by Daniel Laurison ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 14, 2022
With the midterm elections looming, this detailed study of how campaigns work shines valuable light into dark corners.
A study of the secret machinery of politics that interprets the polls, creates the advertisements, and advises the candidates.
Sociology professor Laurison, who worked on Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, draws on interviews with the well-paid professionals (all pseudonymous) of a shadowy business. The author strikes a fairly even balance between Democrats and Republicans. Nearly all are White, college-educated, and from well-off families—a long way from the composition of the national polity. While most genuinely believe that a victory for their favored candidate will make the country better, they often see voters as passive players to be subdivided by various traits and manipulated for their votes, mostly via data. They see the candidate as a bundle of positive and negative characteristics whose main roles are to shake hands, raise money, and give tailored speeches. Working on a campaign is a grueling, exhausting job. Laurison asks, are they effective? Even successful politicos acknowledge that a great deal is out of their hands, determined by the broader environment and thematic issues. The author cites convincing research to show that campaign advertising, for example, does not do much, and voter attitudes are very difficult to change. One of the few campaign activities that seems to make a difference is grassroots contact, especially useful in reaching disinterested voters. But volunteer-based fieldwork is an area that professionals largely disregard. Laurison’s conclusions are interesting, but his own views occasionally distract from his reasoned analysis. Because he clearly loathes Trump and dislikes those who support him, he offers little examination of his 2016 campaign. If nothing else, Trump’s tactics—as dirty as they were—serve as intriguing examples of a successful insurgency campaign. Nevertheless, Laurison makes many important points about how politics reached its current state and where it might go from here.With the midterm elections looming, this detailed study of how campaigns work shines valuable light into dark corners.
Pub Date: June 14, 2022
Page Count: 200
Publisher: Beacon Press
Review Posted Online: March 7, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022
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by Walter Isaacson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.
To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 688
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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by Matthew Desmond ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2023
A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.
“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
Pub Date: March 21, 2023
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023
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