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American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,529 ratings  ·  260 reviews

New York Times' Top Books of 2019

Politico Magazine’s chief political correspondent provides a rollicking insider’s look at the making of the modern Republican Party—how a decade of cultural upheaval, populist outrage, and ideological warfare made the GOP vulnerable to a hostile takeover from the unlikeliest of insurgents: Donald J. Trump.

The 2016 election was a watershed

Kindle Edition, 687 pages
Published July 16th 2019 by Harper
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Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
There was absolutely nothing new in this book that a regular reader of the New York Times and reader of political blogs and twitter would not have already known. I stopped this book near the half way point where Trump was winning the Iowa caucus and ‘lying Ted’ was trying to make a comeback and ‘little Rubio’ the ‘freedom caucus’ favorite was self inflicting. For those who raved about this book, I would challenge them to find me one fact that wasn’t generally already known by most political ...more
Jill Meyer
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The latest entry in books looking at Donald Trump and his presidency is "American Carnage", by Politico author Tim Alberta. He takes a slightly different tack than many books about Trump in that he examines Trump's place in the Republican Party. In fact, the book is as much an examination of the party of Trump as it is about Donald Trump, himself. The book is described as "rollicking" but I truly don't think the last two years of the Donald Trump presidency can be described with any humor.

Miracle Jones
A fairly comprehensive yet painfully lifeless and mediocre history of the....present? The only thing here that hasn't been reported better elsewhere by reporters less interested in flattering Republicans for dubious reasons is the primary contest between Trump and Cruz, so if you can find those chapters excerpted elsewhere, you will get all you need from this one.

It is actually a colossal failure that this journalist manages to talk about the current Republican party without seeming to venture
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why read a book recounting major things that happened in the Republican party over the last 12 years? Especially when you're someone like me, who spent that time editing coverage of the Republican party? What I didn't realize when I embarked on Tim Alberta's well-reported book, American Carnage, was that he is slowly, carefully constructing an argument about the state of the Republican party. Alberta points out astutely that Republicans, through a series of decisions —some intentional and some ...more
Stewart Sternberg
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is surprisingly long. But it is worth a read, especially for people twenty years from now as they wonder how they got where they are.

How did the right wing grow so strong in the US? Why do we have such tribalism? How did Trump exploit it?
Adam Schrecengost
This is an odd book. There's nothing really new, and I'm struck that Alberta decided to structure it similar to how events played out in the public eye instead of what was really going on behind the scenes. Because of this, it feels Iike a Wikipedia summary of the past 10 years, and none of the interviews have bite. I expected a lot more.
Trey Grayson
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It’s long. But worth it.

I forgive him for calling me MM’s hand-picked candidate instead of my actual name. :)
Ben Deutsch
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was going to put down the modern political books for a while until a good friend recommended American Carnage and it restored my faith in Trump-era non-fiction. That was probably in large part due to this being much more than a “how did we get here” Trump book. It is a comprehensive history of the Republican Party’s civil war which began to simmer in the Bush administration, boiled hot throughout the Obama years, and completely exploded out of the pot in the Trump era. Alberta’s access is ...more
POLITICO’s Tim Alberta, author of American Carnage (Harper), asked a “blissfully retired” John Boehner over lunch whether he believed that the Republican Party “could survive Trumpism.”

Boehner’s response? “There is no Rep—” Here he stops, hesitates, and when pressed, offers “There is [a Republican Party]. But what does that even mean? Donald Trump’s not a Republican. He’s not a Democrat. He’s a populist.”

After nearly three years of finger-wagging “I told you sos” bandied about by pundits and
Robert P. Hoffman
This is an outstanding book. The author does an extraordinary job of telling what happened in the Republican party over the last ten years and what happened to our political world during that time period. It reads like a novel where the author laments the state of the world we find ourselves in. There are no evil people, just people who compromised themselves, abandoned principles, justified what they did, and failed to take account of the results of their lack of principles.

He is a first rate
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Since November 2016 I’ve been reading lots of books about politics, trying to understand how Trump happened. This is the best book I’ve read so far. The most interesting parts for me were the end of the Bush years and the shifts during Obama’s presidency. It also chronicles the rise of Trump but exposes the forces that made that rise possible. Highly recommend.
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a few years, this book will offer an invaluable historical perspective on the insane and terrifying Trump moment. I blasted through this 600-page tome in about two weeks because it's compelling and hard to put down. It's as hard to look away from Alberta's writing as it is to look away from Trump himself, as much as I deeply loathe the president. Notably, Alberta now writes for Politico, but spent most of his career with deeply conservative publications. I was reading this while trying to ...more
Steve Solnick
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alberta offers a book that is at once too detailed and not deep enough - chronicling the transformation of the Republican party from 2008 to 2019. I found the first half of the book more illuminating than the second, and better structured. The dance between McCain and Romney, the rise and fall of the Tea Party, the emergence of the Freedom Caucus, the trials and tribulations of Speaker Boehner - all make for compelling, if familiar, reading. Into this narrative of rightward drift, Trump lands ...more
Scott Martin
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Audiobook) A modern history of the modern Republican Party, this work analyzes the inner politics and external forces that played such a critical part in defining and creating the Republican Party as it functions today. Relying on interviews and insights from various power players, from John Boehner to Donald Trump, this work offers an account that isn’t just rehashing the political headlines from the Washington Post or other national news sources. I learned a great deal about the inside ...more
Alex Mulligan
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

It’s hard to believe this book is real, and not fiction. Loaded with interviews from major players (Trump, Ryan, Bohner, Cruz etc etc) this book is an authoritative text on the rise of Donald Trump and the tectonic shifts in the the Republican Party.

Alberta’s hypothesis is simple: The Bush administration left republicans tired and defeated. There were me young leaders to take the reins, no infusion of conservative thought, and a dwindling difference between Republicans and Democrats.
The implied promise of giving us analysis of what went on within the party that resulted in an intra-party civil war, wasn't kept. This is mostly a recitation of events and actions, much of which was already covered in other media sources. If one hasn't been closely following the news, I suppose there is new information, though even then there are important events that are missing or given short shrift. There is some interesting behind-the-scenes information about the personalities and thoughts ...more
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ExHAUSTively reported and exhausting to read. No new information, no really new insights into the Trump Administration. Mostly an almost minute-by-minute recounting of Trump’s rise to power... Thoroughly depressing and disheartening.
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I rarely read books like this: it's about modern politics, it's written by a moderate conservative, and it's MASSIVE. But, I listened to the NYT best-of-year podcast roundup (which was a roundtable discussion) and one of the reviewers just gushed about this book, how it deepened her understanding of how we got in this mess, so I picked it up.

I am not precisely sure it did for me what it did for that reviewer, but it really helped me take a big step back and look at the last 10 years from a
The guy in the White House didn't change the Republican Party. He just exposed them for what they've always been and made them own it. If they had ever believed in any of the principles they pretended to care about for decades, they wouldn't be openly and proudly disregarding the Constitution and promoting authoritarian rule the way they currently are.
Sep 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
First off--there's nothing wrong with this book, if you want to read a competently written, single-perspective take on what's gone wrong in the Republican party, since the great disaster of 2008 (Obama's election). Tim Alberta writes in endless, numbing, day-by-day detail, about strategic errors the Republicans made, in trying to salvage their noble party. In Alberta's POV, calling them errors is probably too harsh. His overarching point is that Republicans still are (or could be) the kind of ...more
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Solid reporting, good analysis

Alberta does a great job tracking the final devolution of the modern Republican Party into the irrational, power-mad monster it is today. From the rise of the Tea Party to current the descent into Trumpism, this is a fascinating and chilling portrait of a political party in its apparent (and still dangerous) death throws. But there’s some context missing here. I understand why Alberta chose to focus on how the party changed after the election of Obama, but to truly
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. What a super read. This is, from what I can see, Alberta's first book. He's a writer, yes, but for a first book this is a really super read. Based on the entities he has written for I believe he is a republican, but in American Carnage he presents a very objective perspective on the republicans, democrats and Trump. He takes his reader back through the last few administrations and what went right and what went wrong. While some is his opinion, he includes observations and references to ...more
Jul 26, 2019 marked it as abandoned
Meh. Not what I expected. Returning to library and moving on.
Jordan Smith
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It seems unimaginable to write a 612-page, nonfiction novel documenting a decade of the political climate the Republican Party has allowed to fester without losing the reader’s attention midway through.

Tim Alberta, improbably, accomplished this feat.

American Carnage is thorough without dragging the reader through the weeds of ideological battles. It’s comprehensive in the manner it depicts the fractured state of the Republican Party and its direct link to Donald Trump winning the presidency in
Jan 07, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
I’m not sure who would like this book (I generally don’t read reviews before I read a book). I don’t know anything about the author but I’m guessing he’s a Never-Trumper. He does not have nice things to say about Republicans or Democrats, Obama or Trump.

But that’s not the problem I had with the book. If you’re not somewhat of a political junkie you’re not going to read a book like this. If you are then you might not enjoy a day by day, blow by blow reliving of the 2016 campaign. I did not.

Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, nonfiction
This is one of the best nonfiction, current event books I have ever read. A great overview of how the Republican Party has changed over the last couple of decades, particularly with Donald Trump taking it over. Alberta seems to have some cache with Republicans in Washington, and he worked with the National Review in the past. He has plenty of criticism for Trump and his enablers, as any decent American should, but he also properly notes Barack Obama's many missed opportunities to reach across ...more
Andrew Mullins
Upsides: Excellent summary of the years leading up to 2018 and the lay of the political landscape, especially in summarizing the GOP presidential primaries in 2015. The author is also relatively policy-agnostic, and with few exceptions, abstains from inserting opinion on policy issues.

Downsides: There's a definite left-leaning political bias. The book is fairly one-sided when describing the ups and downs of the current presidency, and relies (in my view) too heavily on anonymous sourcing. The
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating political reportage covering the infighting in the Republican party, including the 2016 nomination and election of Donald Trump--a page-turning combination of journalism, current events and history.
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
That was a thorough book. Maybe a little too thorough. Admittedly I started skimming the parts I remembered well: healthcare vote, November 2016, and a few other parts of the nightmare of this presidency.
Ed McKinley
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good read — tightly written, which makes sense with the author’s background as a reporter. It’s well researched and sourced, and offers what seems to be an accurate and fair prescription of what ills our current political climate and how we got to where we are.
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