This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns

This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future
By Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns
Simon & Schuster
Hardback, 480 pages

American politicians keep blundering in riven political landscape

By Jay Wiener
Special to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger

Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns’ “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future” offered evidence that when and where one reads a book impacts its effect. Awaiting its arrival, I began the subsequent book in queue for review, Kai Bird’s biography of Jimmy Carter, “The Outlier”. The latter is everything that “This Will Not Pass” is not—scholarly, tightly-written, calculated to have one interested in little other than devouring it. Additionally, I watched the Washington Week Extra podcast showcasing Jonathan Lemire’s “The Big Lie”. Lemire’s insights into the contemporary political impasse are more incisive than those of Martin and Burns.

“This Will Not Pass” is reportorial; seemingly written on a deadline; without the detachment, detail, and distance—the historical perspective—providing indelible impressions. It is devoted to quotations and inside information too rich to discard—which constitutes its charm. The book is “worth the price of admission” to learn what different politicians in Washington say about each other that cannot be stated publicly. Space limitations are such that I won’t “dish the dirt” here.

The Epilogue encapsulates what is missing from the remainder of the book. It ought to have shaped the narrative—rather than the equivalent of film clips deserving a better fate than the cutting room floor. Anyone who can afford the $29.99 cover price and does not mind buying a book as if a magazine, for one article alone, will be well-served reading the Epilogue.

An optimistic note for our dysfunctional polity is the observation that passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill demonstrated that, “The country was divided, but there were still areas of common ground—provided the right leaders were there to seek it.”

Positively, President Biden “promised not just to rebuild America, but to build it back as a better, stronger, more equal country than it had been before the pandemic—and before Donald Trump. He had promised not just to repair bridges and railways but to master climate change and attack racial injustice with sustained resolve.

“Having spent half a century reaching for the political middle, Joseph R. Biden Jr. had finally entered the presidency determined not merely to tinker but to transform.”

Martin and Burns believe that, “At the end of Biden’s first year as president, the America he governed was unquestionably in better condition than the one he inherited.

“The nation’s economic recovery had seemed so halting for months, but by the end of 2021 the United States had enjoyed the fastest single-year economic growth since the Reagan era.”

Nothing is one-dimensional. “The American two-party system cannot function well unless at least one party is politically powerful, internally coherent, and serious about governing, all at the same time. At the end of 2021, it was impossible to describe either the ruling Democrats or Republican opposition in those terms.”

President Biden’s communication lapses adversely affect him. “For the voting public, Biden’s voice had been a faint and distant one over the course of 2021. Following two Presidents who were, in different ways, outsize public figures, Biden made only sparing use of the bully pulpit afforded to him and conducted far fewer interviews than Obama and Trump did in their opening year.

“Despite his many vows not to repeat the mistakes of the Obama administration, Biden had recapitulated one of the overarching political errors of Obama’s first year: immersing himself in arcane legislative strategy at the cost of large-scale political salesmanship.

“Biden had failed to trumpet his own accomplishments…”

Cassius observes, in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, that,

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,

But in ourselves…”

If President Biden cannot recognize that fault for low polling numbers is in himself and begin messaging more effectively, the Democratic Party will pay a price in the 2022 and 2024 federal elections.

Jonathan Martin will be a panelist at the Mississippi Book Festival Saturday at the State Capitol.

Jay Wiener is a Jackson attorney.


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