THE UPSET THAT WASN'T

HARRY S. TRUMAN AND THE CRUCIAL ELECTION OF 1948

Fresh appraisal of an election that has long been considered the greatest political upset in American history. Gullan, an independent scholar whose work has appeared in the Presidential Studies Quarterly, argues that the election would have been an upset if Dewey had won. He finds the New Deal program had become so institutionalized that the old Rooseveltian coalition simply could not dissolve completely. The partially conservative Truman, leaning somewhat away from the left toward center, more than matched Dewey, also moving toward the center (but from the conservative right of a Republican-controlled Congress that had attempted and failed to roll back the popular New Deal program). Gullan attributes the Democratic victory, contradicting polls predicting a Republican win, to the greater effectiveness of Truman’s populist cross-country —whistle stop— campaign conducted from the rear platform of a train. Then too, the folksy vice presidential candidate Alben Barkley corralled votes across the South, the Farm Belt, and the border states, unlike the efforts of the dull, uncoordinated Dewey-Warren ticket. The separatist, more extreme parties of Henry Wallace (friendly to world communism) and Strom Thurmond (white-supremacy Dixiecrats) held little appeal to voters. Adding weight to Truman’s candidacy was the highly respected secretary of state, General George Marshall. Prosperity at home and peril abroad also favored incumbents, observes Gullan. He believes that the 1948 election was distinctive in serving as a bridge between party-loyalty-oriented elections and a more independent voter movement, leading later to increased numbers of landslide electoral victories for both Republican and Democratic presidents. Truman, the “square shooter,— enjoyed additionally the special fate of running against the depressing ghost of Herbert Hoover that lingered in American memory. A lucid, enlightening historical survey, as well as a nostalgic look at a bygone era.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 1998

ISBN: 1-56663-206-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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