3 out of 4 stars
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Donald Trump famously declared that victory in the November 2020 US presidential election was stolen from him, alleging among other things that the mail-in votes were fraudulent. Did you know that this was not a knee-jerk reaction to the election result, but rather the culmination of a campaign to cast doubt on the validity of mail-in ballots, along with other voter suppression tactics?
In his non-fiction work Illegitimate: Trump's Election and Failed Presidency, Harold J. Breaux discusses voter suppression and other strategies that may have tipped the 2016 election result in Trump's favour. Specifically, his victory hinged on securing the Electoral College votes in the swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, so Breaux analyses potential influences on voters there. He identifies three devastating phenomena or "whammies" which, he argues, illegitimately skewed the election results. Voter suppression was one whammy while the others were James Comey's letter to Congress about rival Hillary Clinton's emails, and fake news. Otherwise, Breaux considers how Trump's unsuitability for his role made him an illegitimate president.
Breaux bases his arguments on news stories and develops political commentators' theories. He does this by devising mathematical formulae to demonstrate the possible effects of the whammies. This is his personal contribution to the subject, and I appreciated the originality of his ideas. I enjoyed following his logic as he explained his calculations. He provides further details in an appendix.
One slight criticism I have is that some of the abbreviations used in the tables in the main chapters are only explained in the appendix. It is possible to refer to the appendix while reading, but including them in the main chapters would be more user friendly. Mathematics aside, Breaux's discussions of the other grounds for considering the Trump presidency illegitimate were informative and enlightening. While Breaux developed the book from his blog, I applaud him for not simply reproducing blog posts but actually updating and processing these into book form.
I would, therefore, recommend this book to those interested in political science in general and the US election system specifically. It might not appeal to you if you are turned off by detailed mathematical explanations, although those comprise only part of the book. This also might not appeal to those who do not want to read negative criticism of Donald Trump. It is written in a clear style and includes comprehensive references. It also has a logical structure and appears carefully prepared, although another round of editing would be helpful to eliminate some errors that slipped through the cracks. For example, I found some incorrectly spelled names and punctuation errors.
Such errors were not overly distracting, but I do have to deduct a star from the rating because of these and because of the minor issue with the abbreviations. Therefore, I rate this book three out of four stars. Although it was evidently written before the November 2020 election result was known, it is nonetheless a valuable historical resource. The information it contains could yet be crucial if, for example, Trump runs for president in 2024.
Illegitimate: Trump’s Election and Failed Presidency
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