Indiana Daily Student

'Trump Survival Guide' limits its audience but contains valuable context

In slightly more than two months since the general election, The New York Times bestselling author Gene Stone has written and published a handbook for Americans who voted against the president-elect.

As the name suggests, “The Trump Survival Guide” assumes its readers were and are actively opposed to President Trump’s presidency.

That’s actually a shame.

The book's main function is dispensing information about groups with which a concerned reader could become involved. The goal is preparing the general public to fight any unwanted proposals Trump can and likely will make in office, or, as the cover states, giving the reader “everything you need to know about living through what you hoped would never happen.”

The problem with “The Trump Survival Guide,” as with many pieces of writing that have been published since the election, is that it will not be useful to some people who might want to know the information inside of it - specifically, the ones who didn't vote for Hillary Clinton or a third-party candidate.

In short, Stone clearly chooses his own audience with this guide, but if he had chosen to write from a more neutral tone of voice, he might have advanced his information-sharing and civic action goals further.

There’s a lot of good information in this survival guide for those who want to throw themselves into civil service. Stone suggests dedicated readers join school boards, complete volunteer work or enroll in programs they don’t want to see disappear.

Less strenuous options include signing petitions, calling Congressmen and donating to various nonpartisan organizations that will likely weigh in on controversial executive actions.

However, there’s a third, much larger portion of the book that is mainly informative.

That’s the historical context folded into each section of the book. 

In order to give readers a more holistic view of every issue, Stone outlines the United States’ history with each issue — often beginning in the 1800s — up to Barack Obama’s presidency.

The guide is separated into key platform issues — civil rights, the economy, energy and partisanship.

From there, he details the actions Obama took on each issue and their reception, then applies Trump’s personal and professional history to the same issues to predict what he could enact during his presidency.

While there’s no pretense that Stone didn’t support Obama in office or that he has high hopes for Trump, those pieces of each chapter are invaluable to those who might not fully understand how they’re affected by current policies, which are all shaped by history.

Unfortunately, because those nuggets of information are wrapped up in a blueprint on stymying many of the Republican government’s goals, anyone not fully on the left is unlikely to read them.

It must be incredibly difficult to try to figure out political moves before the inauguration and far ahead of many possible policy changes. It has been difficult enough to foresee the state of American politics in the last few months.

Stone is weakest when he tries to draw on information from November to predict Trump’s cabinet and their future actions. Some picks have remained correct — Betsy DeVos’ nomination as education secretary panned out, but fracking mogul Harold Hamm declined the energy secretary nomination in early December.

As Stone writes, “presidents are best judged by history,” and this author wasn’t even working with all of the information leading up to Trump’s inauguration.

Much of Stone’s book is interesting. The citations throughout the chapters are clear, and the details are easy to parse.

He seems concerned with ensuring that people are good citizens as much as, if not more than, he is with hindering the current executive branch.

It’s fitting, then, that the guide begins and ends with pleas for tolerance. Stone’s first section deals with civil rights, and his last paragraphs ask readers to begin by befriending and looking out for racial minorities in their lives.

Given all of the partisan rhetoric leading up to and after the election, it’s refreshing to see an empathetic argument for more tolerance. Virtually everyone can benefit from a reminder to take a look outside of their own cultural community.

It’s just too bad that many bookstore browsers will feel too alienated by the book’s title to receive this advice..

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