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An eye-opening cultural history of the political revolution that has destroyed the Republican Party and unleashed an illiberal crusade against the ideals of the Founding Fathers.
The story of America is the struggle between our liberal ideal and illiberal resistance. Donald Trump catalyzed a reactionary revolution by tapping into the dark, shadowy side of American democracy that embraces exclusion and inequality. Throughout American history these alarming impulses have come to the forefront of our culture—during the Civil War, the era of the Robber Barons, and the Civil Rights Movement—but have now come to fruition in the presidency of Donald Trump.
Arguing that the contemporary Republican Party is waging a counterrevolution against the core beliefs of the nation, journalist and scholar Kevin C. O’Leary cracks open American history to reveal the essence of America’s liberal heritage by critiquing the reactionary illiberal currents that periodically threaten American democracy. American politics is no longer an ongoing debate between liberals and conservatives because the new Republican Party embraces the feudal values of the Old World. While there are millions of conservatives in the population, the elected leadership of the GOP is deeply reactionary.
Today’s marriage of white-identity Southerners and their northern allies to moneyed libertarians is no run-of-the-mill political partnership. Instead, it is extraordinarily dangerous. Clearly, conservatives have lost their party. And without conservatives debating liberals in an intellectual, respectful manner to address the nation’s problems, Madisonian democracy breaks down.
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.
About the Author
Kevin C. O'Leary is a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of California, Irvine. A contributor to The American Prospect, he was the lead West Coast reporter for TIME, as well as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He earned his PhD at Yale University. His previous book, Saving Democracy: A Plan for Real Representation in America, was a finalist for the American Political Science Association's Michael Harrington Award.
"O’Leary illustrates with dismaying accuracy and compelling intelligence how illiberalism’s co-opting of the modern Republican Party has unbalanced the American system, allowing nationalists, white supremacists, and economic oligarchs to subvert the Founders’ aspirational ideals of democratic enfranchisement and equality. Essential reading."
— Booklist (starred)
"To tell the unsettling story of the nation’s continued drift into Trumpism and its many attendant ills, O’Leary plunges back into the historical record … a highly opinionated yet accessible work of history and current affairs."
— Kirkus Reviews
"The problem with our politics is not Donald Trump; it is the many who support him. Kevin O’Leary’s book explains in great detail and with the clearest of prose, just how this crazy situation came about."
— Alan Wolfe, author of The Future of Liberalism, professor of Political Science and director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, Boston College
"A compelling account of the rise of the right in contemporary American politics and the threat that it poses to the country’s most basic values. This beautifully written book is a must read for all who care about the future of American democracy"
— Erwin Chemerinsky, author of 'The Conservative Assault on the Constitution' and Dean of University of California, Berkeley School of Law
"The Republican Party has lost its moorings and is hemorrhaging some of its most prominent thinkers and professionals. Donald Trump is the immediate cause, but only a symptom of a larger problem. Kevin O’Leary could not be more timely with his new book Madison’s Sorrow."
— Norman J. Ornstein, co-author of One Nation After Trump and It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute
"If you want to understand the deeper menace of Trumpism, read this book. Kevin O’Leary tells this complex and alarming story brilliantly."
— Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect and author of The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy
"Kevin O’Leary offers us a timely and important examination of the illiberal idiocy that courses throughout American history. He champions a revitalized liberalism that should win over those who are searching for an alternative to the threat posed by the right. This book should be read - and read now."
— Kevin Mattson, author of Rebels All! and When America Was Great Connor Study Professor of Contemporary History, Ohio University