This superbly researched and well-reasoned case for informed voting deftly emphasizes democratic traditions.

THE UNINFORMED VOTER

A political work warns readers about the costs of an uninformed electorate.

As a prolific author, physician, and clinical professor at Yale University, Levine has produced scholarship mostly centered on aging and health care reform. In this book, he offers a cautionary tale about a rising tide of a “general lack of knowledge of how government works” and “tribalism,” which he considers fundamental threats to America’s democratic tradition. As of 2017, international studies of the globe’s most liberal democracies ranked the United States 31st in the world, a significant decline from previous years. The author convincingly—and shockingly—demonstrates widespread ignorance among Americans toward their elected representatives and the basic organization of government itself. Just as problematic to Levine is political apathy, when a majority of eligible voters fail to even show up in off-year elections. The book’s strength lies in its international approach, placing America within the context of a global shift from democracy to autocracy, with examples of Russia, Turkey, Hungary, and the Philippines serving as warnings against populist and nationalist governments drawn to authoritarianism. The volume’s title and underlying premise may be off-putting to some readers who will be uncomfortable with blaming America’s current political crisis on ignorant voters (the majority of whom cast their ballots against the nationalist, populist candidate Donald Trump in 2016). They instead may place the blame on the undemocratic nature of the Electoral College itself. Though occasionally elitist in their characterization of American voters, some of Levine’s chapters highlight the role of disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, and political corruption as contributing factors to the nation’s democratic decline. Well-researched with ample footnotes that demonstrate a firm grasp of contemporary scholarship on the subject, the work also features excellent chapters on the philosophical origins of democracy and the history of threats to the American system (for instance, contested presidential elections in 1876, 1960, and 2000 and political scandals like Watergate and the Iran-Contra Affair). Deliberately nonpartisan in its approach, the book concludes with a chapter on practical electoral reforms, such as ranked-choice voting and the revamping of primaries.

This superbly researched and well-reasoned case for informed voting deftly emphasizes democratic traditions.

Pub Date: April 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-977225-87-0

Page Count: 366

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

The renowned political scientist and philosopher considers classical liberalism and the broad range of enemies arrayed against it.

“By ‘liberalism,’ ” writes Fukuyama, “I refer to the doctrine…that argued for the limitation of the powers of governments through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals living under their jurisdiction.” Born of events such as the English civil war and the Enlightenment, this liberalism also encouraged diversity of thought, religion, and ethnicity, placing it squarely in the crosshairs of today’s authoritarian nationalists, not least Donald Trump. Fukuyama has often been identified with conservative causes, but his thinking here is democratic to the core, and he has no use for such pathetic lies as Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. That said, the author notes that liberalism has many enemies on both the left and the right for numerous real yet correctable failings. The neoliberalism that has emerged over the past couple of generations has accelerated inequality, and numerous institutions have been eroded while others, such as the Electoral College, have been revealed to be anti-democratic. Both left and right, the author argues, have trouble accepting that governing over diversity, the hallmark of liberalism, means governing over many ethnic and national groups, strata of income, and competing interests. He adds, however, “Left-of-center voters…remain much more diverse” in political outlook. Essential to a liberal society, Fukuyama insists, is the right to vote: “Voting rights are fundamental rights that need to be defended by the power of the national government.” While he insists that individual rights take precedence over group rights, he also observes that the social contract demands citizen participation. To the conservative charge that the social contract is one thing but the “common moral horizon” another, he answers that yes, liberalism does not insist on a single morality—which “is indeed a feature and not a bug.”

A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60671-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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