4 out of 4 stars
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The Road to Trump by Shay McNeal is a compilation of articles published in her column Meet You in the Middle, as part of the Charleston Mercury newspaper. As a side note, the current Charleston Mercury is not associated with the previous famous paper that ceased its publication in 1868.
The book includes monthly articles between September 2013 and October 2018, with topics ranging from Trump’s election and the Russian involvement to race issues, immigration, terrorism, ISIS, and thoughts on various politically related countries like Ukraine, China, North Korea, and Japan.
The author prefaces the book with the sentence “This is a very difficult column to write,” and I can empathize. Trump is a more controversial topic than anything else we’ve come across in the last 100 years in terms of American politics. Nothing gets people on both sides of the aisles more fired up than Trump’s presidency, and with good reason. Trump is an outsider, a former TV personality, and a businessman with no political knowledge or experience, whose decisions have been met with varying degrees of outcry across the globe.
Before picking up the book, I was not sure of the author's stance on Trump. As I started reading the articles, it became clear that she is a Trump supporter, despite the slightly controversial title. She is quite positive about the decisions he has taken during his presidency so far. For example, she notes how great the economy was in his first year compared to Obama’s first year by citing a New York Times opinion piece, which doesn’t mention that Obama inherited a broken economy, one involved in a huge recession, while Trump inherited a pretty solid and stable one. For a more accurate analysis, the comparison should have been done once the effects of the previous administrations have worn off (say, after two years).
She also mentions that
However, just a few months later, a report dated December 21, 2017, by govtrack.us stated:As of June 20, 2017, President Trump has signed into law 40 bills. By the third week of June the Obama administration had signed into law 24 bills. The Trump administration has signed more bills to this date than the four previous administrations.
In addition, the book doesn’t discuss the importance of the signed bills. Some are essential, others are useful, while others are little more than window dressing, such as creating memorials and naming post offices. There is no breakdown on the importance of bills signed by Trump vs. previous presidents in her analysis.Trump has sunk to last place with 94 bills signed into law by his 336th day in office (today). That’s eight fewer than President George W. Bush and not even half as many as presidents Bill Clinton (209) and George H. W. Bush (242).
Still, it was interesting to read towards the end of the book that she did begin to slightly criticize Trump for his extensive use of Twitter for personal rants, saying “We do demand more dignity and most hope that he will rise to that plea,” and for his cozy relationship with Putin (mentioning their closed-door meeting amidst the unfolding Russian collusion scandal).
Even though they are leaning towards the current administration, the monthly articles are quite in-depth, and for each topic, the author goes back to historical periods which somehow influenced the current climate, or to compare and contrast the two timelines. For example, in the article on immigration, Shay McNeal discusses its origins, starting with the Puritan settlements in New England, following with the Civil War, and then talks about current issues on immigration. Also, in the article on North Korea, the author takes us back to the history of the two Koreas, allowing us to better understand the complex relationships between North Korea, South Korea, the UN, China, Soviet Union, and, ultimately, the U.S.
Since The Road to Trump is not really a book but a collection of newspaper columns, the author could not have touched upon every major issue surrounding the Trump presidency (for example, the issue of climate change, his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and the immigrant children still separated from their parents). However, the included topics were analyzed quite thoroughly, such as the Brett M. Kavanaugh scandal, or the president’s contempt for the media “because of how he perceives his treatment from them.”
Touching on some heavy themes, the well-organized articles are written in a clear tone that allows the reader to understand each topic with ease. I did find a few grammatical and punctuation errors within the pages, but those were few and far in between.
Due to the extensive analysis of some important current topics and the professional editing, I give The Road to Trump 4 out of 4 stars. It is well-written, with coherent thoughts in each article, and with enough details included that no matter on which side of the platform you find yourself on, you will get something out of this book. However, for some of the topics I do recommend supplementing your reading with other, more updated sources as well.
I recommend the book to anyone who is eagerly following the current tumultuous American politics which, despite having an “America First” theme, also affects other countries around the world.
The Road to Trump
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