In Republic of Wrath, Brown University political scientist James Morone tries to explain the political distemper of our times. To Morone, “Who are we?” has been the central question of American politics since the beginning, when worries over immigrants in the 1790s led a Federalist Congress to pass the Alien and Sedition Acts. Race is a mainstay of his account, too; the book opens with a barely-averted slave rebellion in Richmond on the eve of the 1800 election.

Despite his wide sweep, Morone focuses his attention on moments or eras that, in his view, best capture the dominant tendencies of American politics: the elections of 1800 and 1840, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the populist movement of the late 19th century, the New Deal, the election of 1964 and its immediate aftermath, and the modern era from 1968 to the present.

He identifies two long-term patterns which, he believes, have shaped party competition and political discourse. One is that white supremacy has been consistently linked with doctrines of limited government. The other, more original claim is that blacks and immigrants have usually had opposing partisan patrons. In the 19th century, Democrats took up the cause of immigrants, while Whigs and Republicans were more sympathetic to the rights of blacks. What makes the current era so incendiary, Morone argues, is that for the first time

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