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"Do We Have A Center?: 2016, 2020 and the Challenge of the Trump Presidency" by Walter Frank

Posted by Matt McAvoy on Friday, October 18, 2019 Under: Book Reviews



In this incredibly hard-worked account by a passionate political commentator, the “center” to which Walter refers is the moderate, rational ground between the left and right political wings.  The question of its continued existence is one which has become more prominent in recent years, in many countries, but perhaps none more so than the United States, following the election campaign and subsequent election of one of the most divisive presidents in living memory: Donald Trump. 

I admit, I was pleasantly surprised by this book, expecting the usual anti-Trump vitriol which usually accompanies studies into the subject by Democrats, of which Walter is one.  But, this was nothing of the sort.  Walter is an extremely intelligent, considered, unbiased and insightful author, who in fact appears to place more blame at the feet of Hillary Clinton and her predecessor Democratic government for Trump’s election, than he does at the feet of Trump’s supporters.  Furthermore, he explains in a huge degree of depth all the reasons why normal people voted for Trump, and in equal depth all the reasons why they didn’t vote for Hillary, without resorting to propaganda or lamentation.  Of course, he is clearly disappointed, as many were, but Walter is an incredibly professional author, who presents the information empirically, and his agenda is a highly constructive one: to learn from this lesson, in preparation for the 2020 Presidential Election.  Indeed, the third part of the book covers in-depth all the things he thinks Democrats should do differently this time.  And, I’ll be honest, he presents an extremely credible advisor, not to mention informative, for a reader who does not particularly follow American politics.

Still, universally, it is hugely refreshing to see a liberal voter explaining all of the reasons why “right-wing” voters are only in a very small part racially motivated, and pointing out that many Democrats share some of their very same concerns.  Walter is a slowly disappearing breed: a democratically-minded individual, who understands that all people have a huge number of concerns, but some are more prominent than others.  His suggestion that the Democrats are more concerned by social issues, whilst the Republicans are more concerned by practical or fiscal issues is a good summary for increasingly polar global politics – yet, ironically, the fact that Trump won perhaps because he addressed people and played on their concerns, whilst Hillary took the simple marketing, number-crunching approach, just shows what an illusion the whole election game is.  That is what we are seeing, more and more, in every country: politicians feeding people’s concerns, anger and fear – at both ends of the polar scale.  One always has to win, and one always to lose – it appears that the winner tends to be the one whose predecessors left the most resentment; in the present condition, it is fashionable to call this “populism”.  In Walter, however, we have a genuine debater, who bemoans the rapidly diminishing importance of democracy in our democracies.  The reasons people voted for Trump were myriad and complex, and to his huge credit, Walter critically analyzes every single one of them, and provides solid evidence to support them.  For the most part, the book is empirical and statistical in nature, but that does not subtract from its human factor – the author seems to respect people equally, and bemoans the fact that we have become a society in which we judge someone’s character by the party they vote for, in such a highly charged environment of media and social media propaganda. 

An outstanding piece of literary work by a hugely credible author and a very serious political journalist, which I highly recommend for those who are willing to accept the truth about the polarization of voters, and can bring themselves to analyze both sides, without the rhetoric.  Both sides might learn something about the other side’s so-called ideology, if only they would calm down long enough to listen.  Walter credits himself hugely, showing a level of intelligence and moderate centrism which we could all do with a great deal more of in the world.  Perhaps he should run in 2020!

In : Book Reviews 


Tags: walter-frank  donald-trump  american-politics  political  election  non-fction 
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