A pleasure to read, even in its darkest moments, and refreshingly optimistic about the future of the republic.

DEMOCRACY IN ONE BOOK OR LESS

HOW IT WORKS, WHY IT DOESN'T, AND WHY FIXING IT IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK

Former White House speechwriter and humorist Litt digs in deep to discuss what’s ailing us politically—and gets in a few laughs along the way.

The author begins with an amusing guerrilla action that demands a John Belushi to play it onscreen: namely, trying to bust his way into Mitch McConnell’s fraternity at the University of Kentucky. Why? Because somewhere in those roots lies the development of a political system that does not represent the people or reflect the consent of the governed in the slightest, giving rise to a polity most of whose members do not trust the government to act correctly, with those who do “roughly the number of Americans who believe in Bigfoot.” The genius of the system McConnell authored, Litt rightly observes, is that thanks to gerrymandering and polarization, there are practically no political consequences inherent in ignoring the wishes of the electorate. The fixes are pretty simple, or at least some are. If you’re not a voter, Litt suggests, then you don’t really count, and if you don’t vote, then you cede the field to the boomers who went for the current occupant of the White House. “Along nearly every dimension,” Litt writes, “the average voter looks more like Donald Trump than the average American does.” Only a mass turnout of the young—the author is in his 30s—will change that picture. Just so, because so many minority voters have been disenfranchised, voters are wealthier than nonvoters, acquiescent in congressional and presidential acts that benefit the rich. The irony is that we now have a tyranny of the minority—an easy fix if only the majority will act, in part by throwing out McConnell, for whom “our dysfunctional legislature is working just fine.”

A pleasure to read, even in its darkest moments, and refreshingly optimistic about the future of the republic.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-287936-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

The choir is sure to enjoy this impassioned preaching on familiar progressive themes.

SORRY NOT SORRY

Essays on current political topics by a high-profile actor and activist.

Milano explains in an introduction that she began writing this uneven collection while dealing with a severe case of Covid-19 and suffering from "persistent brain fog.” In the first essay, "On Being Unapologetically Fucked Up,” the author begins by fuming over a February 2019 incident in which she compared MAGA caps worn by high school kids to KKK hoods. She then runs through a grab bag of flash-point news items (police shootings, border crimes, sexual predators in government), deploying the F-bomb with abandon and concluding, "What I know is that fucked up is as fundamental a state of the world as night and day. But I know there is better. I know that ‘less fucked up’ is a state we can live in.” The second essay, "Believe Women," discusses Milano’s seminal role in the MeToo movement; unfortunately, it is similarly conversational in tone and predictable in content. One of the few truly personal essays, "David," about the author's marriage, refutes the old saw about love meaning never having to say you're sorry, replacing it with "Love means you can suggest a national sex strike and your husband doesn't run away screaming." Milano assumes, perhaps rightly, that her audience is composed of followers and fans; perhaps these readers will know what she is talking about in the seemingly allegorical "By Any Other Name," about her bad experience with a certain rosebush. "Holy shit, giving birth sucked," begins one essay. "Words are weird, right?" begins the next. "Welp, this is going to piss some of you off. Hang in there," opens a screed about cancel culture—though she’s entirely correct that “it’s childish, divisive, conceited, and Trumpian to its core.” By the end, however, Milano's intelligence, compassion, integrity, and endurance somewhat compensate for her lack of literary polish.

The choir is sure to enjoy this impassioned preaching on familiar progressive themes.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18329-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

more