The Last Election – Book Review

Last Election About 30 years ago I encountered a book by one Joel Garreau entitled The Nine Nations of North America. Just recently I received my review copy of The Last Election by James Glenn Reynolds. Surprisingly, when I saw the cover the first thing that struck me was the similarity to Garreau’s book cover. It didn’t end there. Reynolds, it turns out, was acquainted with Garreau’s effort and familiar with his work.

Garreau’s writing was an important one for this writer in cementing some of the ideas of Montesquieu respecting the importance of geographic and social similarities in holding a political entity together. He showed decisively that modern North America, the US and Canada, had divided interests that could, conceivably break these nations apart into new entities that reflected that cultural, ethnic and economic differences that were at the heart of why each region was so different from the others. Now, Reynolds takes on a similar discussion, but from a new angle, and concentrates solely on the USA.

His premise is that there are such things as “Last Elections” which come before great changes or disruptions occur. One such was the election of 1860 when Lincoln won with 39% of the vote and the War Between the States broke out soon after. He thinks that we may be on the verge of another such “Last Election;” not a final election, but the concluding event of a portion of our history after which things change radically.

Drawing largely from the works of Niall Ferguson and Charles Murray for historical and statistical contexts Reynolds pieces together an interesting and well-reasoned argument for why America is facing the situation it does today. In so doing he avoids naming people as much as possible and often refers to events in rather vague terms. It is as if he wants to avoid placing blame on participants and instead assert that there is some organic process at work that is inherent in society, creating a crisis scenario every so often, then disappearing again until humanity ignores the lessons of history again.

As part and parcel of the process he compares the present situation to what happened during the first half of the 19th century, focusing very heavily, and perhaps too heavily on the slavery issue, while ignoring states rights advocates and the northeastern financial interests who also had a cards on the table leading up to what became the war between the states. The comparison leads to a discussion of what Reynolds characterizes as a conflict over “Way of Life” then and now.

After completing the comparison there is a brief discussion of the American Idea, and those aspects of society that have provided the social glue to hole it together until now, when the glue appears to be breaking down. He concludes with a discussion of some potential future developments including the possibility of another secession.

Reynolds work is brief, at about 170 pages, and is footnoted for source material. It is well written in an easy to understand style. It takes a generally positive attitude toward present issues, and a generally non-partisan approach to the issues, portraying them from an extremely objective approach, which sometimes borders on detachment. Perhaps because of the book’s brevity some topics are given less attention than the reader may desire. There will also be some that note that there is some neglect of developments between 2012 and 2014. Foreign policy is almost entirely left out, as if it plays no role in the societal conflict, which he discusses. Many commentators would disagree.

One other note; toward the end of the book Reynolds begins discussing the role of “Tea Party Patriots” in the political evolution that is occurring. It appears that he may be unaware of that there is a political action group specifically organized under that name, which he uses numerous times, without noting it was a specific corporate name, and that there are a large number of other groups on levels from national down to local all using the same “Tea Party” name.

In sum, Reynolds’ book is a thought provoking read, and provides an interesting insight into reasons for the present national state of affairs. The reader may have to fill in some areas of less coverage themselves, but an informed conservative will have no problem in doing so.


The Last Election is published by Xlibris LLC and is available from Amazon.

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