A cogent, timely warning about the fragility of American democracy.

THE AGENDA

HOW A REPUBLICAN SUPREME COURT IS RESHAPING AMERICA

A biting critique of the current Supreme Court.

Lawyer Millhiser, a senior correspondent at Vox and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, argues persuasively that the Supreme Court, with its 6-3 Republican majority, “is potentially an existential threat to the Democratic Party’s national ambitions—and, more importantly, to liberal democracy in the United States.” With Congress increasingly partisan and dysfunctional, the author asserts that the court has exerted decisive policy changes: dismantling campaign finance law and weakening the Voting Rights Act, the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, laws shielding workers from sexual and racial harassment, public sector unions’ ability to raise funds, and Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Along with examining the judicial backgrounds of the Republican-appointed judges, Millhiser looks closely at salient cases in four areas that reveal the court’s conservative bias: voting rights, limitations on federal power, expression of religion, and the right to sue. As for voting, the author clearly shows how the court’s decisions work against the election of Democrats by allowing redistricting laws that favor Republicans, thereby transforming legislative elections “into little more than a formality in many states.” Limiting federal regulatory power also favors a conservative agenda, for example, impeding the government in addressing climate change. “This fight over the federal government’s power to address a slow-moving catastrophe,” Millhiser writes, “is just one battle in a many-front war over federal agencies’ power to regulate.” In addition, court decisions regarding religion have opened the possibility that business owners may claim religious objections to following anti-discrimination laws or even paying taxes. Because judges have “no democratic legitimacy,” the responsibility to shape policy must lie with Congress. Deferring to the court “means placing unchecked power in the hands of men and women who serve for life, and who may be no less partisan than the people who can be voted out of office if they use their power irresponsibly.”

A cogent, timely warning about the fragility of American democracy.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73442-076-0

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

The renowned political scientist and philosopher considers classical liberalism and the broad range of enemies arrayed against it.

“By ‘liberalism,’ ” writes Fukuyama, “I refer to the doctrine…that argued for the limitation of the powers of governments through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals living under their jurisdiction.” Born of events such as the English civil war and the Enlightenment, this liberalism also encouraged diversity of thought, religion, and ethnicity, placing it squarely in the crosshairs of today’s authoritarian nationalists, not least Donald Trump. Fukuyama has often been identified with conservative causes, but his thinking here is democratic to the core, and he has no use for such pathetic lies as Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. That said, the author notes that liberalism has many enemies on both the left and the right for numerous real yet correctable failings. The neoliberalism that has emerged over the past couple of generations has accelerated inequality, and numerous institutions have been eroded while others, such as the Electoral College, have been revealed to be anti-democratic. Both left and right, the author argues, have trouble accepting that governing over diversity, the hallmark of liberalism, means governing over many ethnic and national groups, strata of income, and competing interests. He adds, however, “Left-of-center voters…remain much more diverse” in political outlook. Essential to a liberal society, Fukuyama insists, is the right to vote: “Voting rights are fundamental rights that need to be defended by the power of the national government.” While he insists that individual rights take precedence over group rights, he also observes that the social contract demands citizen participation. To the conservative charge that the social contract is one thing but the “common moral horizon” another, he answers that yes, liberalism does not insist on a single morality—which “is indeed a feature and not a bug.”

A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60671-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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