Your audiobook is waiting…

The Problem of Democracy

The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality
Narrated by: Robert Petkoff
Length: 22 hrs and 15 mins
4 out of 5 stars (13 ratings)

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Publisher's Summary

"Told with authority and style.... Crisply summarizing the Adamses' legacy, the authors stress principle over partisanship." (The Wall Street Journal)

How the father and son presidents foresaw the rise of the cult of personality and fought those who sought to abuse the weaknesses inherent in our democracy, from the New York Times best-selling author of White Trash.

John and John Quincy Adams: rogue intellectuals, unsparing truth-tellers, too uncensored for their own political good. They held that political participation demanded moral courage. They did not seek popularity (it showed). They lamented the fact that hero worship in America substituted idolatry for results; and they made it clear that they were talking about Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson. When John Adams succeeded George Washington as President, his son had already followed him into public service and was stationed in Europe as a diplomat. Though they spent many years apart - and as their careers spanned Europe, Washington DC, and their family home south of Boston - they maintained a close bond through extensive letter writing, debating history, political philosophy, and partisan maneuvering.

The problem of democracy is an urgent problem; the father-and-son presidents grasped the perilous psychology of politics and forecast what future generations would have to contend with: citizens wanting heroes to worship and covetous elites more than willing to mislead. Rejection at the polls, each after one term, does not prove that the presidents Adams had erroneous ideas. Intellectually, they were what we today call "independents", reluctant to commit blindly to an organized political party. No historian has attempted to dissect their intertwined lives as Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein do in this audio, and there is no better time than the present to learn from the American nation's most insightful malcontents. 

©2019 Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"A top-notch dual biography.... An unsettling yet well-presented argument that the failures of John and John Quincy Adams illustrate a disturbing feature of American politics." (Kirkus Reviews)

"In this daring, lucid, and provocative book, Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein challenge founding myths to reveal democracy as an incomplete, contested, and often distorted ideal. By exploring the failed presidencies and probing ideas of John and John Quincy Adams, The Problem of Democracy exposes the deep roots of contemporary demagogues and their polarizing deceptions." (Alan Taylor, author of American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804

“Who better knows the byways between the Revolution and the 1840s, who else could address the politics and the personalities of both John and John Quincy Adamses with such wisdom and verve? Better than any previous Adams chroniclers, they have identified the essential theme that persisted through both men's lives: one which concerns us now more than ever.” (David Waldstreicher, editor of The Diaries of John Quincy Adams, 1779-1848

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    6
  • 4 Stars
    3
  • 3 Stars
    3
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    8
  • 4 Stars
    4
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    7
  • 4 Stars
    3
  • 3 Stars
    2
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • William
  • FORT MYERS, FLORIDA, United States
  • 05-12-19

Very insightful and rewarding adding understanding

To our current Trumpian nightmare. We need an Adams to help set our republic back on course.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Limited horizon

The book concentrated on the presidencies of father and son, John Adams and John Quincy Adams. While the authors have a lofty aim, the vehicle is of limited interest.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful