A highly specific, important study in understanding why attention to state legislatures and local elections across the...




An examination of how coordinated conservative advocacy over the past few decades has “produced a stark rightward shift across the states, ultimately contributing to a dramatic redistribution of political power.”

As Hertel-Fernandez (International and Public Affairs/Columbia Univ.; Politics at Work: How Companies Turn Their Workers into Lobbyists, 2018, etc.) shows, the shift in focus—from Congress to state legislatures—by three key conservative groups has pushed forward a widespread right-wing agenda that has had remarkable, and alarming, ramifications. The author explores the work of this “right-wing troika” in gradually and successfully changing the direction of state legislation on specific issues dear to businesses and conservatives. This trio of special interest groups includes the American Legislative Exchange, created in 1973, which disseminates “model” legislative language that lawmakers can access for a yearly membership fee; the State Policy Network, created in 1986, which “testifies” to and markets the model bills produced by ALEC; and Americans for Prosperity, the organization of conservative activists created by the Koch brothers in 2004. With coordinated pressure on activists, donors, businesses, and politicians, these groups have been able to steer state legislatures in a “dramatic right-wing swing” in a variety of specific areas, including “stand-your-ground” (the right of individuals to use lethal force to protect against perceived bodily harm), right-to-work (draining labor unions of financial support), anti–Affordable Care Act measures, and voter ID laws. As the author asserts, the troika has no magic formula but rather a trial-by-error process of forming coalitions while relying on “overworked and underpaid state lawmakers” who can cut-and-paste prewritten policy proposals. In his systematic and impeccably researched work, Hertel-Fernandez discusses why liberal efforts to counter the troika have floundered and why this infiltration of right-wing state policy endangers the quality of American democracy.

A highly specific, important study in understanding why attention to state legislatures and local elections across the country is increasingly crucial.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-19-087079-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2018

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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