If We Can Keep it: How the Republic Collapsed and how it Might be Saved

Front Cover
Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2019 - HISTORY - 288 pages
"On the final day of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin: 'Well, doctor, what have we got--a republic or a monarchy?' He replied, 'A republic, if you can keep it.' Why has American politics fallen into such a state of horrible dysfunction? Can it ever be fixed? These are the questions that motivate Michael Tomasky's deeply original examination into the origins of our hopelessly polarized nation. 'One of America's finest political commentators' (Michael J. Sandel), Tomasky ranges across centuries and disciplines to show first how America's system of representative government was conjured into being, why it is so peculiar compared to political systems around the world, and why it has only rarely worked the way its creators intended. Beginning his history in 1787, when the Constitution was written, Tomasky shows that America has almost always had two clashing political tribes that are existentially, and often violently, opposed. While the nation remained polarized throughout the nineteenth century, Tomasky goes on to discuss the Depression and World War II, the two eras that forged a rare period of national unity in the twentieth century--and the period right after that, when the country split apart over race, immigration, stagnant wages, and the horrendous inflation of the 1970s. When he turns to the twenty-first century, Tomasky shows how our two political parties have grown not just further apart but have become different creatures entirely--with Republicans making politics more ideological and Democrats being sometimes unsure about how to adapt. Not content merely to diagnose these problems, Tomasky offers an audacious agenda for how we can help fix our broken political system--both political reforms and broader changes in how we live and communicate with one another--from ranked-choice voting and at-large congressional elections to expanding high-school civics education nationwide. Combining revelatory data with trenchant analysis, Tomasky tells us how the nation broke apart and points us toward a more hopeful political future."--Dust jacket.

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About the author (2019)

Michael Tomasky is a columnist for theDaily Beast, a contributing opinion writer for theNew York Times, a regular contributor to the NewYork Review of Books, and the editor of Democracy:A Journal of Ideas. He lives in Maryland.

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