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PRODUCING POLITICS

INSIDE THE EXCLUSIVE CAMPAIGN WORLD WHERE THE PRIVILEGED FEW SHAPE POLITICS FOR ALL OF US

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

ISBN: 978-0-8070-2506-2

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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WHAT WENT WRONG WITH CAPITALISM

Sure to generate debate, and of special interest to adherents of free market capitalism.

A book-length assertion that capitalism’s woes can be traced to government interventionism.

Sharma, an investments manager, financial journalist, and author of The 10 Rules of Successful Nations, The Rise and Fall of Nations, and other books, opens with the case of his native India. The author argues that it should be in a better position in the global marketplace, possessing an entrepreneurial culture and endless human capital. The culprit was “India’s lingering attachment to a state that overpromises and under-delivers,” one that privileged social welfare over infrastructure development. Much the same is true in the U.S., where today “President Joe Biden is promising to fix the crises of capitalism by enlarging a government that never shrank.” Refreshingly, Sharma places just as much blame on Ronald Reagan for the swollen state that introduced distortions into the market. Moreover, “flaws that economists blame on ‘market failures,’ including wealth inequality and inordinate corporate power, often flow more from government excesses.” One distortion is the government’s bloated debt, as it continues to fund itself by borrowing in order to pay for “the perennial deficit.” As any household budget manager would tell you, debt is ultimately unsustainable. Wealth concentration is another outcome of government tinkering that has, whether by design or not, concentrated wealth into the hands of a very small number of people, “a critical symptom of capitalism gone wrong, both inefficient and grossly unfair.” Perhaps surprisingly, Sharma notes that in quasi-socialist economies such as the Scandinavian nations, such interventions are fewer and shallower, while autocratic command economies are doomed to fail. “[T]oday every large developed country is a full-fledged democracy,” he writes, and the more freedom the better—but that freedom, he argues, is undermined by the U.S. government, which has accrued “the widest budget deficit in the developed world.”

Sure to generate debate, and of special interest to adherents of free market capitalism.

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9781668008263

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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