Books by Alan Ehrenhalt

Released: April 25, 2012

"The author's historical perspective helps shape his provocative view, though he doesn't examine whether the demographic trends will generate either the financing or the wider employment that Paris and Vienna were able to stimulate in their own unique ways."
A political scientist looks at a possible "demographic inversion" in which America's cities may follow in the footsteps of late-19th-century European capitals: "affluent and stylish urban core[s] surrounded by poorer people and an immigrant working class on the periphery." Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 27, 1995

In this evocative study, Ehrenhalt (The United States of Ambition, 1991) suggests that the era of '50s, for all its faults, has some vital lessons for today's society, which is frequently marked by the absence of a sense of community and responsibility. Although they had a bad press, many people, observes Ehrenhalt, look back to the Eisenhower years as a golden age, especially those who came through the Depression and WW II. Ehrenhalt evokes for us a mixed world in which choices were limited but commitment offered other rich rewards, a world in which Ernie Banks always played for the Cubs (he had to, but he was happy) and the Lennox Corporation ignored the bottom line by keeping its original factory open in Marshalltown, Iowa. Focusing on his native Chicago, the author takes us around the streets of a blue-collar Catholic parish, with its mom-and-pop grocery stores where credit was always available, and its hardworking nuns, usually from Detroit, who made the edifice of Catholic education possible. Then we move to the South Side ghetto of Bronzeville, where the Chicago Defender advocated against the Jim Crow system and controversial leaders like William Dawson and J.H. Jackson provided vital models of achievement and hope. Finally, we enter the split-level homes of Elmhurst, a white, middle-class, commuter suburb, where school authorities were concerned about chewing gum and people put their religious faith largely in the American way. Ehrenhalt carefully avoids nostalgic one-sidedness, and he points to factors that caused the revolution of the '60s. Arguing that, pace many conservatives, the true enemies of community are excessive trust in the free market and the cult of unlimited choice, he suggests that the coming generation may well be less leery of authority and stability. A powerfully written and astute analysis that challenges our preconceptions about the past and pessimism about the future. Read full book review >
Released: May 10, 1991

A sound survey of politics in America since WW II, contrasting the decline of the bosses and party control with the rise of the ``independent voter'' and the self-nomination of the ambitious candidate. Ehrenhalt, executive editor of Governing magazine, describes a typical ``professional'' career politician as an incumbent who never loses an election because he has mastered the art of vote- getting by using the many accouterments of office that Congress (i.e., the taxpayer) offers—free promotional mailings, free trips home and abroad, and large staffs of aides. The ``professional'' is ambitious, wellknown, hard-working, and an expert in fundraising. Ehrenhalt tells of the passing of the part-time politicians of tiny, close-knit power cliques that controlled voting blocs and ran communities before the Supreme Court made malapportionment unconstitutional in 1962. Although he notes the end of deference to authority figures, he sees some dangers in self-nominations of ambitious candidates not having deep political roots, who when elected are unable to govern well (e.g., Jimmy Carter). Gone is the party screening and peer review that once guaranteed that qualities besides ambition, stamina, glibness, and charm would be counted in selecting candidates. Ehrenhalt reasons that few nonprofessionals would sacrifice the time and effort that modern politics demands, and writes that ambition is what matters most today. He also decries the present lack of leadership and discipline and laments the uncompromising rigidity that leads to political stalemates. (He does not, however, address the corrupting influence of PACs.) A persuasive cautionary analysis, reflecting well Ehrenhalt's governmental savvy garnered during his past tenure as political editor of Congressional Quarterly. Read full book review >