How did the party of Reagan become the party of Trump? Why has the Republican Party marched steadily rightward – to the point now that a Supreme Court nominee cannot clearly and unequivocally say that an American president does not have the authority to delay a national election? While there are millions of traditional conservatives in the population, American politics is no longer an ongoing debate between liberals and conservatives. Instead, American politics splits three-ways: liberals, conservatives (essentially voiceless) and reactionaries. In the past, illiberal and reactionary were used to describe politics abroad, but never in America.
Today’s marriage of white-identity voters to business-class anti-government libertarians is no run-of-the-mill political partnership. Instead, it is extraordinarily dangerous; President Trump has opened an “authoritarian lane” in national politics. Clearly, conservatives have lost their party and, as a result, Madisonian democracy is in peril. Kevin C. O’Leary's book Madison’s Sorrow: Today's War on the Founders and America's Liberal Ideal (Pegasus Books) tells the story of America as a struggle between our liberal ideal and illiberal resistance. The clash between the two peaked in the Civil War and in the Progressive/New Deal era and has reemerged in the post-Gingrich era with reactionaries united and powerful. President Trump and his allies have launched a fierce counterrevolution against the ideals of the founders – one with parallels to the breakdown of democracy in Latin America and Germany. How did this happen? How did we get here? A stimulating reinterpretation of the American experience, Madison’s Sorrow exposes the intellectual and moral deficiencies of the illiberal right while offering a robust defense of the liberal tradition.
Kirk Meighoo is a TV and podcast host, former university lecturer, author and former Senator in Trinidad and Tobago. He hosts his own podcast, Independent Thought & Freedom, where he interviews some of the most interesting people from around the world who are shaking up politics, economics, society and ideas. You can find it in the iTunes Store or any of your favorite podcast providers. You can also subscribe to his YouTube channel. If you are an academic who wants to get heard nationally, please check out his free training at becomeapublicintellectual.com.
Kirk Meighoo is Public Relations Officer for the United National Congress, the Official Opposition in Trinidad and Tobago. His career has spanned media, academia, and politics for three decades.