This book, Fascism: A Warning, rose from the wreckage of 2016, for many of us a year of bewilderment. First the British were lured into Brexit by the false promise of a new relationship with the European Union, one they mistakenly thought would enable them to retain their rights while shedding their responsibilities. Then, in November, Donald Trump won a majority in the American electoral college despite violating every precept of conventional political wisdom (aside from remaining in the public eye) from the beginning of his campaign until the end. Few believed that could happen, but it did.
Even before the 2016 balloting, I had decided to write about the toils and snares confronting democracies around the world. My idea was to make support for free governments a foreign policy priority in Hillary Clinton’s first term. The political upheaval following the election added urgency to the task, and partially shifted the focus to include Trump’s take-no-prisoners approach to governing. Where in the past I could assume that the U.S. government would put its foot down on the side of democratic institutions and values, Trump’s foot has been fully engaged in kicking America’s allies, the independent press, federal prosecutors, immigrant families, and the notion —stressed to most children at an early age—that facts matter.