A cogent and dispiriting contribution to the growing number of analyses of the ailing American democracy.

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LET THEM EAT TWEETS

HOW THE RIGHT RULES IN AN AGE OF EXTREME INEQUALITY

How the Republicans’ embrace of economic elites threatens democracy.

Political scientists Hacker (Yale) and Pierson (Univ. of California, Berkeley) synthesize many scholarly studies and journalists’ reports to mount a compelling, though not groundbreaking, argument that what they call “plutocratic populism”—reactionary economic priorities and right-wing cultural and racial appeals—dominates the Republican Party, undermining democracy. Although Donald Trump is an exemplar of this stance, the authors maintain that Republicans bowed to the ultrawealthy long before the 2016 election. They cite, for example, the 2001 tax cuts, which benefited the rich far more than the middle class and “were sharply at odds with what the majority of voters thought the nation’s budget priorities should be.” Republicans blatantly covet backing from wealthy supporters, with Mike Pence selected as vice president partly to satisfy evangelicals, partly because of his close ties to big donors, notably the Koch brothers. Over several generations, the party’s loyalty to the wealthy caused a shift to cultural issues and outrage in order to attract voters. “The early specialists in outrage-stoking,” the authors assert, “were the Christian right and the NRA,” which both were fueled by “racial backlash.” Increasingly, Republicans have fostered a campaign of “resentment, racialization and rigging” in their pursuit of white voters. In the 2018 midterm elections, however, the party’s losses caused it to shift to “a third option”: to “make voters’ voices less relevant” by turning election rules and redistricting “into finely honed partisan weapons.” Democracy itself is a problem for Republicans “because it threatens the property and power of powerful minorities.” The interests of those wealthy minorities, the authors warn, “diverge from those of their fellow citizens,” making them “more apprehensive about democracy.” The authors are cautiously optimistic that shifting demographics may weaken Republicans’ power, but only Trump’s “decisive electoral defeat” will possibly “motivate a fundamental rethinking of the party’s priorities.”

A cogent and dispiriting contribution to the growing number of analyses of the ailing American democracy.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63149-684-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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