cover image Thirteen Cracks: Repairing American Democracy After Donald Trump

Thirteen Cracks: Repairing American Democracy After Donald Trump

Allan Lichtman. Rowman & Littlefield, $21.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5381-5651-3

American University history professor Lichtman (The Case for Impeachment) identifies in this well-informed if somewhat slapdash account 13 “loopholes” in American democracy that President Trump “ruthlessly” exploited, and offers ideas on how to close them. Noting that major structural reforms, including the establishment of due process rights and the direct election of U.S. senators, have occurred after previous “times of crisis,” Lichtman prescribes new laws, organizational changes, and private-sector programs to better protect the “principles of democracy” from a president’s “will to power.” But the proposed fixes, including the jailing of administration officials who defy Congress’s subpoena power, the creation of a special court to hear legal challenges to executive orders, and a constitutional amendment to make Senate representation population-based, don’t take the considerable obstacles such reforms would face into consideration. More enlightening are Lichtman’s discussions of the ways in which previous presidents laid the groundwork for Trump’s more flagrant violations of democratic norms. He notes, for instance, that Abraham Lincoln defied a ruling by Supreme Court chief justice Roger Taney in suspending habeas corpus during the Civil War, and that Federalist Party senators threatened to overturn the results of the 1800 election if John Adams lost. Readers will learn more about the historic fault lines of American democracy than how to repair them. (Nov.)