“Kingdom of Rage” by Elizabeth Neumann and seven books about the far Right takeover of the Republican party – ALL ON SALE – Partisans, When the Clock Broke, America Last, Preparing for War, The Destructionists, The Sedition Hunters

I’m going to describe eight books that I very much enjoyed in recent weeks. (Okay, seven I have read; one is “up next.”) And “enjoyed” is sort of a relative term. Some were a bit more dense and seriously footnoted than others but all were stimulating and kept me turning pages, sometimes late into the night. Of these, only one is from an intentionally Christian perspective, and it was very enriching.

Like you, I’d bet, I love learning and enjoy when a good writer explains all sorts of new content, or reminds you of things you knew but frames it helpfully, connecting dots anew. Agree or not with the conclusions of the author, reading well-executed nonfiction is a true pleasure — and not a “guilty” one. I hope you have time for titles by good writers who in some cases spend many years studying their topic and writing their book.

I’ve been on a learning curve for what feels like a decade, trying to figure out the history of our contemporary political mess. I’ve shared with you in the past some books I’ve read in recent years about the rise of the hard MAGA right, including pretty scary ones like We Are Proud Boys by Andy Campbell and the exquisitely done The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War by Jeff Sharlet, among others. (Much more heady and philosophical studies are part of this mix, too, like the recent Democracy and Solidarity: On the Cultural Roots of America’s Political Crisis by James Davison Hunter.) My urgent question is how the Republican party shifted from fairly public debates about the appropriateness of extremists in a party standing for traditional values to being nearly inflamed by vulgar conspiracies and untruths about stolen elections and voter fraud? Why did the party that I grew up with as exceptionally anti-communist end up cozying up to guys like Putin?

To tweak the Billy Joel song, it is clear that “Trump didn’t start the fire.”

(For the record, I’ve quite often seriously commended the important work by David Koyzis called Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey & Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies that helps bring a fairly scholarly but exceptionally insightful and well-balanced understanding of the roots of Western culture and the ways old, old theories have shaped very contemporary parties and movements. We’re taking pre-orders on his next one, more obviously practical, which is due the end of November. It will be called Citizenship Without Illusions: A Christian Guide to Political Engagement published by IVP; $18.00 / OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40.

To focus on this question of the history of conservatism in America, I can’t say enough about the hefty, erudite, and really interesting volume by respected conservative writer Matthew Continetti called The Right: The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism (Basic Books; $19.99 / OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99.) I know I’ve reviewed it already, but it would make an excellent back-story to the ones I’m listing this week.

So how, then, did it come to this, a violent rampage of “patriots” smashing our US Capitol and a guy in a shaman’s headdress “praying” on the Senate floor nearby rebel flags and “Hang Mike Pence” signs, all in a hopped-up effort to stop the peaceful transition of power? To a time when, after some initial hand-wringing, most Republican elected officials are hardly concerned, with a few even affirming the rioter’s character? (Still others clearly lying about what happened that fateful day, as if none of us folks haven’t seen the many TV shots from so many angles? And their colleagues put up with that?) How did we get here?

Where do conspiracy theories and alt-right citizenship and such weird forms of governance come from? Why is everybody so mad and why does it lead so many to truly bad behaviors? New York Times writer and all-around decent guy Frank Bruni gave us some insight in The Age of Grievance (Avid Reader Press; $28.99 / OUR SALE PRICE = $23.19) which I raved about a few weeks ago. But there is more to this feverish era.

I know, I know: at root, the problem is from the world, the flesh, and the devil, not to mention ideologies driven by idols. British Biblical scholar Christopher Wright is very helpful here, for starters: see his Here Are Your Gods: Faithful Discipleship in Idolatrous Times (IVP; $22.00 / OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60.)

Also essential is the must-read N.T Wright & Michael Bird paperback, Jesus and the Powers: Christian Political Witness in an Age of Totalitarian Terror and Dysfunctional Democracies (Zondervan; $22.99 / OUR SALE PRICE = $18.39. We’ve highlighted this before and it is readable, Biblical, and timely.)


I’ve been fascinated reading about the past politics of my own lifetime, with a new urgency and with new scholarship explaining a whole lot about a whole lot. The last few weeks have been a stimulating walk down memory lane as I’ve revisited people and events and trends that I thought I was somewhat attentive to a few decades ago, but I now realize I misunderstood the seriousness and the significance.

As I’ve said, I’ve enjoyed these books of public affairs and political reporting. But even if one isn’t naturally a political junkie or history lover, I commend these books because they explain so much. We all, I believe, owe it to our times to understand some of this.

As I try to understand what nearly everyone admits has been a catalytic shift in the Republican Party, we must also explore how the Democratic Party evolved. That’s not my reading project now, but as we study the 1980s and the 1990s, we’re reminded that partisan ugliness on the Democrat side was terribly severe during the Bork hearings, for instance. There is no doubt it was repaid in kind during the Clarence Thomas hearings, although the Right under-minded the testimony of Anita Hill so viciously with such terrible attacks on her that the (then) right-wing journalist David Brock later apologized. From Watergate lies to the Ollie North lies to the Clinton lies to the Newt Gingrich lies there were scandals and there was polarization.

But man, even then, with Rush Limbaugh and a host of other shock-jock pundits colorfully raging on air and TV — many right-wing yappers like Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, were then on MSNBC (while Glen Beck and Tucker Carlson were on CNN) and all were making a ton of money making hay with book sales (including wild stuff like Michelle Malkin’s book in favor of the WWII-era Japanese internment!)— and the political world was toxic. The right-wing media ecosphere had what one author called an “outrage machine” and they cranked out outlandish stuff daily. (Just think of the conspiracies about the Clinton’s murdering “more than a dozen” people. I guess it makes sense that those kind of people decades later can stomach alliances with the likes of Alex Jones who claimed 9-11 “was an inside job” and denied the horrific murder of children in Sandy Hook. ) Until reading these books I forgot how bad it was, how saddened many of us were, and I now realize how important it is to make these connections between the last decades of the 20th century and the first decades of the 21st.

You know the old adage about understanding history so we don’t repeat it? For some of us, it’s hard to believe that the 1980s and 1990s are “history.” (Am I right, senior citizens?)

Getting a workable handle on at least this part of the political landscape — what I would say is the most explosive part — is urgent. Whether you enjoy these sorts of studies or not, I think they are important and I share them now as an act of hope in these complicated days. Check one or two out from the library, if you can, or send us an order soon. All are 20% off.

Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries Who Remade American Politics in the 1990s Nicole Hemmer (Basic Books) $32.00 / OUR SALE PRICE = $25.60

This is one I could hardly put down. I’ve noted bunches of paragraphs to cite if I were to do a long, serious review. Holy smokes, did I learn a lot. The author tilts left, I assume, but it is not a diatribe or hatchet job. Although she does name unbelievable shenanigans and nastiness on the right, noting how candidates like Pat Buchanan — with overt racist ties and fascist leanings — pushed the Republican Party to the right. Did you know that many on the conservative end of the political spectrum disapproved of Nixon and Reagan because they were too liberal? This isn’t new news for those who have followed the Birchers, the Goldwater campaign, the McCarthy hearings, and all that mid-20th century roiling of the political landscape. They did not go away, and got louder and more appealing to some when the right wing media-sphere took off. (This has to do, by the way, not only with advances in cable and satellite technology but with court rulings that opened up an anything goes ethos. The “equal time” law known as the Fairness doctrine was struck down — aside, the Christian radio station near us here in Red Lion, which I’ve been on, even, played a role in all of this back in 1969 as the Fairness Doctrine was at that time upheld and the local radio station lost their case, but I digress.)

Nicole Hemmer knows this stuff well and is astute and lively in describing various media personalities. (She has a scholarly book on an academic press just on the conservative media and their role.) One cannot say enough about, for instance, the influence of Bill Maher’s political comedy show, for instance, or, importantly, the mighty Rush Limbaugh in paving the way for even more callous and wicked talk radio, leading to conspiracy theories and the likes of Michael Savage and his ilk.

And she understands the huge role of Pat Buchanan.

Anyway, this book makes a powerful case that the Trumpian worldview, the nihilism and the profanity and the weird mix of conspiracy and meanness emerged in American civic space in the last two decades of the 20th century. If you were there, you’ve got to read this. You will laugh and maybe cry with recognition. If you had not come of age, yet, this is a much-needed handbook to this important historical era, not so long past, but in many ways seminal.

Maybe this passionately affirming review is a bit on the nose, but listen to this:

Nicole Hemmer’s Partisans shines fresh, provocative light on America’s political history, showing that Ronald Reagan’s anointed successors were not public servants so much as performance artists growing rich and powerful by selling division and resentment. Partisans provides a whole new meaning to the Reagan Revolution by focusing on the charlatans of the 1990’s it spawned. — Jane Mayer, Chief Washington Correspondent, The New Yorker

Perhaps the always-reliable and erudite E.J. Dionne says it best:

Nicole Hemmer is both shrewd and wise in her understanding of the history of American conservatism and the long-term influence of right-wing media. Partisans brilliantly explains why Reaganism gave way to Trumpism and calls much-needed attention to the importance of Pat Buchanan’s nationalist insurgency in the 1990s as a pivot point. An essential and engaging book that explains how we got here.– E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Why the Right Went Wrong

When the Clock Broke: Con Men, Conspiracists, and How American Cracked Up in the Early 1990s John Ganz (Farrar Straus Giroux) $30.00 / OUR SALE PRICE = $24.00

This is one that I was at first going to rave about, wanting nearly everybody I know who reads this sort of stuff to pick up. I’m not so sure, as it is dense, serious, exceptionally well documented, and thorough.

It, like the lively Partisans, is well written and incredibly interesting. She makes no pretense of her view, and calling them “con men” in the subtitle says much. Her case about the nutty conspiracies and how we “cracked up” in the 1990s is not far from the truth, and if you have suspicions, I invite you to read this and see for yourself. Holy smokes, it is hot, hot stuff. And the New York Times called it “unflaggingly entertaining without losing its moral core.”

Another review wavered that it actually provides more insight about Trump’s ascent than most other studies that explore that directly. It introduces us to the term “voter rage.” The opening chapter is a detailed study — and, wow! — of KKK leader turned rabble rousing racist Republican David Duke called “Swamp Creature.”  His chapter on Ruby Ridge and the militias is called “The Howling Wilderness” is powerful. The recent Republican trend of flirting with neo-Nazis is, actually, not as new as I had thought.

When the Clock Broke covers much of the same ground as Partisans but is more vivid, in a way, and more focused.  It is wild, read, as history professor at Yale, Beverly Gage puts it, “ finding absurdity and humor in our national pageant.”

The title comes from an extraordinary speech given by Murray Rothbard. It was nothing short of revolutionary and is in a complex chapter about the old right and the rising new right. The same chapter introduces a far-right scholar/operative who shows up in all these studies, Sam Francis. You should know him.

Francis wrote that,

Reagan conservatism, in its innermost meaning, had little to do with supply-side economics and spreading democracy. It had to do with the awakening of a people who face political, cultural, and economic dispossession, who are slowly beginning to glimpse the face of dispossession and what it will mean for them and their descendants, and who are also starting to think about reversing the processes and powers responsible for it.

This approach was like radically revolutionary Marxist liberation theology but of the far right, an intellectual analysis of power and revolt and it seems to me one can draw a straight line between the likes of Rothbard and Francis and the smashing of the clocks to the smashing of the windows of the Capitol on January 6th.

Ganz is a very important writer and he is helping me connect a lot of awful dots. From the shock jocks to the bizarre conspiracies to the disgusting holocaust deniers, it starts to make sense. As Damon Linker puts it, there are “threads tying that time to our own.”  When the Clock Broke is a book you should know.

Birchers: How the John Birch Society Radicalized the American Right Matthew Dallek (Basic Books) $32.00 / OUR SALE PRICE = $25.60

I read this maybe a year ago and thought I wrote about it then (but maybe I did not) so I’d be remiss not to mention it here, now. Their history is fascinating and their relationship to the more mainstream right and the Republican party is fascinating, and, again, important to help us understand the geology of the Trump movement and the much-discussed MAGA outrage. Matthew Dallek did a great job following so many rabbit trails to keep this big book coherent and even entertaining — he waded through thousands of archival documents. I highly recommend it.

Here is how the publisher explains it:

Founded in 1958 by a small band of anti-New Deal businessmen, the John Birch Society held that a vast communist conspiracy existed within America and posed an existential threat to the country. Birchers railed against the federal government, defended segregation, and accused liberal elites of conspiring to destroy the country’s core values-Christianity, capitalism, and individual freedom. Shunned by the political establishment and mainstream media, the organization invented new methods for reaching mass audiences and spread their paranoid anti-government ideology nationwide. Although seen as a fringe movement throughout the 1960s and considered all but dead by the mid-1970s, the John Birch Society in fact birthed an alliance uniting super-rich business titans with grassroots activists that lasts to this day. In Birchers, historian Matthew Dallek uncovers how the Birchers, once the far-right fringe of American politics, forged a conspiratorial, media-savvy style of conservatism that would ultimately take over the Republican Party.

This 2023 release has gotten rave reviews from the conservative National Review and the lefty Nation. The New York Times says it is written with “clarifying elegance and restraint” and both the Library Journal and Kirkus gave it their coveted starred reviews. True enough, one reviewer said it is “a treasure trove for political history buffs” but, again, the point is that there is a real connection between the fringe and often hateful John Birch outfit and the rise of Trumpism which has taken over the Republican Party. As such, it is essential.

America Last: The Right’s Century-Long Romance with Foreign Dictators Jacob Heilbrunn (Liveright) $28.99 / OUR SALE PRICE = $23.19

“Why do Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, and much of the far Right so explicitly admire the murderous and incompetent Russian dictator Vladimir Putin?” In a way, this is the question America Last sets out to answer. He provides a long and disturbing answer.

I’m not quite finished with this yet but I highly recommend it thus far; it is important, I think. It is a careful, thorough (and at times quite elegant) study of the ways in which some Americans proposed — in part through the old organization America First — an isolationism and disregard for wars in other parts of the world and what was behind some of those movements (especially prior to WW I and WW II.) If you like 20th century history, this is amazing.

The right is a respected conservative journalist. More on that in a moment.

Those who are Biblical pacifists surely are not of the same ilk as, say, Charles Limbaugh and others who advocated that the US stay out of World War I because they were, in fact, fond of the brutal Prussian militarist Kaiser Wilhelm. (Who knew?) Those who for understandable reasons want an alternative to war surely are not the same as those America Firsters who, like H. L. Mencken, were clearly in favor of Germany’s war efforts. The terrible stuff Mencken said and did — I had no idea. I knew he had a fierce wit and hated the fundamentalism of William Jennings Bryan and the Scopes trial, but — whew — who knew how some public figures were so vicious and antisemetic. America Last explains it all in informed prose with scholarly detail, including a moving chapter called “Mussolini’s Vicars.” Wow.

The book starts with an almost tedious description of the author’s conservative credentials and the front row seat to many contemporary conservative debates — it’s a bit complicated but lets say Mr. Heilbronn served under a guy who was a foreign policy advisor to Richard Nixon, that he has connections with many foreign policy wonks (not to mention diplomats and even some foreign autocrats), and has worked at a conservative think-tank and journal owned by deeply conservative thinkers. One was convicted of mail fraud and obstruction of justice but was then fully pardoned by Trump, which shows you who he hangs with. He is an editor at Irving Kristol’s The National Interest and helped Francis Fukuyama publish the famous essay “The End of History” after the Berlin Wall fell. He can tell you exactly what Jared Trump was wearing during a meeting with Henry Kissinger in the boardroom of the Time Warner Center in New York. Just so you know.

In his work with dignitaries and diplomats Heilbrunn came increasingly to realize that many on the right side of the political spectrum these days are, in fact, more supportive of brutes like Victor Orban of Hungary than makes sense. Yet another Hungarian activist — Balazs Orban — has worked frequently with Republican Party leaders (while his boss, the more notoriously famous Victor Orban, speaks at CPAC to rave reviews.) What gives? That the Heritage Foundation and other such conservative think-tanks who intellectually fund the policies of the current Republican regime look to a Hungarian parliamentarian as a guide to navigating our culture wars is stunning. When you think of it, that this small country (“dependent on economic subsidies from Brussels”) emerged as a model for the proud American Right, is almost bizarre.

And now, Republicans cozy up to Putin. Trump notoriously so. How can this be?

American Last offers impeccable scholarship, slow, detailed, exposé about this or that figure, this or that “monster abroad”, and this or that Republican who favored support for dictators and corrupt regimes. The current conservative bromance with Putin is actually not unprecedented. It fits a past pattern.

What was behind conservatives’ support for Kaiser Wilhelm? For South African apartheid? What convinced nearly everybody in the conservative movement to adopt Jonas Savimbi as “the Right’s favorite warlord”? Marcos?  Heilbronn takes you inside banquets at the Washington Hilton (for instance) and listens in on discussions with Jean Kilpatrick. You recall, I hope, that when she was Reagan’s U.N Ambassador she gave a pass to the El Salvadoran soldiers who raped and killed four American missionary nuns, “because they were political activists.” She even went to bat for the vile Argentine junta (headed, then, by a General Leopoldo Galtieri) against global human rights agencies who condemned Argentina’s “Dirty War” against their own civilians. There’s a whole chapter on her.

This book written by a respected conservative thinker takes great care to explain more than most of us need to know, but it is exceptional in its candor and critique of the ways in which American conservatives have, historically, too often bedded down with corrupt regimes and authoritarians abroad.

America Last is a tour-de-force of historical investigation written with the verve of a first-rate political thriller.” — Sam Tanehaus, The Death of Conservatism

Kingdom of Rage: The Rise of Christian Extremism and the Path Back to Peace Elizabeth Neumann (Worthy) $28.00 / OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40

I am so very, very glad for this book and am eager to hopefully sell a few. After these rip-roaring and/or carefully researched histories of weird politics and great injustices — from holocaust deniers getting a pass from so-called conservatives and blatant racism driving uprisings and violence — it is nice to see a woman who is not only an expert in domestic terrorism but a faithful follower of Christ and active evangelical church person. None of us most likely have heard of Elizabeth Neumann but now she is one of my heros. Her book has a nice blurb on the very front insisting that she “has done a service to the county — and to the church” from none other than Tim Alberta, author of the hugely popular and widely discussed The Kingdom, The Power and the Glory. He is glad that she exposes the sickness of militant Christian nationalism and “prescribing Jesus himself as the cure.” He is right: that is exactly what she does.

Thanks be to God.

The book almost seems like two books in one, with nearly different tones or themes from chapter to chapter. This is not at all a bad thing, and I found the pacing to be lovely. Here is what I mean.

Neumann worked as a government servant — one of those “deep state” people you hear Trump complaining about all the time — who gave her life to civil service by working for Homeland Security. She was in DC when the plane hit the Pentagon near her workplace and she tells exactly how scary it all was (citizens and government workers fled on foot rather than risking getting stuck in the subways, their typical routes home.) Most of us reading this will feel your heart beat faster, I bet, even thinking about that horrible day, now etched in our mind as 9/11. Can you imagine being a Homeland Security expert the weeks following that horrific, global event?

I won’t explain all the fascinating details but here’s the upshot: she, and most of her counter-terrorism experts, who honed their craft (sometimes in injustice and inappropriate ways, I might add) against radical Islamist jihadist — and there were a lot, she says, a lot of gross violence that they thwarted — now realize that the threat from outsiders is not very high. Some combination of there being less extremist attackers, now, and better intel and security measures have worked out well, mostly. However, she says, there are more domestic terrorism attacks than ever before. I do not think she means mass shootings where a mentally disturbed shooter massacres many. She’s talking about ideologically driven, often in cells and organizations, plotting mayhem and worse. We can thank God that there hasn’t been anything like the Oklahoma City Bombing in many years but this sort of stuff — domestic terrorism — is what keeps the Department of Homeland Security up at night.

Neumann uses professional lingo as describes (in very accessible prose) the ways experts determine how people get radicalized. They have documented the processes and can sometimes see it coming. Many of us have had episodes where people go off the deep end, joining a cult or a movement or a radical organization. At some point, they become dangerous. Since we have lots of freedom of speech and assembly and movement, law enforcement must be careful to follow the law and not add to the problem with violation of civil liberties, of course. But she does tell about how all this works. It is fascinating and troubling, and I’m glad level-headed people with Godly character like Ms Neumann are involved.

So, in Kingdom of Rage she explains how radicalization occurs and what, as a counter-terrorist expert, she thinks we can do. This is the strongest part of the book, in my view, although the more explicitly religious testimony — her journey, her values, her witness to the gospel as the only final and acting answer— is solid. She’s a thoughtful person of faith and drops great quotes and citations from theologians and thinkers I respect. And she is right that many of the extremists on the militant Right that she fears the most do have some connections with religion. Some are nearly cult-like in their connections to radical leaders while others may be less devout. In any case, she brings a truly Christian faith perspective to bear that is wholesome and hopeful.

But then she returns to the hard and somewhat dark work she has been called to do, and explores further what she knows and how the “kingdom of rage” works. She is convinced that white Christian nationalism is extremist and can be dangerous. But she is equally convinced that there is a way off the ledge, a way back to peace. As Russell Moore notes of it, “this book helps us find a better way.” Indeed.

This breathtakingly honest book explains the sources of radicalization in our country and offers solutions that apply to all of us. Masterful, moving, and wise. — Jessica Stern, Senior Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, author of Terror in the Name of God


Preparing for War: The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism — and What Comes Next Bradley Onishi (Broadleaf)  $28.99 / OUR SALE PRICE = $23.19

I’ve just started Preparing for War which I have only skimmed. I am embarrassed to admit I haven’t read this yet. Our friends at Broadleaf Books have done a great service doing a number of books about public justice, exposing the abuse of the gospel by those who link it too closely to the alt-right. Bradley Onishi is an important scholar and this is one of many books explaining the rise of not only the Moral Majority and the flakey Pat Robertson book predicting a “new world order” (etc. etc.) but linking the extremist vision of the MAGA movement and those who are now linking arms to protect the insurrectionist back to the John Birch Society and the like. It seems like he is really on to something, offering this vital history.  Katherine Stewart, who wrote the important The Power Worshippers says it is “gripping and essential reading.”

And one of the reasons it is so gripping is because Bradley Onishi was a part of all this years ago. These were his people, and while he is now a scholar of religion, he has an insider’s view on “the long road to J6.”

As one reviewer put it, Onishi is “ringing alarm bells.” The new religious right is only growing in its aggressive ways with bigger ambitions than we may know. This religiously sanctioned extremism has to be understood.

I appreciate the sentiment of the very first paragraph of the Prologue:

Processing the Capitol insurrection is akin to coming to terms with a national home invasion. That violent mob’s breach of a secure and sacred space on January 6, 2021, resulted in nothing less than a collective trauma. Decades of threats, calls for civil war, and White grievance politics burst forth into a vulgar display of vengeance. It was a day that divides time into Before and After. It was a dismantling.

There are many books decrying the bad theology of the far, racist right. There are many who warn us that this hybrid of Christianity with their teutonic worldview and exceptional nationalism is not only bad for the witness of the church but bad for our country. This is one that gives us the big backstory, a first hand account by a contemporary scholar and I think it is going to continue in the project of connecting the dots, understanding the times, and helping us discern what God’s people should do.

The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party  Dana Milbank (Doubleday) $19.00 / OUR SALE PRICE = $15.20

I’m glad this whopper of a book is out in paperback and I’m glad to tell you it is on my “up next” stack for books I’m reading trying to figure out how we got to where we are in these United States. Some of the titles I’ve read go back a hundred years; others to the 80s and 90s. This one starts, more or less, with Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America.” Milbank draws a circuitous but eventual line from his rabble-rousing project in1994 to the rebels throwing punches in the U.S. Capitol with their Jesusy flags and Confederate gear. Wow.

Believe me, I’ve saved this one to read until now because I know how energetic and at times hilarious Milbank can be. He’s won any number of writing awards and I often appreciate his columns in the Washington Post. He’s been at his post for decades now, and this is his “sizzling hot” observation of the contemporary scene.

Jonathan Karl says, “His writing is irreverent, provocative, and, whether or not you agree with his point of view, always entertaining.”

To be clear, as Charles Sykes puts it, “Milbank argues that Donald Trump, for all his faults, didn’t create this noxious environment — he was the monster that the GOP had been creating for more than a quarter century.”

Milbank walks “a fine and elegant line between humor and horror” (as Mark Leibovich put it — yep, the Leibovich who wrote the breathtaking Thank You for Your Servitude about all the people Trump fired and all the lackeys that put up with his reign of nonsense.) He continues, riffing on the question “How did we get here?” and says:

It’s all right here in The Destructionists, in all its depressing, spiraling detail — and yet so thoroughly enjoyable, too. That’s the Milbank Miracle, right there. I devoured this.

Yes, it will be a good read. But this is serious stuff. These radicals have been breeding cynicism and distrust in government — indeed in civic institutions of all sorts (which, ironically, was the charge against the Left so many years ago, back before the hippies became yuppies) — which has led to violence against government, so we need to, in Biblical fashion, discern the writing on the wall. Dana is no Daniel, but he’s got something to show us all. From the dark money to the endemic lying to the support of dictators abroad and pushing back civil rights here, there has been a downward, downward spiral. As Jennifer Rubin promises us, “if you want to understand Trump, this account is essential reading.”

We will see. It’s on my list.

Sedition Hunters: How January 6th Broke the Justice System  Ryan J. Reilly (Public Affairs) $32.50 / OUR SALE PRICE = $26.00

The above titles are each really interesting for political junkies and history buffs. And they are important to help us understand our cultural moment, or at least this one slice of it. I want to underscore where these past decades of the previous century have lead, so I’ll end with this amazing new volume. It is brand new and up to the minute, almost. I have to tell you about this one.

If the topic were not so chilling and so utterly important for our nation, this almost could be a rip-roaring, edge-of-your-seat, summer action blockbuster. I went from being thrilled with the undercover plots, the hunts, the intelligence gathering, the spy stuff, the procedural work. If you like true crime stuff or police shows or espionage, even, this could be for you. It even has, as one reviewer put it, “big screen imagery”  while another noted that it is “fast-paced.” Yep.

But here’s the thing: most of the work was done by ordinary citizens (of all stripes and kinds) mostly working online. Moms between mealtimes, truckers at their rest stops, blue collar and white collar, progressives and conservatives, each wanting to study those damn tapes, the videos, the evidence. One guy (I forget, was beating up a cop or smashing a door with a bat or something horrible in the name of Trumpian patriotism) was careful, as many were, to cover up their faces. In one quick scene caught on a video aired on Facebook, he used his phone; his homepage showed his business and one citizen with an eagle eye figured it out and called it in. That violent rebel is now in jail.

The amount of evidence of crimes, sometimes deadly ones, was — is! — mountainous. Many of these volunteer sleuths have formed online circles and networks although many have never met, even as they use this open-source style of helping solve these crimes. It’s almost a little sub-plot, about the lives of these civic volunteers, the “sedition hunters” of the book’s title.

But the author doesn’t just document the heroic and often complicated work of these fellow citizens. It tells some of their backstories and some of the backstories of those involved in the uprising. Like any protest, some folks attended but committed no crime (but where there, it seems to me, to cheer on those intending to prevent the ratification of the election by the elected officials sworn to do so. I’ve been to protests where bad stuff happened, but it wasn’t the plan, it wasn’t the main thing, as this clearly, clearly was.) The whole awful January 6th was complex and rowdy and although this is not mostly a story about that day — read Jamie Raskin’s riveting Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy for that — it does move forward from that historic uprising/riot and moves outward towards investigation and prosecution. One long-standing NBC reporter said the book is “thrilling, fascinating, and brilliant.”

And then the subtitle kicks in, as we learn just how many people had networks of others egging them on, and many people were involved. (Everybody in law enforcement expected trouble that day and even a relative of mine saw online declarations of people planning to bring guns and gear along with their Trumpian anger.) The Justice Department became quickly overwhelmed and those Republican leaders who for a brief minute seemed sobered by the attack, soon weaponized their accusations against investigation and prosecution. As an American citizen I am appalled that any elected official would now minimize that bloody day and its assault on our Republic and Constitution.

This is one heckuva story, one heckuva read. As one reviewer put it, Ryan Reilly “has delivered in real time the untold tale of the network of patriots, outside and inside government, who are bringing January 6 rioters to justice.”




It is helpful if you tell us how you want us to ship your orders. And if you are doing a pre-order, tell us if you want us to hold other books until the pre-order comes, or send some now, and others later… we’re eager to serve you in a way that you prefer. Let us know your hopes.

The weight and destination of your package varies but you can use this as a quick, general guide:

There are generally two kinds of US Mail options and, of course, UPS.  If necessary, we can do overnight and other expedited methods, too. Just ask.

  • United States Postal Service has the option called “Media Mail” which is cheapest but can be a little slower. For one typical book, usually, it’s $4.33; 2 lbs would be $5.07. This is the cheapest method available and seems not to be too delayed.
  • United States Postal Service has another, quicker option called “Priority Mail” which is $8.70, if it fits in a flat-rate envelope. Many children’s books and some Bibles are oversized so that might take the next size up which is $9.50. “Priority Mail” gets much more attention than does “Media Mail” and is often just a few days to anywhere in the US.
  • UPS Ground is reliable but varies by weight and distance and may take longer than USPS. Sometimes they are cheaper than Priority. We’re happy to figure out your options for you once we know what you want.

If you just want to say “cheapest” that is fine. If you are eager and don’t want the slowest method, do say so. It really helps us serve you well so let us know. Keep in mind the possibility of holiday supply chain issues and slower delivery… still, we’re excited to serve you.


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Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street  Dallastown  PA  17313

Sadly, as of July 2024 we are still closed for in-store browsing. 

We will keep you posted about our future plans… we are eager to reopen. Pray for us.

We are doing our curb-side and back yard customer service and can show any number of items to you if you call us from our back parking lot. We’ve got tables set up out back. It’s sort of fun, actually. We are eager to serve and grateful for your patience. We are very happy to help, so if you are in the area, do stop by. We love to see friends and customers.

We are happy to ship books anywhere. 

We are here 10:00 – 6:00 EST /  Monday – Saturday. Closed on Sunday.