Anger now dominates American politics. It wasn’t always so. “Happy Days Are Here Again” was FDR’s campaign song in 1932. By contrast, candidate Kamala Harris’s 2020 campaign song was Mary J. Blige’s “Work That” (“Let ’em get mad / They gonna hate anyway”). This is a book about how we got here—about how America changed from a nation that could be roused to anger but preferred self-control, to a nation permanently dialed to eleven.
“What’s the point of being Irish anyway if you don’t think the world will break your heart?” asks Jack Kennedy. He is spellbound by a song about Ireland’s neverland of dreams: “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?”
No one better knew the real JFK’s dreams and passions than Lem Billings, a prep-school roommate who made himself “sidekick everlasting.” The late Peter Collier had the great fortune to obtain oral histories from Billings himself, and they became the basis for a vivid biographical novel in Lem’s voice.
America’s traditional values of liberty and equality have recently been overshadowed by a new ideal: diversity. This ideal claims that group differences matter more than commonalities, personal freedom, and individual rights.
In Diversity: The Invention of a Concept, Wood told the story of how this hitchhiker on the Constitution has gained popularity since the 1970s. Diversity Rules covers what happened after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor bestowed the Supreme Court’s kiss of legitimacy on diversity in 2003. O’Connor opened the door to the promotion of identity politics, open borders, global citizenship, and the Green New Deal. More than a legal principle, diversity is a cultural edict that attempts to tell us who we are and how we should live.
If there has been a unifying theme of Barack Obama’s presidency, it is the inexorable growth of the administrative state. Its expansion has followed a pattern: First, expand federal powers beyond their constitutional limits. Second, delegate those powers to agencies and away from elected politicians in Congress. Third, insulate civil servants from politics and accountability.
America has gotten into ugly moods before, but never as today. In taking us on a guided tour of American acrimony, Peter Wood traces the roots of anger’s triumph in our social and political world. He examines the liberating bromides of psychotherapists, the bellicosity of the war between the sexes, the broadsides of the ethnic separatists, and the jeremiads of fundamentalists of all stripes. is a provocative dissection of an alarming phenomenon.