Cover of American Apocalypse by Rena Steinzor
American Apocalypse
The Six Far-Right Groups Waging War on Democracy
Rena Steinzor


July 2024
348 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503634596
Ebook ISBN: 9781503639324

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A thorough analysis of the right-wing interests contributing to the downfall of American democracy

The war on American democracy is at a fever pitch. Such a corrosive state of affairs did not arise spontaneously up from the people but instead was pushed, top-down, by six private sector special interest groups—big business, the House Freedom Caucus, the Federalist Society, Fox News, white evangelicals, and armed militias. In American Apocalypse Rena Steinzor argues that these groups are nothing more than well-financed armies fighting a battle of attrition against the national government, with power, money, and fame as their central motivations.

The book begins at the end of Lyndon Johnson's presidency, when the modern regulatory state was born. Agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration ensured that everything from our air to our medicine was safe. But efforts to thwart this "big government" agenda began swiftly, albeit in the shadows. Business leaders built a multi-billion dollar presence in the Capitol, and the rest of the six interest groups soon followed.

While the groups do not coordinate their attacks, and sometimes their short-term goals even conflict, their priorities fall within a surprisingly tight bullseye: the size and power of the administrative state. In the near-term, their campaigns will bring the crucial functions of government to a halt, which will lead to immediate suffering by the working classes, and a rapid deterioration of race relations. Over the long-term, as the prevalence of global pandemics and climate crises increase, an incapacitated national government will usher in unimaginable harm.

This book is the first to conceptualize these groups together, as one deconstructive and awe-inspiring force. Steinzor delves into each of their histories, mapping the strategies, tactics, and characteristics that make them so powerful. She offers the most comprehensive story available about the downfall of American democracy, reminding us that only by recognizing what we are up against can we hope to bring about change.

About the author

Rena Steinzor is Edward M. Robertson Professor of Law at University of Maryland Carey Law School. She is the author of Why Not Jail? (2014), The People's Agents and the Battle to Protect the American Public (2010), and Mother Earth and Uncle Sam. She is a former president of the Center for Progressive Reform.

"There is rot at the foundation of American democracy. Rena Steinzor's razor-sharp American Apocalypse shows that the problem is not "the American people," but identifiable forces – from mega corporations to the Federalist Society to extremist militia groups – that are actively corroding our democracy. Steinzor's powerful analysis will fill you with anger, but not despair, and leave you inspired and determined to take action for democracy, justice and a livable planet."

—Rob Weissman, President of Public Citizen

"Attacks on public health officials during the COVID-19 pandemic were of a scale unprecedented in modern times. American Apocalypse connects this terrible development to the growth of fringe ideologies and violent militias that present a profound threat to our collective health and well-being."

—Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D., Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

"American Apocalypse is a must read for anyone who wants to become familiar with the forces behind the current assault on our democracy. The six groups that Professor Steinzor identifies began their assault on the federal government long before Donald Trump's presidency, and they will continue the assault long after he has left the political scene."

—Thomas O. McGarity, University of Texas School of Law

"American Apocalypse is the first book to draw together the stories of extreme conservative groups with billions at their disposal and the intention to weaken American democracy so they can get more."

—Lisa Heinzerling, Georgetown Law School

"American Apocalypse is a provocative, startling exposé of the special interest groups working to challenge democracy in an age of political turmoil and division."

—Kristen Rabe, Foreword Reviews