When America Stopped Being Great by Nick Bryant

 ‘For anyone trying to make sense of the present, the question always is how far to reach back.’

The Trump presidency, according to Mr Bryant, is the culmination of several different factors, and had its beginning in the Reagan era:

‘Though Ronald Reagan took 16 years to achieve what Donald Trump managed in little over 16 months, America’s first movie-star president laid the path for America’s first reality-TV-star president.’

Leaving aside the issue of how ‘great’ America is (or was) and when that period of greatness began (and ended), I found this book provided an interesting look at how the path was laid for Donald Trump’s ascendancy. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Mr Bryant writes about how Donald Trump learned from the mistakes made by his predecessors and was able to capitalise on an increasingly polarised democracy.

‘The double paradox of the Clinton impeachment, then was that it made is harder for his wife to shatter the glass ceiling and easier for Donald Trump to become president. Hillary Clinton became a repeat victim of her husband’s infidelities.’

Sigh.

Healthy democracies, Mr Bryant writes, have always relied on a prosperous middle class. So, what happens when the middle class shrinks? In America, as in other developed economies, the divide between rural and metropolitan areas increases. Job opportunities change and shrink. Manufacturing jobs move offshore, unemployment grows.

Global economic factors cause local economic pain, and people want their governments to do something to reduce that pain. Enter Trump with his (recycled) ‘Make America Great Again’, tapping into the anger, concerns and fears of so many.

And now the Trump presidency is over, and President Biden has been elected.  What will happen next?

Jennifer Cameron-Smith