Written in April of 2020, there’s a kind of hopefulness and direness in the epilogue of this book, which looks at some of the various and specific ways the Trump administration, and the GOP at large, have either specifically engineered or stumbled blindly into the realm of authoritarianism, as well as some of the failures of understanding that anti-fascist (and anti-aligned people) have had in the face of this.
The direness is that looking over the previous four years Masha Gessen doesn’t like the trends of the country or the responses to it. The baldfacedness of the refusal of the GOP to acknowledge any level of social compact, via institutions or good faith, and the ways in which Trump either has purposely or unwittingly capitalized on this is not happymaking. And the hopefulness of this comes with the fact that the 2020 election still looms big in this book as a possible stop-gap on this trend.
The book itself is a sober (and sure, sobering, but less the point here) analysis of Trump in light a much clearer and useful understanding of figures like Putin (who Gessen has written about at length) who is not the criminal mastermind that Democrats want him to be, although he would benefit greatly from chaos. The result is a truly fair analysis of our current situation and what remains to be done or thought about it. What’s missing here (because of the dates) is the further analysis of Trump’s reaction to losing, and what that means now that we’re out the specific crisis of the coups attempts in the immediate aftermath of the election. That’s a limit of the book, but not a fault.