The Presidents and the People: Five Leaders Who Threatened Democracy and the Citizens Who Fought to Defend It
Imagine an American president who imprisoned critics, spread a culture of white supremacy, and tried to upend the law so that he could commit crimes with impunity.



In this propulsive history, constitutional law and political science professor Corey Brettschneider provides a thoroughly researched account of assaults on democracy by not one such president but five. John Adams waged war on the national press of the early republic. In the lead-up to the Civil War, James Buchanan colluded with the Supreme Court to deny constitutional personhood to African Americans. A decade later, Andrew Johnson urged violence against his political opponents after the Civil War. In the 1910s, Woodrow Wilson modernized, popularized, and nationalized Jim Crow laws. In the 1970s, Richard Nixon committed criminal acts that flowed from his corrupt ideas about presidential power.



Corey Brettschneider shows that these presidents didn't have the last word; citizen movements brought the United States back from the precipice by appealing to a democratic understanding of the Constitution and pressuring subsequent reform-minded presidents to realize the promise of "We the People." This is a book about citizens who fought back against presidential abuses of power. Their examples give us hope about the possibilities of restoring a fragile democracy.
"1144065534"
The Presidents and the People: Five Leaders Who Threatened Democracy and the Citizens Who Fought to Defend It
Imagine an American president who imprisoned critics, spread a culture of white supremacy, and tried to upend the law so that he could commit crimes with impunity.



In this propulsive history, constitutional law and political science professor Corey Brettschneider provides a thoroughly researched account of assaults on democracy by not one such president but five. John Adams waged war on the national press of the early republic. In the lead-up to the Civil War, James Buchanan colluded with the Supreme Court to deny constitutional personhood to African Americans. A decade later, Andrew Johnson urged violence against his political opponents after the Civil War. In the 1910s, Woodrow Wilson modernized, popularized, and nationalized Jim Crow laws. In the 1970s, Richard Nixon committed criminal acts that flowed from his corrupt ideas about presidential power.



Corey Brettschneider shows that these presidents didn't have the last word; citizen movements brought the United States back from the precipice by appealing to a democratic understanding of the Constitution and pressuring subsequent reform-minded presidents to realize the promise of "We the People." This is a book about citizens who fought back against presidential abuses of power. Their examples give us hope about the possibilities of restoring a fragile democracy.
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The Presidents and the People: Five Leaders Who Threatened Democracy and the Citizens Who Fought to Defend It

The Presidents and the People: Five Leaders Who Threatened Democracy and the Citizens Who Fought to Defend It

by Corey Brettschneider

Narrated by Stephen Bel Davies

Unabridged — 13 hours, 22 minutes

The Presidents and the People: Five Leaders Who Threatened Democracy and the Citizens Who Fought to Defend It

The Presidents and the People: Five Leaders Who Threatened Democracy and the Citizens Who Fought to Defend It

by Corey Brettschneider

Narrated by Stephen Bel Davies

Unabridged — 13 hours, 22 minutes

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Overview

Imagine an American president who imprisoned critics, spread a culture of white supremacy, and tried to upend the law so that he could commit crimes with impunity.



In this propulsive history, constitutional law and political science professor Corey Brettschneider provides a thoroughly researched account of assaults on democracy by not one such president but five. John Adams waged war on the national press of the early republic. In the lead-up to the Civil War, James Buchanan colluded with the Supreme Court to deny constitutional personhood to African Americans. A decade later, Andrew Johnson urged violence against his political opponents after the Civil War. In the 1910s, Woodrow Wilson modernized, popularized, and nationalized Jim Crow laws. In the 1970s, Richard Nixon committed criminal acts that flowed from his corrupt ideas about presidential power.



Corey Brettschneider shows that these presidents didn't have the last word; citizen movements brought the United States back from the precipice by appealing to a democratic understanding of the Constitution and pressuring subsequent reform-minded presidents to realize the promise of "We the People." This is a book about citizens who fought back against presidential abuses of power. Their examples give us hope about the possibilities of restoring a fragile democracy.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

★ 05/06/2024

Political scientist Brettschneider (The Oath and the Office) provides an essential survey of crises of democracy provoked by American presidents. He opens the account by describing anti-democratic activities and attitudes commonly associated with former president Trump—including plotting to undermine the certification of an upcoming election’s results, considering journalists enemies, using the attorney general against political foes, and making common cause with white nationalists—then reveals that the actions he’s summarizing were actually committed by five previous presidents. In chapters vividly recreating those crisis points, Brettschneider profiles the presidents—John Adams, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, and Richard Nixon—and the people who opposed them. Adams persecuted journalists and likely formulated a plot to steal the 1800 election; Buchanan, Johnson, and Wilson all used federal power to roll back African Americans’ civil rights. Though Brettschneider contends that those four presidents were meaningfully opposed by an informed and politically active citizenry “galvanized on behalf of democracy,” he suggests that Nixon, who consistently acted as if above the law, offers a different lesson—“that the recovery of democratic principles is not inevitable.” Brettschneider savvily articulates how the structures that enabled Nixon remain largely in place today, and also offers captivating insight into how subsequent administrations recovered from each crisis. The result is an invaluable breakdown of present-day concerns in an illuminating historical context. (July)

BookPage - Roger Bishop

"Informative and stimulating…. This carefully researched book explores in detail how presidents in different eras abused their power."

Jan-Werner Müller

"Rarely can a book be called indispensable, but here the term applies. At a time when aspiring autocrats appear to be winning across the globe, it is essential to remind citizens why they should not lose hope. With deft sketches from US history, one of our finest constitutional theorists demonstrates how so-called ordinary people, rather than having to rely on judges or professional politicians to save the system, can themselves play a crucial role in the process of recovering democracy."

James A. Morone James A. Morone

"Corey Brettschneider traces a stunning pattern right across American history. Again and again, brave citizens wielded the Constitution against power, arrogance, and racism to save the republic. The Presidents and the People challenges our conventional wisdom about the presidents, the people, the courts, and democracy itself. Deeply researched, beautifully written, dramatic, wise, and inspiring—a must-read for scholars, citizens, and anyone interested in how the United States really works."

Nancy L. Rosenblum

"An inspired history dramatically rendered: the crises five past presidents inflicted on the nation and the moral sense, political skill, and persistence the people mustered to restore constitutional order. Richard Nixon’s abuse of power, however, eluded recovery—why? The Presidents and the People supplies a guide and issues a warning."

Boston Globe - Julia M. Klein

"Timely and provocative… Brettschneider’s claims seem less like history than prognostication."

Kirkus Reviews

2024-05-17
A professor of constitutional law and politics recounts how popular protest and democratic institutions have restrained authoritarian-inclined presidents.

According to Brettschneider, author of The Oath and the Office, five presidents preceded Trump in antidemocratic behavior. John Adams actively prosecuted journalists who uncovered various misdoings under his administration. Furthermore, he cooked up a scheme to deny his opponent in the 1800 election, Thomas Jefferson, the electoral votes needed to take office. James Buchanan worked with allies in the Supreme Court to quash efforts to extend constitutional personhood to Black Americans by means of the Dred Scott decision, among other acts. Andrew Johnson and Woodrow Wilson were advocates of white supremacy, while Richard Nixon…well, his crimes are well known. The resistance to these presidents came from many quarters. As the author chronicles, journalists such as Ida Wells wrote vigorously in defense of First Amendment issues, while Frederick Douglass opposed both Buchanan and Johnson in ways that Martin Luther King Jr. would learn from a century later, “marking anti-tyranny as an animating principle of American government” in the process. As Brettschneider examines the legal cases surrounding many of these developments, he often reconsiders precedent. For example, he suggests that too much importance has been attached to Brown v. Board of Education; nonetheless, the decision was critical because it validated earlier efforts to press the Equal Protection Clause, by which, some years earlier, Harry Truman had desegregated the military, “not just acting morally but…fulfilling a constitutional duty.” As Brettschneider notes in closing, the dissent cuts both ways: Trump, too, had his “citizen readers” of the Constitution, but their ill intent was to find ways to keep him in power by, among other things, storming the Capitol on Jan. 6.

A welcome reminder, in a time of growing repression, of the power of well-placed dissent.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940192375129
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Publication date: 07/02/2024
Edition description: Unabridged
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