Lively writing and one intriguingly contrarian proposal salvage an otherwise standard-issue conservative polemic.

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CONSERVATISM THAT CAN WIN

The primary reason for the Republican Party’s recent election failures, argues a former Bush speechwriter, is that it has neglected to respond to changing demands.

When voters began abandoning the GOP for the Democrats (who now outnumber Republicans three to two), writes Frum (The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush, 2003, etc.), conservatives responded by retreating to “obsolete politics,” engaging in pointless debates about “issues that are in fact settled.” Instead of arguing with voters, he suggests, Republicans should figure out new ways to appeal to the married, middle-class, white, churchgoing Americans who are their natural base. Unfortunately, readers looking for such new ideas will be disappointed. Most of Frum’s proposals have long been part of the Republican Party platform he accuses of alienating middle-class Americans: expansion of Bush’s unpopular No Child Left Behind Act; abolition of all affirmative-action programs; drastic cuts in immigration; privatization of Social Security; elimination of all taxes on wealth and corporations, including capital-gains and estate taxes on the very wealthy. However, the book does feature one truly innovative proposal: a $50-per-ton carbon tax on those forms of energy that create the greatest environmental harm. Frum makes this proposal not because he respects environmentalists—at one point, he suggests that ecologically concerned voters are among the most “ignorant” in the country—but because he believes America’s dependence on oil, including oil produced in America, threatens the nation’s economic security. Environmentalist or not, the proposal is sure to cause a stir among Republicans, as much for its underlying premise that dirty energy sources should be taxed in order to subsidize more-expensive clean energy as for its acknowledgment that concern for the environment is an issue Republicans can’t afford to ignore.

Lively writing and one intriguingly contrarian proposal salvage an otherwise standard-issue conservative polemic.

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-51533-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2007

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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