I am a big fan of Fox News Channel's Chris Stirewalt, and not just because we were born in the same town of Wheeling, West Virginia. Although that helps. Fox News is blessed to have such an urbane data pro at their disposal for election nights. For as we saw with the elections in 2016 and 2018 populism can be a wild ride, and Stirewalt is FNC's Billy Beane.
Every couple of years the month of October is a free-for-all of political attack ads and campaign promises dominating the advertising of virtually all media outlets. All that money spent on marketing is designed to influence how you vote in November. Sometimes it works, other times not.
The victory of Donald Trump was a shock to much of the nation. Many liberals are still not over it. Some are claiming his win has caused PTSD type symptoms in some of America’s youth. How did Trump win? How could a man obviously so boorish trounce the heir apparent, Hillary Clinton? Populism, that’s how.
America has not witnessed a populist win such as Trump's in a generation.
Chris Stirewalt’s new book titled “Every Man A King” jumps headlong into the tradition of American populism that brought us presidents like Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt and leaders of movements like Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan. Donald Trump's win may have been a blow to the ribs for modern liberals, but it is not without precedent.
Stirewalt explains,“Whatever the ideological fad of the moment, American populism has always been home to a fascinating assortment of charismatic leaders, characters, kooks, cranks, and sometimes charlatans who have, with widely varying degrees of success, led the charge of ordinary folks who have gotten wise to the ways of the swamp.”
Every Man A King dives deeply into the historical perspective and the events that led up to seven of the most notable populists in American history. Never Trumpers and Liberals in denial should read this book if for no other reason than to understand just what happened and why the people delivered Trump the White House.
Populist movements are not new and Stirewalt explains how they are a necessary part of our Republic: “Populism is both the symptom of and the remedy to an imbalance between freedom and order in our society.”
He describes the fact that populist sentiments are part of America’s DNA, but only a perfect storm of circumstances will allow a populist leader to rise to the top.
That storm arrived in 2016.
Our society definitely is a perfect stew of disaster at the moment. Republicans are getting shouted out of restaurants, fake bombs are being mailed to the Democrats, while unhinged nut-jobs continue to go on shooting sprees. Social media has turned fast friends into ideological enemies shouting each down through their keyboards until unfriending is the only thing left to do.
Are we lost? Is our society on the brink of implosion? I found reading the stories in Every Man A King that detail the quintessential populist movements long past and the radically violent things that happened during those times to be quite comforting.
Comforting in the fact that America has been there, done that, bought the t-shirt! Stirewalt explains it like this: “But maybe it would feel a little bit better if you knew that not only have we melted down before, but that we drained all the way out of the cup and evaporated down to a sticky little spot on the sidewalk.”
With the midterm elections in the rear-view mirror and both sides claiming victory while secretly mourning their defeats, our system of government is alive and well. The Democrats reclaimed the House of Representatives but will more than likely grossly misjudge that victory as a mandate to come after Trump with guns blazing.
They still will miss the message being sent loud and clear by the populist Trump followers. They have not gone away. Oh no, those deplorables came out again in droves to see President Trump speak in 2018. Waiting in long lines and filling stadiums once again. A populist powerhouse will be hard to defeat in 2020, especially if a Democratic-led House cuts deals with Trump on trade, infrastructure or the opioid epidemic.
He has that “Special Sauce”. Trump, like the others in “Every Man A King” is an anomaly. That makes him and others in history like him all the more fascinating, and makes this book essential reading as we enter another presidential cycle.
Stirewalt does a fantastic job of telling the stories of America’s most amazing populists in a fun and easy to read way. His knowledge and historical perspective will teach as well as entertain. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys political history or to people of all political persuasions who are simply wondering what’s going in our new tribalism. Check out Every Man A King, you won’t be sorry.
A.J. Rice is the CEO of Publius PR. In his media career he has produced or promoted Laura Ingraham, Judge Jeanine Pirro, Monica Crowley, Steve Hilton, Anthony Scaramucci, George P. Bush, Melissa Francis, Coach Howard Schnellenberger, novelist Homer Hickam, and many others. Find out more atpubliuspr.com.