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Some Book Ideas for the Trump Watcher on Your Holiday Gift List

T Minus 30:
Countdown to Trumpocracy

Don Curren December 22, 2016

There’s at least one good thing that’s emerged from the Donald J. Trump phenomenon.  It’s brought to light a number of interesting books which “predicted” Trump.

We’re not talking about Nostradamus or other mystical soothsayers whose cryptic prophecies foretold a strange, orange-tinted being slouching toward Washington.

The books people have been citing are works by economists, philosophers and social theorists written long before Trump became a political phenomenon, but touching on the cultural, economic and/or political conditions that made his emergence possible.

So as a public service to harried Christmas shoppers looking for a gift idea, here’s a short list of some of those books. If you have any Trump watchers and/or big readers on your list – and chances are you have both – you might want to consider one of these tomes. The list includes books that could help us understand Trump as well as those credited with predicting him.

Extensive research (i.e. a Google search of “books that predicted Trump”) points to one book more than any other:  philosopher Richard Rorty’s 1998 book “Achieving Our Country.” It sold out on Amazon in November after a law professor tweeted three paragraphs from it. This was one of them: “The non-suburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …”

“The Origins of Totalitarianism” by Hannah Arendt. Arendt was a German-Jewish intellectual who fled Germany with the rise of Adolf Hitler in 1933. Published in 1951, the book was an attempt to understand totalitarianism, the form of dictatorship exemplified by Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union. Sample paragraph: ““What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part…”

The Fountainhead”  by Ayn Rand. High-profile hedge fund manager Ray Dalio says reading Rand can provide insight into Trump’s economic policies. Trump and members of his circle have acknowledged then influence of Rand, a Russian emigre to the U.S. who violently opposed any form of collectivism and considered the pursuit of individual desire as the highest value. “It relates to business, beauty, life and inner emotions. That book relates to … everything,” is how Trump described Rand’s novel “The Fountainhead.”

Dark Age Ahead” by Jane Jacobs. This one has a bit of a local connection. Jane Jacobs, an American writer known for her ground-breaking works on cities and the economy, lived for few decades in Toronto. “Dark Age Ahead,” her final book, raises concerns about coming urban crises and populist backlash. One observation: “Cultural xenophobia is a frequent sequel to a society’s decline from cultural vigour.”

The Great Transformation” by Karl Polanyi. Also has a bit of a local connection: Polanyi was a Hungarian economist and economic historian who oddly enough spent the last few years of his life in Pickering. “The Great Transformation” is a landmark study of the transition to capitalism as the ruling economic paradigm in the West. Polanyi wrote that “a country approaching the fascist phase showed symptoms among which the existence of a fascist movement proper was not necessarily one. At last as important signs were the spread of irrationalistic philosophies, racialist aesthetics, anticapitalistic demagogy, (and procapitalist demagogy for that matter)..”

The America We Deserve” by Donald Trump. Most people have heard of “The Art of the Deal,” but Trump has actually written or co-authored several other books. In “The America We Deserve,” written in the context of the 2000 presidential campaign, he outlined a series of position broadly similar to his 2016  campaign. According to, Trump “lambastes the government bureaucracy that’s made a mess of the civic infrastructure, particularly the public school systems; he supports creating opportunities for business developers (both large and small); and… also prepared to come down hard on America’s enemies abroad, such as China, North Korea, and Cuba.”

Honourable mentions: “It Can’t Happen Here” the classic 1930s novel by Sinclair Lewis; “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Richard Hofstadter’s influential 1964 study (a personal favorite); various works from Theodor Adorno and the other social critics and philosophers who emerged from the “Frankfurt School” – and one film: the original version of “The Manchurian Candidate.”