A fascinating, ultimately puzzling deep dive into one county’s electoral behavior.

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THE FORGOTTEN

HOW THE PEOPLE OF ONE PENNSYLVANIA COUNTY ELECTED DONALD TRUMP AND CHANGED AMERICA

Bradlee (The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams, 2013, etc.) immerses himself among the voters of one Pennsylvania county, hoping to discover why a majority of voters there supported Donald Trump for president.

What the veteran journalist learned in Luzerne County (Wilkes-Barre is the major city in a predominately rural area) will mostly hearten devoted Republican supporters, mostly upset Democratic supporters, and perhaps baffle independent voters. By one measure, Luzerne County is typical because Trump won in 2,584 counties, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 493 counties. Looking closer, though, Luzerne is an atypical Trump stronghold, since many of the residents were labor unionists who traditionally supported Democratic Party candidates. During previous presidential elections, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had won majorities there. A Trump victory seemed plausible because during the Republican primary in Luzerne County, 5,643 registered Democrats shifted to the Republican side to choose among the large number of candidates, and many of the shifters decided Trump would be the best choice. As Bradlee relates the findings from his in-depth conversations with Luzerne voters, he avoids stereotypes and pat answers. Trump detractors across the nation labeled him a racist, but how could the author call Trump voters unadulterated racists when so many had cast ballots for Obama in the previous election? Regardless, race and ethnicity clearly influenced some Trump supporters interviewed by Bradlee. Trump’s draconian immigration policies aimed at Spanish speakers gained widespread favor among Luzerne County voters, many of whom were alarmed by the increase in the Hispanic population. Apart from support or opposition to Trump’s policy proposals, voters who spoke with Bradlee made clear that they would have preferred any candidate to Hillary Clinton, having believed every false Republican claim about her; that they knew nothing about Trump’s past as a failed businessman; and that allegations of his sexual assaults and overall misogyny could be forgiven at the polling booth.

A fascinating, ultimately puzzling deep dive into one county’s electoral behavior.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-51573-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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