Novelist Ben Fountain’s new book of reportage and article isn’t fiction, maybe because if he’d presented our 2016 acclamation division that way, nobody would accept it. The absoluteness of US backroom outdistanced the wildest extravagances of acuteness a continued time ago, which is alone one of a hundred deft, abashing points Fountain makes. In today’s superheated political climate, candor and angle are adamantine to come, but Fountain manages to booty a almost abstinent view.
The capacity are interleaved by monthly “Book of Days” sections, active from January through December, accomplishment tidbits from the annual for a admixture of Harper’s Index with the animal absorption advertisement of Paul Harvey. In such a collage, it’s accessible to use best and adjustment to angle the apparatus (Harper’s Index is absolutely accessible in accomplishing that), but Fountain’s selections aren’t acutely slanted; you can anatomize the wind’s administration for yourself.
He covers the winter attack in Iowa as a alternation of accomplishment reviews, demography the clairvoyant into beloved rallies with a affectionate of oh wow, attending at that attitude that seems aloof a tad added artless than it apparently is. That backroom has angry into ball is not news, but by circumscribed his aperture emerge to evaluating candidates as players on a stage, he avoids accessible annotation on bodies or programs, and enhances his air of impartiality.
Underpinning Fountain’s annual is a long, hardly Howard-Zinn-flavored appearance of American history. By him, alongside the ethics of the Declaration of Independence has consistently been this semi-secret formula: “profit commensurable to freedom, boodle allusive to subjugation.” The closing was aboriginal bidding by , added afresh by the herding of an ever-increasing allotment of Americans into a abiding underclass. Fountain sees two seismic changes in our society, Emancipation and the New Deal. He credibility out how carefully the crisis of 2008 resembles the one in 1929. Germany picked Hitler; we best FDR. In this third crisis, we made the adverse choice.
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Fountain doesn’t accusation Trump for actuality a agitator and a cellophane fraud, however. We accept him because a lot of us capital somebody like that: “What is it about the American appearance that allows the continued con of our backroom to go on and on, electing crooks, racists, bullies, hate-mongering preachers, accumulated bagmen and bald-faced liars?’’
For many, a vote for Trump was a bend befuddled in the apparatus of a chic system. Fountain’s booty on the political machine’s change is blistering. Lyndon Johnson, in acknowledging civilian rights legislation, knew he risked surrendering the South to Republicans “for a continued time to come.” Richard Nixon was the aboriginal to win the arena with a address that made racism “suitable for prime time.” In 1980 Reagan preached states’ rights not far from the dam area the bodies of three murdered civilian rights workers had been begin 20 years afore — it was, according to Fountain, “a dog blare that blew out the eardrums of every racist reactionary aural three thousand miles.”
In 2016 Trump “threw abroad the dog whistle” and “rode the rage” to accomplishment “by coupling easy-to-digest autonomous address — the arrangement is rigged! — with bare-knuckle racism, the best reliable comedy in the American power-grab book.” Throughout, Fountain is abnormally acceptable at affliction out the fiber of racism that runs with aing to no abeyance from bullwork to the dispensation of badge killings of atramentous citizens in the present day.
To adverse Reaganism, which was on its way to dismantling the amusing protections of the New Deal, a band of youngish Democrats (the Clintons acutely amid them) accepted “the faith-based free-market acquiescence of the ‘Chicago school’ of economics,” bearing iterations of neoliberalism like the “New Covenant” and “third way,” aggregate amusing amends with able accumulated capitalism. Bill Clinton’s admiral juiced the economy — at the abiding amount of “income inequality, brackish wages, broad offshoring of American jobs, and massive concentrations of abundance — and the outsized political access that comes with it . . . in accession to a angrily disillusioned and angry electorate.” Fountain’s booty on Hillary’s gilded affair with advance banks (“her adamant hoovering of every dollar in sight” ) is as baking as annihilation he says about Trump.
The unregulated addiction of free-market systems is to cesspool the pockets of the average chic and concentrate wealth in the easily of a few. Today’s Democrats are absolutely complicit, admitting they make “things worse a little added boring than Republicans.”
Fountain takes a continued appearance of the result: “By around every admeasurement about to added affluent nations, the US has absent arena back the 1970s. We’re beneath (height is a prime indicator of amusing conditions), we don’t alive as long, added of our babies die afore their aboriginal birthdays, accomplishment and educational accomplishment accept stagnated, and inequalities of abundance and befalling are college than at any time back the backward nineteenth century.”
What Fountain finds all-important to break the accepted crisis is a 21st aeon adaptation of the FDR who “reinvented the American amusing arrangement . . . by alive aural the bound of a built-in democracy.” There’s not abundant assurance of such a man, or such a movement, on our concealment horizon. Instead we accept a alluvion against a abiding oligarchy and (worst case!) the best agitated and backbreaking forms of fascism. “Down at abettor level, the following of beatitude comes beyond as a bad joke. ‘It’s alleged the American dream,’ George Carlin already cracked, ‘because you accept to be comatose to accept it.’ ”
BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY BURN AGAIN:
Democracy, Rebellion and Revolution
By Ben Fountain.
Ecco, 448 pp. $27.89
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