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Thirteen Cracks: Repairing American Democracy after Trump, Allan J. Lichtman

Reviewed by Steven Michels

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Allan J. Lichtman, distinguished professor of history at American University, has made a substantial, and hopefully welcome, contribution to the discussion of how American democracy can be bolstered in the wake of the Donald Trump presidency.

Lichtman recognizes that democracy is not a static quality but a delicate and precarious condition that requires regular attention and vigilance. The inability of the U.S. Congress to impeach and convict the former president for his actions surrounding the January 6 insurrection in particular is a dark spot on the body politic, Lichtman notes, but it has been part of a backsliding of democracy around the globe.

The book functions as a road map for how American democracy can evolve in order to survive. Each of the 13 chapters provides a brief historical overview of a weakness, or crack, that Lichtman has identified in our constitutional structure and political system. The bulk of the book is dedicated to when and how these cracks emerged, as far back as the founding era, but with Trump figuring prominently throughout.

The chapters end with a brief section dedicated to Lichtman's set of “simple, quick, and practical” fixes (p. 4), which would have benefited from a lengthier treatment. Most of his remedies are legislative measures designed to increase oversight and accountability and to l

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