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America in Turmoil

America in Turmoil is a diverse collection of thought-provoking and very readable essays by Washington lawyer and founding editor of The Chesapeake Observer, John DeQ. Briggs. Each originally published as a single online column, these essays offer an insightful look into the scores of consequential events that took place from pre-pandemic late 2019 through the tumultuous times of 2020-22. Among these events were: the murder of George Floyd, the rise and transmogrification of the BLM movement, the burning and looting of the summer of 2020, the election of President Biden, the prosecutions of Kyle Rittenhouse and General Flynn, the catastrophe of Afghanistan, the political rise of the trans movement, the stirrings of a middle-class counter-revolution against the education curricula in many schools, the massive federal spending and the resulting onset of inflation to levels unseen for half a century, the intractable immigration crises afflicting the southern border in Texas and Arizona, the war in Ukraine, cancel culture, the forgiveness of certain types of student and other debt, the 2022 elections and their surprising aftermath.

Briggs examines these events and others with a high degree of pragmatism and little partisanship apart from his distaste for both Presidents Trump and Biden. He also takes several highly readable digressions into many things, including streaming programs, movies, book reviews, basic economics, and national and military service, always with an eye toward providing useful information that might help readers to recognize practical solutions to today’s most intractable problems.

Despite his anti-Trump and anti-Biden New England Republican perspective, Briggs provides a fair and balanced view of the consequential issues facing the country and its institutions. The essays in this book will challenge readers to think critically about them and spend more time thinking about fixing problems rather than fixing the blame for them.

A dispatch from a more civilized discourse, this insightful collection from Briggs offers a comprehensive week-to-week view of epochal events and challenges faced by the United States between late 2019 and 2022, with an emphasis on politics, policy, and the travails of both parties, especially “the splintering of the GOP in ways that harken back a century” and the Democrats being tied to an unpopular president and a left wing given to “incessant frothing about income and wealth inequality in America.” Briggs digs deeper, offers more evidence, and thinks through positions more openly than many columnists, even in the paragraph-long “short takes” that end each column and often consider the arguments of thinkers from across the ideological spectrum. An attorney well-known for antitrust work, Briggs offers a nuanced and pragmatic approach to controversial topics, favoring practical solutions rather than mere partisan finger-pointing.

These essays, originally published in The Chesapeake Observer, exemplify a principled conservatism as they cover a wide range, including the rise of China; the moderation of the 2020 presidential debate; the Biden Administration's quest to forgive student loans; the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and the leaking of the decision and the political fallout afterwards; and the “damage to our democratic way of life” represented by colleges that, he argues, discourage “independent mindedness.” Briggs acknowledges when he gets it wrong—a July 2022 column predicts “the beginning of the end” for Biden’s political fortunes, while a September piece breaks down the sudden reversal of the Democrats’ prospects. And, credit where it’s due, a January 2023 piece makes the case that, in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy “will not be able to command the fealty of his thin majority to achieve material legislative success.”

Briggs’s intellectual integrity, reliance on data, and refusal to rely upon received wisdom sets his columns apart, and his insightful, engaging prose clarifies complex ideas without simplifying them. Readers on the right and left will find their beliefs challenged with welcome thoughtfulness, and the very ideas of truth, inquiry, and respectful, persuasive debate affirmed.

Takeaway: Unusually thoughtful essays of policy and politics in the Biden era.

Comparable Titles: Ross Douthat, John Podhoretz.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-