The Year That Broke America
An Immigration Crisis, a Terrorist Conspiracy, the Summer of Survivor, a Ridiculous Fake Billionaire, a Fight for Florida, and the 537 Votes That Changed Everything
by Andrew Rice
Pub Date 22 Feb 2022 | Archive Date 19 Apr 2022
Combining the compelling insight of Nixonland and the narrative verve of Ladies and Gentleman: The Bronx is Burning, a journalist’s definitive cultural and political history of the fatefully important moment when American politics and culture turned: the year 2000.
Before there was Coronavirus, before there was the contentious 2020 election or the entire Trump presidency, there was a turning-point year that proved momentous and transformative for American politics and the fate of the nation. That year was 2000, the last year of America’s unchallenged geopolitical dominance, the year Mark Burnett created Survivor and a new form of celebrity, the year a little Cuban immigrant became the focus of a media circus, the year Donald Trump flirted with running for President (and failed miserably), the year a group of Al Qaeda operatives traveled to America to learn to fly planes. They all converged in Florida, where that fall, the most important presidential election in generations was decided by the slimmest margin imaginable.
But the year 2000 was also the moment when the authority of the political system was undermined by technical malfunctions; when the legal system was compromised by the justices of the Supreme Court; when the financial system was devalued by deregulation, speculation, creative securitization, and scam artistry; when the mainstream news media was destabilized by the propaganda power of Fox News and the supercharged speed of the internet; when the power of tastemakers, gatekeepers, and cultural elites was diminished by a dawning recognition of its irrelevance.
Expertly synthesizing many hours of interviews, court records, FOIA requests, and original archival research, Andrew Rice marshals an impressive cast of dupes, schmucks, superstars, politicians, and shameless scoundrels in telling the fascinating story of this portentous year that marked a cultural watershed. Back at the start of the new millennium it was easy to laugh and roll our eyes about the crazy events in Florida in the year 2000—but what happened then and there has determined where we are and who we’ve become.