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Is there anything you could read about Donald Trump at this point that would shock you?
That’s a question meant mainly for people who oppose or outright despise him. But I could put a version of it to the people in his corner: Is there anything that could change your mind?
I’m pretty sure that the answer in both cases is no. Trump is easily the most exposed and examined political figure of the past quarter century, if not longer. Most of his skeletons are out of the closet — heck, they’re dancing in the ballroom at Mar-a-Loco. American voters decided long ago whether to gasp, shrug or cheer a monster mash.
So why is there such an appetite for books about Trump — specifically, about his unhinged final months in the presidency? This morning I checked Amazon’s chart of the best-selling new nonfiction releases, and the second, third and fourth spots were occupied by, in order, “I Alone Can Fix It,” by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker; “Landslide,” by Michael Wolff; and “Frankly, We Did Win This Election,” by Michael Bender.
And they’re not the final word. There are yet more Trump books to come.
I’m not questioning the importance of Trump as topic. He served as president of this country. His ability to get elected to that post, the degree of support he maintained and the manner in which he conducted himself must all be memorialized for history — so that we can better understand ourselves, our fellow Americans and our country.
But I think they have been memorialized. It’s not like daily and weekly publications and television shows didn’t dig into all of this. The readers clamoring for and turning to these books aren’t looking so much to learn as to marinate. They want their outrage endorsed once more. They want their viewpoints validated again. And, if I may mix culinary metaphors, they want an I-told-you-so cherry on the sundae of their disgust for what happened over four shameful years.
There’s nothing exactly wrong with that. After what we’ve all been through, anything that offers anyone a measure of catharsis has justification. But there’s nothing especially right with it either. It has more potential to widen gulfs than to build bridges.
The No. 1 best seller among new nonfiction releases at the hour when I happened to check the Amazon site? “American Marxism,” by Mark Levin, whose right-wing political views can be as overwrought as that title. It’s an out-and-out screed, surely being bought by readers who want to marinate in own-the-libs fury.
No. 5? “How I Saved the World,” by Fox News’s Jesse Watters, whose humility moves me and whose goal isn’t to save anything but to exploit divisions, which serves only to exacerbate them.
I’m increasingly doubtful that such divisions are bridgeable. How do you reach the fantasy island inhabited by the many Republicans whose, um, casual relationship with the truth leads to demands that any inquiry into the Jan. 6 insurrection look hard at Democratic malfeasance and culpability?
That’s a question on which the very future of our democracy may depend. And that’s the book I most want to read.