Disunion Among Ourselves:
A Political History of the American Revolution (forthcoming)
Disunion Among Ourselves tells the story of the deep political divisions that beset the Continental Congress during the American Revolution. So fractious were the founders’ political fights that they feared the War of Independence might end in disunion and civil war.
Typically, accounts of the Revolution highlight the stunning might of the British armed forces as the chief obstacle to achieving American independence. In fact, the greatest danger to the nascent Union—from the First Continental Congress in 1774 until the war’s end in 1783—was powerful regional chauvinism and government infighting that threatened to break apart the Continental Congress. If and when the states separated, armed civil conflict seemed inevitable due to vast unsettled financial disputes between the states as well as, crucially, the unresolved ownership of 300 million acres of fertile land in the trans-Appalachian West obtained from King George III in the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
Instead of disbanding into separate regional confederacies, which many considered the most natural outcome of the Revolution, the founders united for the sake of liberty and self-preservation. To achieve this, they forged grueling compromises, including the resolution for independence in 1776, the Mississippi-Fisheries Compromise of 1779, and the ratification of the Articles of Confederation in 1781.
Today, in the second decade of the 21st century, many Americans have lost faith in politics and a polarized government. Disunion Among Ourselves has inevitable resonances with our present era of political hyperpolarization. It fills a critical gap in our historical understanding of the Revolution while at the same time serving as a touchstone for contemporary politics, reminding us that the founders overcame far tougher times than our own through commitment to ethical constitutional democracy and compromise. The founders succeeded in part by transcending the baser angels of their natures to the higher national interest. Yet, more even than this, they overcame division and disunion because they knew, concretely, that political unity was the best hope for preserving the life, liberty, and happiness of the American people.
How to Save Democracy: Advice and Inspiration from 95 World Leaders
Release Date March 14, 2023
How to Save Democracy is a collection of 423 instructive quotations derived from the First International Summit for Democracy. Divided into three sections—Virtues of Democracy, Challenges & Threats, and The Way Forward—the books brings hope, optimism, and poetry to the fight. As vital, How to Save Democracy outlines seven key principles of democratic success:
Never take democracy for granted
Democracy is the peoples’ government
Free and fair elections are the bedrock of democracy
Equality, inclusion, and diversity are cornerstones of democracy
Free, independent, ethical media is a lifeline of democracy
Rule of law is the glue that holds democracies together
Citizens, and nations, must unite to defend democracy
How to Save Democracy (Amplify Publishing, 2023) is a collaboration between Eli Merritt and RepresentUs, one of the nation’s premier nonprofit organizations fighting corruption and strengthening democracy. It is scheduled for publication in early 2023.
The Curse of Demagogues: Lessons Learned from the Presidency of Donald J. Trump
The Curse of Demagogues: Lessons Learned from the Presidency of Donald J. Trump is a collection of thirty-two essays by twenty-two writers that makes the case that the pathway back to a healthy American democracy is for citizens, first, to understand demagogues and, second, to defend against them.
The book makes the story of Donald Trump’s rise to the White House coherent and understandable. Trump, a demagogue, gained ascendancy in a laissez-faire political culture wherein neither the Republican Party nor the other gatekeepers of democracy, including the news media, effectively counteracted him. Once in the highest office in the land, Trump devolved into authoritarianism in order to retain power, as demagogues are well-known to do.
To restore our democracy, we must defend it against demagogues by strengthening gatekeeping systems within political parties, the media, and the U.S. Congress (powers of impeachment, conviction, and disqualification from future office) and through vigorous civics, ethics, and media literacy education K-12 and beyond.
Prominent contributing writers include:
Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian
Jeff Flake, former Republican U.S. senator
Barbara Comstock, former Republican U.S. congresswoman
Jill Abramson, former executive editor of The New York Times
Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic
Jesse Wegman, editor at The New York Times
Eric Posner, author of The Demagogue’s Playbook: The Battle for American Democracy from the Founders to Trump
Michael Signer, author of Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies
From the Essays
“There have been two occasions in American history when the fate of the republic was placed at risk. The first was the Civil War . . . The second was the Great Depression . . . We are currently on the cusp of a third serious challenge to our republican roots, which has emerged in the person of the first full-scale demagogue who was elected president . . . This is the chief reason why the looming election is the most important political event of our lifetime . . . This is an election to decide whether we wish to remain the American republic.”
JOSEPH J. ELLIS
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian
“How many injuries to American democracy can my Republican Party tolerate, excuse and champion? It is elementary to have to say so, but for democracy to work one side must be prepared to accept defeat. If the only acceptable outcome is for your side to win, and a loser simply refuses to lose, then America is imperiled.”
Former Republican U.S. Senator
“My fellow Republicans, stop fearing this dangerous and diminished man.”
Former Republican U.S. Congresswoman
“The enemy of democracy is not a Democrat or Republican. It is a demagogue.”