With a current political environment that seems more divisive than ever, many Americans find themselves questioning the actions, decisions, and beliefs of those in power.
In his new book, “Madison’s Sorrow: Today’s War on the Founders and America’s Liberal Ideal,” (Pegasus Books distributed by Simon & Schuster), Kevin C. O’Leary (Political Science) provides “an eye-opening cultural history of the political revolution that has destroyed the Republican Party and unleashed an illiberal crusade against the ideals of the Founding Fathers.”
In his analysis, O’Leary dives into American history to explain the presidency of Donald Trump and argues that the beliefs and actions of the contemporary Republican Party are antithetical to the core beliefs of the United States and those who founded this nation.
“The story of America is struggle between our liberal ideal and illiberal resistance,” said O’Leary.
“American politics is experiencing politics without conservatives. It’s not a pretty sight. Unlike liberals and conservatives, reactionaries accept and encourage the core illiberal values of privilege, hierarchy, radical inequality, and exclusion, particularly for white males and their families. These are the foundational values of the feudal, aristocratic society that the founders fled.”
“What most impressed me about Kevin’s book is the way he moves effortlessly between the history of ideas, on the one hand, and the rough-and-tumble world of politics, on the other,” said Dr. John Compton, chair of the Political Science department. “He argues that the framers of our constitutional system were motivated by a coherent set of liberal ideals; and while these ideals were often ignored in the day-to-day world of politics, they nonetheless provided the ideological framework for later egalitarian reform movements, such as the civil rights movement.”
Compton goes on to say that “the problem he sees in the present is that many powerful actors now openly reject the egalitarian ideals that motivated earlier generations of Americans. And based on the illiberal rhetoric that has dominated our political discourse in recent years — particularly, but not exclusively, on the right — I think he has a point.”
“Our system of government has worked for more than 250 years because while liberals and conservatives disagree about policy, at a deep level they agree with the founders that America is about liberty, equality, and democracy,” said O’Leary. “When one party goes to the extreme, Madisonian democracy breaks down.”
O’Leary’s blend of history and politics provides a unique and enlightening perspective when looking at the contemporary American political system, and for those who find themselves looking for answers, O’Leary’s analysis and explanation might just do the trick.