Elizabeth Drew is a regular contributor to The New York Review. She is the author of fourteen books, including Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall, which was expanded and reissued in 2014. (June 2017)
Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy
by David Daley
Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy is a sobering and convincing account of how the Republicans figured out the way to gain power in the state legislatures and, as a consequence, in the federal government through an unprecedented national effort of partisan redistricting.
In Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton needed not a makeover but a stripping away of the layers of self-protectiveness and caution. Throughout the week, the momentousness of the history being made competed with the Clinton campaign’s quite evident strategic goals. But then, when the first woman presidential candidate appeared on the stage to claim the nomination, the importance of that moment was impossible to dismiss.
The widely applauded decision to name a special counsel won’t resolve some momentous matters raised by the Russia affair. Robert Mueller’s investigation is limited to considering criminal acts. His purview doesn’t include determining whether Trump should be held to account for serious noncriminal misdeeds he or his associates may have committed with regard to his election, or violations of his constitutional duties as president. The point that largely got lost in the excitement over the appointment is that there are presidential actions that aren’t crimes but that can constitute impeachable offenses, which the Constitution defines as “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Disturbingly early in the Trump administration a great many Americans didn’t know if they could believe the president of the United States. The compulsive lying by Trump and those who spoke for him threatened to undermine his ability to govern. And then there are the not-exactly-lies but Trump’s strange versions of reality that he seems to believe: such as when he insists that the sun was shining during his inaugural speech, which it wasn’t; and this is an easily checkable fact. Could we believe him in the event of an international crisis—or know if it was indeed a crisis?
All American elections tend to be touted as historic, for all American culture tends toward the condition of hype. Flummoxing, then, to be confronted with a struggle for political power in which, for once, all is at stake. We have long since forfeited the words to confront it, rendering superlatives threadbare, impotent.
The near-total failure of our political institutions to invest for the future, eschewing what doesn’t yield the quick payoff, political and physical, has left us with hopelessly clogged traffic, at risk of being on a bridge that collapses, or on a train that flies off defective rails, or with rusted pipes carrying our drinking water.
Republicans have been implacable in their determination to put an end to Obama’s proudest legislative achievement ever since it was passed in March 2010. This has as much to do with disdain for our first black president as it does resistance to a historic expansion of government. But the Republicans didn’t reckon on two things: that the program would become popular once people signed on to it; and that after two terms Obama would end up one of our most liked presidents.
A lot of Republicans who had deep misgivings about Trump went along with him because they assumed that he could produce legislation dear to their hearts. But what if it turns out that he can’t? Politicians are highly pragmatic people; they will support a president as long as he isn’t too costly to them. But if he becomes too expensive to their own reelection, all bets are off. On the Senate floor the other day, a cluster of Republicans jocularly made a pool on the way in which they think Trump will be forced to leave office.
In much of the astonished comment about the outcome, Trump’s victory has become inflated beyond what it actually is. Despite low turnout, the popular vote was won by Clinton, and it was Gary Johnson and Jill Stein who appear to have cost Clinton critical states in the Electoral College. It’s not a stretch to conclude that, absent the third-party candidates, Clinton would have won the election.