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This chapter analyzes Richard Hofstadter’s critique of “the paranoid style” and its influential impact on the terms and tone of liberal and left engagement with the event of Donald Trump. The chapter’s claim is that Hofstadter’s argument engages a genre of criticism, originating in the Federalist Papers, that attacked democratic critics of the constitution by pitting political realism and maturity against the irrational exuberance of populism. The chapter shows that this genre of criticism, invoked now to defend a civic nationalism in crisis, cannot offer a compelling counterfiction to the right by imaginatively engaging pervasive alienation and drawing citizens at a loss toward a sustainable future and a reimagined democracy. Inspired by the example of American novelists, the chapter asks what kind of genre or “style” might offer an effective response to the paranoid style gripping almost half the US population?

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