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Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution by Tucker Carlson, Free Press/Simon & Schuster, US $28.00, Pp 304, October 2018,  ISBN 978-1501183669

The gulf between the American people and those who rule over them is growing wider. They do not understand each other as they do not interact with each other. In Ship of Fools, Tucker Carlson says that the ruling American élite “view America the way a private equity firm sizes up an aging conglomerate as something outdated they can profit from. When it fails, they’re gone.” Ship of Fools is a scathing critique of America’s ruling élite. Carlson says that the élite and the people of America live in two different worlds. He adds, “The rift is between those who benefit from the status quo and those who don’t.” He calls America a sinking ship and tries to suggest how it can be saved. If we understand why people voted for President Trump, we will understand what really ails America.

Why did America elect Donald Trump? It seems like a question the people in charge might ask. Carlson says that virtually nobody thought that Trump could become president. Trump himself had no idea. For much of the race, his critics dismissed Trump’s campaign as a marketing ploy. Initially, it probably was. Yet somehow Trump won. Why? Donald Trump isn’t the sort of candidate you’d vote for lightly. Carlson says that his voters meant it. Were they endorsing Trump as a man or any of his qualities? Probably not. Carlson continues and says that Donald Trump was in many ways an unappealing figure. He never hid that. Voters knew it. They just concluded that the options were worse – and not just Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, but the Bush family and their donors and the entire Republican leadership, along with the hedge fund managers and media luminaries and corporate executives and Hollywood taste-makers and think tank genuine and everyone else who created the world as it was in the fall of 2016: the people in charge.

Carlson argues that Trump might be vulgar and ignorant, but he wasn’t responsible for the many disasters America’s leaders created. Trump did not invade Iraq or bail out Wall Street. He didn’t lower interest rates to zero, or open the borders, or sit silently by as the manufacturing sector collapsed and the middle class died. You couldn’t really know what Trump might do as president, but he didn’t do any of that. On the positive side, there was also the possibility that Trump might listen. At times he seemed interested in what voters thought. The people in charge demonstrably weren’t. Virtually, none of their core beliefs had majority support from the population they governed. It was a strange arrangement for a democracy. In the end, it was unsustainable.

Articulating his argument, Carlson argues that Trump’s election wasn’t about Trump. It was a throbbing middle finger in the face of America’s ruling class. It was a gesture of contempt, a howl of rage, the end result of decades of selfish and unwise decisions made by selfish and unwise leaders. In retrospect, the lesson seems obvious: Ignore voters for long enough and you get Donald Trump. Yet the people at whom the message was aimed never received it. Instead of pausing, listening, thinking, and changing, America’s ruling class withdrew into a defensive crouch. Beginning on election night, they explained away their loss with theories as pat and implausible as a summer action movie: Trump won because fake news tricked simple-minded voters, Trump won because Russian agents “hacked” the election, Trump won because mouth-breathers in the provinces were memorized by his gold jet and shiny cufflinks, Trump won because he’s a racist, and that’s what voters secretly wanted all along. Carlson convincingly argues that none of these explanations withstand scrutiny. They’re fables that reveal more about the people who tell them than about the 2016 election results.

Ship of Fools is an insightful and timely book on the state of affairs in America. Tucker Carlson convincingly shows the rich-poor divide is the real fault-line and the ship of America will keep sinking as long as this divide keeps growing wider. He calls the American ruling élite a bunch of fools who do not realize the gravity of the situation. In his typically witty style, Tucker Carlson provides a brutally honest critique and analysis of American politics and socio-economic scene. Carlson answers many of the complex questions we all try to answer unsuccessfully. Ship of Fools is a necessary book for all of us.

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