s method of framing current events in a historical context. For that reason alone, I was eager to read this book. Most of the information was what I already knew to some degree, but she did have a way of teaching me details that I did not already know. I find her to be a credible source of information.

What I’m realizing is that things that happen in politics which enrage me now are really old tropes which previous generations also had to deal with. It definitely helps to clarify democracy in the United States for me by seeing its progress and its regression through the lens of history. ( )
3 vota SqueakyChu | Nov 8, 2023 |
I've been reading Heather Cox Richardson's daily Letters from an American think-pieces for several years now. I enjoy
• that she holds on to a vision of genuine democracy that is anything but naive
• that she explains the complexities of current and historical events with precision
• that she finds meaningful connections among these current and historical events that allow me to see my own time more clearly.

Democracy Awakening offers a systematic approach to a number of issues addressed in Letters from an American: the history of (and current) anti-democratic thinking in the U.S., the shifts in Democratic and Republican stances over time, the continuing legacy of the Civil War that plays out in current events (she's a well-respected scholar of the Civil War). Most of the content here was familiar, at least in a general way because I'm familiar with her work, but I very much appreciated having it organized in a way that gave me a firm narrative understanding of the order of events and their influences on one another.

If you're at a loss to understand what is happening these days in the U.S., Richardson can help. If you're frustrated by anti-democratic politics, she can help you gird your loins and stay in the struggle. If you enjoy reading U.S. history, you'll appreciate her specificity and clarity. If you're delighted by the upsurge in anti-democratic politics in the U.S., I don't know that I can convince you to read this book—but I sure wish you would.

We've been here before. We'll be here again. The "all" in "all created equal" continues to expand and to call us to broaden our sense of who "we" are.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own. ( )
2 vota Sarah-Hope | Nov 1, 2023 |
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But while Nixon paid a price for his attempt to attempt to cheat in an election, his division of the world into good and evil begin to take hold, perverting American politics by convincing his loyalists that putting their people in office was imperative, no matter what it took.
Republicans had created a underclass of Americans falling behind economically. And, crucially, they had given that underclass someone to hate.
Through the process of what is called gerrymandering, after Elbridge Gerry, an early governor of Massachusetts, who signed off on such a scheme (even though he didn't like it), political parties could gain control of extra seats in a state by drawing districts to either “pack” or “crack” their opponents. Packing means stuffing the opposition party's voters into districts so their votes are not distributed more widely; cracking means dividing opponents' voters into multiple districts so there are too few of them in any district to have a chance of winning.
Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky had become Senate minority leader in 2007, the year before Obama's election. He recognized that the best way to destroy American's faith in the federal government and return Republicans to power was to make sure the Democrats couldn't accomplish anything while Obama was in office.
Establishment Republicans who wanted an end to government regulation of business and taxes had courted racists, sexists, and religious zealots just to stay in power but had no plans actually to give in to extremist demands, which would turn off mainstream voters. Trump stripped the cover off this sleight of hand, offering to give the extremist base a hierarchal world in which they dominated women as well as their Black and Brown neighbors.
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History. Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:??Engaging and highly accessible.???Boston Globe
??A vibrant, and essential history of America's unending, enraging and utterly compelling struggle since its founding to live up to its own best ideals? It's both a cause for hope, and a call to arms.???Jane Mayer, author Dark Money
From historian and author of the popular daily newsletter LETTERS FROM AN AMERICAN, a vital narrative that explains how America, once  a beacon of democracy, now teeters on the brink of autocracy ?? and how we can turn back.

In the midst of the impeachment crisis of 2019, Heather Cox Richardson launched a daily Facebook essay providing the historical background of the daily torrent of news. It soon turned into a newsletter and its readership ballooned to more than 2 million dedicated readers who rely on her plainspoken and informed take on the present and past in America. 
In Democracy Awakening, Richardson crafts a compelling and original narrative, explaining how, over the decades, a small group of wealthy people have made war on American ideals. By weaponizing language and promoting false history they have led us into authoritarianism ?? creating a disaffected population and then promising to recreate an imagined past where those people could feel important again. She argues that taking our country back starts by remembering the elements of the nation??s true history that marginalized Americans have always upheld. Their dedication to the principles on which this nation was founded has enabled us to renew and expand our commitment to democracy in the past. Richardson sees this history as a roadmap for the nation??s future.
Richardson??s talent is to wrangle our giant, meandering, and confusing news feed into a coherent story that singles out what we should pay attention to, what the precedents are, and what possible paths lie ahead. In her trademark calm prose, she is realistic and optimistic about the future of democracy. Her command of history allows her to pivot effortlessly from the Founders to the abolitionists to Reconstruction to Goldwater to Mitch McConnell, highlighting the political legacies of the New Deal, the lingering fears of socialism, the death of the liberal consensus and birth of ??movement conservatism.?  
Many books tell us what has happened over the last five years. Democracy Awakening explains how we got to this perilous point, what our history really tells us about ourselves

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