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Ian Reifowitz


A vital analysis of the assault on truth and accuracy carried out by right-wing media as well as by politicians like Trump, The Tribalization of Politics reveals how the race baiting rhetoric of the most popular radio host in America against President Obama helped elect our current president, in the process threatening the democratic principles upon which our country was built.


Ian Reifowitz's impressive forensic examination of Rush Limbaugh's years of cynical race-baiting provides a startling glimpse into the talk radio kingpin's outsize role in tribalizing and dividing America during the years of Barack Obama's presidency. Reifowitz details Limbaugh's central role in priming conservative audiences to view Obama as a paragon of racial rage and retribution, rather than the exemplar of racial reconciliation that the first African American president sought to embody. In so doing, Reifowitz shines a harsh light on the ugly inner workings of the right wing grift-and-grievance machine and its role in placing white identity at the center of conservative politics, helping pave the way for the rise of Donald Trump."--Greg Sargent, Washington Post columnist, and author of An Uncivil War: Taking Back Our Democracy in an Age of Trumpian Disinformation and Thunderdome Politics

The radicalization of movement conservatism and the Republican Party can be laid at the feet of Rush Limbaugh in so many ways -- especially the way he normalized hate speech and a loathing for democracy. Ian Reifowitz brilliantly lays out the path that Limbaugh took during the Obama presidency and demonstrates that it became a roadmap for the rise of Trumpism and its unleashing of the forces of hate in America. -- David Neiwert, author of Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump

"Many have commented on the growing tribalization of American politics. But perhaps no one has done it as creatively as Ian Reifowitz. By documenting Rush Limbaugh’s persistent race-baiting and “othering” of the Obama Presidency, this book provides invaluable insights into how right-wing backlash against the first black president set the stage for the rise of Donald Trump. A must read for anyone interested in understanding racial politics and polarization in the Obama and Trump eras."--Michael Tesler, co-author of Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America

"In this prescient and well-researched book, Ian Reifowitz traces the roots of America’s current problems with racism to the vile invective Rush Limbaugh used to describe Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black President. Skillfully explaining how conservative talk-show race-baiting led to the naked racism of Trump’s America, Reifowitz shows that the recent rise of white supremacy and white nationalism is inextricably linked to the power of language – and that the right-wing needs this type of incendiary racism to survive. The Tribalization of Politics is a fantastic reminder that racism has always been alive and well in America, it’s just been obscured by rhetorical tricks and coded speech. This is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand how the US has reached its lowest point in race relations since the Civil Rights Movement."--Keri Leigh Merritt, author of Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South

"What does it mean to be a white person in the United States today? Since the civil rights era, progressives have answered that it means nothing more or less than to be a co-equal member of society. But on the right, the answer is far scarier--and no one has more powerfully frightened whites with tales of racial peril than Rush Limbaugh, to his immense profit. Ian Reifowitz in this stunning book shows what democracy is up against."--Ian Haney López, author of Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class

Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity

Speaking more broadly, this country has the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that a society of many ethnic groups can truly become one people. Whether President Obama succeeds in transforming our national identity will help determine if we live in a world consisting of societies that are both diverse and unified, or fundamentalist societies that seek to impose homogeneity through repression and force. The stakes could not be any higher.

“With lively prose and interpretive precision, Ian Reifowitz reveals the forty-fourth president’s pivotal role in the remaking of American identity. Obama’s America is one of those rare works of history that should enlighten the future as well as it explains something of great significance about the past.”
Michael Kazin, author of American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation, professor of history, Georgetown University

“This is social science at its best. The book focuses on the President but employs insights into his identity as an individual to provide a penetrating and novel view of our identity as a people.” – Amitai Etzioni, Author of The New Golden Rule, University Professor, George Washington University.