The Soul of America (Genre: Political History)
by Jon Meacham

In case you’re worried that America has lost its way, historian Jon Meacham presents ample evidence that we’ve lived through demagoguery and racism before. He begins his book by reminding us that Senator Strom Thurmond from South Carolina ran for president in 1948. Thurmond garnered nearly a fourth of the popular vote appealing to people who opposed Civil Rights and were unconcerned about the number of innocent Black men being lynched throughout the south.

Then Meacham writes about Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950’s, who falsely accused dozens of prominent Americans of being atheists and communist sympathizers, ruining their lives and reputation. Why would McCarthy do this? “He exploited the privileges of (political) power . . . to him politics was not about the (truth) . . . but the sensational.”  Meacham asserts, “McCarthy was an opportunist, uncommitted to much beyond his own fame and influence.” Yet, in the early 1950’s people loved McCarthy. Only near the end of his political career did polling reveal his popularity had fallen to a mere 34%.

The Soul of America is not entertainment. It is however, interesting, particularly if you’ve forgotten or don’t know much about the history of our country and its presidents. Near the end of the book, Meacham challenges his readers to become better informed and more politically involved. He encourages us to not be lead by political party loyalties, but rather to search for unbiased information, facts, and reasoning, and let these be our guide.

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