Reviews for The Divider

by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, was no anomaly but instead “the inexorable culmination of a sustained four-year war on the institutions and traditions of American democracy.” New York Times reporter Baker and New Yorker staffer Glasser are no admirers of Donald Trump or his MAGA agenda, the latter of which they hold to be a cynical non-ideology defined mostly by opposition: Anything Barack Obama might have deemed good, Trump deems bad. When Trump became president in 2016, the “Axis of Adults” surrounding him hoped fervently that he would develop a coherent doctrine that could be supported and reinforced by key staff members. They were soon disabused of that sensible notion. Trump did not learn, did not change, and did not budge. He ruled by division, and his base was an us-versus-them proposition, his White House an arena of roiling rivalries; everyone took part in the scheming. The authors are particularly good when they bring Melania Trump onto the stage. It’s a guilty pleasure to watch Melania maneuver Ivanka out of photographic shoots and remove her from guest lists. Trump, thin-skinned as only a self-doubting narcissist can be, was well aware of how disliked he was. As Baker and Glasser note, in his years in office he “would never go out to a restaurant in Washington that was not owned by his company,” knowing he would otherwise be booed and heckled. That did not deter Trump from playing his zero-sum games, and it ended with the only time a president refused to transfer power peaceably. Unfortunately, he left another legacy: Although Trump was “the most politically unsuccessful occupant of the White House in generations,” he altered the political landscape in such a way that “the Trump era is not past; it is America’s present and maybe even its future.” A scorched-earth account of an utterly failed presidency. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.