The Unwinding (An Inner History of the New America)

Author: George Packer

Every once in a while, I read a book that truly makes a difference.  I found “The Unwinding” byGeorge Packer to be such a book.  It not only gives a unique perspective on our political system, it provides a unique set of optics on the “state of the state” and is beautifully written.

The template for The Unwinding is to present “an inner history of the new America” by weaving together a series of non-fiction, mini-biographies.  Using a mix of very well know personalities, such as Oprah, Sam Walton, Newt Gingrich and Elizabeth Warren, with the totally unknown, yet compelling stories of others such as a young woman struggling in an imploding Akron, Ohio, a man growing up in Appalachia and the impact of the boom-bust real estate cycle in Tampa, Packer weaves a tapestry that exposes our crusty underbelly.

In doing so, Packer touches on some of the themes that I believe contribute significantly to our dysfunctional, polarized political system.  Through the story of Jeff Connaughton, he paints a picture of the politician who has effectively lost his moral compass, assuming he ever had one.  Through the stories of many characters, he exposes the impact of an educational system that leaves many behind.  And, through other stories, he well documents the inner political workings of both corporate America and unions.

Unfortunately, Mr. Packer leaves the reader very disillusioned.  I do not think he balances the personal stories with sufficient examples of where victories can be found, nor does he offer a vision for solutions to unwind the unwinding.  Regardless, for anyone trying to understand the evolution of dysfunction over the past half-century, this is a close to a must read as I have found in some time.

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