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Best Books of 2019: Alienated America by Tim Carney

Review of Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse by Timothy P. Carney.

Tim Carney’s new book on social alienation and U.S. politics, Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse, raises the bar for Trump-era political analysis. Building on recent research on economics and civic life from various sources, Carney presents an incisive analysis of The Donald’s 2016 campaign that redefines who supported the 45th president and why. The book’s policy prescriptions, while not likely to show up in most 2020 candidates’ campaign platforms, flow directly from his assessment of what’s really wrong with America in the 21st century.

We’ve seen many books in the past few years that have attempted to dissect the Trump campaign and its unexpected success. Carney, however, focuses not on the man himself, or his campaign staff, but on the people who were his early and strongest supporters—those who agreed most strongly with candidate Trump’s dramatic declaration that “the American dream is dead.” He finds that these people live in places where social engagement is low, churches are shuttering, and trust among neighbors is dwindling—including, but not limited to, many of the “post-industrial” Rust Belt towns profiled by so many other political writers. These core supporters are not necessarily the people who are suffering opioid overdoses and attempting suicide at record rates, but, as Carney writes, they are those people’s neighbors.

Read the full review here.