In This Review

The American Crisis: What Went Wrong. How We Recover.
The American Crisis: What Went Wrong. How We Recover.
By the Writers of The Atlantic
Simon & Schuster, 2020, 576 pp

This collection of some of the best recent writing in The Atlantic delays discussion of U.S. President Donald Trump and Trumpism until the second half of the book. It begins with considerations of the destabilizing forces that have grown in recent decades: widening economic inequality, declining social mobility, structural racism, and a fractured health-care system still impervious to full reform. The next set of essays turn to politics, parsing the roles of individuals (such as former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the former Trump aide Paul Manafort) and broader sources of political dysfunction, including voter suppression, gerrymandering, expanded presidential powers, and social media. The collection of pieces on Trump, his family, his advisers, and his policies includes great reporting and gripping insights, especially in the shortest piece in the book, “The Cruelty Is the Point,” by Adam Serwer, which was originally published in 2018 but is equally applicable to the emotions let loose in the attack on the U.S. Capitol in January. The last section, weak only by comparison to what precedes it, turns to the future, not so much with policy recommendations as with reminders of the “tools still at our disposal—values, outlooks, attitudes, instincts.” This volume is a superb resource in helping Americans understand how they have arrived where they are now.