Books are great, but there are a lot of them. Traditional print publishers release more than 300,000 titles a year in the United States. At The Huffington Post, we recognize you do not have time to read them all. That’s why those of us at the politics podcast “So, That Happened” have compiled this list of our favorite political books of 2016.
Our list isn’t perfect, but in our defense, it is short. We didn’t read every politics book that came out this year, and titles that were released after the election are being punted to next year’s list ― we just didn’t have time to get to them. Fortunately, the books we picked are great. And since this is a podcast endeavor, you can listen to the authors explain why they wrote what they wrote, and what it means in the coming Age of Trump. It’s all part of the episode embedded below, starting at the 15:00 mark.
Behold! Our favorite politics books of 2016:
Frank presents a history of the Democratic Party from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Barack Obama, focusing on working-class voters and their place in American power politics.
How did the party of the New Deal come to cede its influence with working people to Republicans, a party that shamelessly touts the economic interests of the wealthy? Frank’s detailed, thoroughly researched polemic proved unnervingly relevant after the 2016 elections, in which many working-class white voters who had pledged their ballots for Barack Obama switched teams for Donald Trump, while many working-class people of color stayed home in the face of what party leaders had labeled an existential threat to American democracy.
There’s more going into the Democrats’ current mess than botched campaign tactics from the Hillary Clinton camp, according to Frank. Since the 1970s, Democrats have consciously shed their identification with working people, instead celebrating enlightened technocrats from Wall Street and Silicon Valley and the policies they prefer. This exciting new affair with the techno-finance hub was fun for a while, but hasn’t worked out very well.
There were many excellent books about American politics this year, but Sarah Jaffe wrote a great book about American democracy. It is a rare political book that eschews detailed accounts of legislative battles and interest groups in favor of a sweaty, rude and deeply humane look at the people rebelling (peacefully) against their overlords.
Jaffe chronicles several protest movements, from the tea party to Occupy Wall Street, that arose in the Obama era. As Jaffe explains, this ideologically diverse cultural upheaval was unleashed by a singular calamity: the financial crisis of 2008 and the bank bailouts that followed. Her account will resonate with millions of Americans who never made it to a tea party rally or Zuccotti Park, but recognize something has gone terribly wrong.
The New Press
Where Jaffe presents the public’s rebellion against the financial crisis, Dayen explains the morbid machinations of the mortgage system against millions of homeowners. Told through the eyes of three citizens facing foreclosure ― a cancer nurse, a car salesman and an insurance fraud expert ― Dayen reveals that the entire housing system was built on what he calls “the biggest consumer fraud in U.S. history.”
In their zeal to dish out dodgy new mortgages during the housing bubble, banks cut a lot of corners. So many, in fact, that they couldn’t document basic facts about their loans ― who owed what, how many payments had been made and even who owned the loan. When they wanted to foreclose, they just made it up. Literally. Forged signatures and fabricated documents became the norm.
The scandal eventually metastasized into a $20 billion federal settlement with the nation’s largest banks, which, as Dayen explains in infuriating detail, left wronged homeowners with little or nothing.
St. Martin’s Griffin
If the political apocalypse is coming, Nelson has at least offered us the means to laugh at it. We work with Nelson, and we don’t care if you think we’re playing favorites with our friend. His book is great.
Nelson has crafted a rare work of comedy that actually explains Washington, D.C. ― from the complicated inner workings of Congress to the odd standards of Beltway etiquette that make the nation’s capital hum, at least when the Metro is running. It is probably the only book on this list you can safely give to any family member without risking some sort of annoying lecture, and it is also essential reading.
“So, That Happened” is hosted by Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney. Joining them this week: authors Thomas Frank, Sarah Jaffe, David Dayen and Eliot Nelson.
This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Christine Conetta.