A cogent, well-documented analysis of the 2016 election.

IDENTITY CRISIS

THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN AND THE BATTLE FOR THE MEANING OF AMERICA

Racial and religious anxieties, more than economic worries, fueled Donald Trump’s victory.

Political science professors Sides (George Washington Univ.; The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election, 2013, etc.), Vavreck (UCLA; The Gamble, 2013, etc.), and Tesler (Univ. of California, Irvine; Post-Racial or Most-Racial?: Race and Politics in the Obama Era, 2016, etc.) counter some popular assumptions about the surprising outcome of the 2016 presidential election, which pitted two “historically unpopular presidential candidates” against each other. In a narrative replete with graphs and tables, the authors argue against the prevalent idea that Trump attracted white voters who felt victimized by loss of jobs and worries over economic insecurity, instead mounting abundant evidence for their contention that group identities mattered more to voters than perceptions of economic hardship or inequality. “Simple narratives about voter anger,” they write, “obscured who was angry and why.” They assert that in the Republican Party, “divisions centered on how voters felt about groups they did not belong to, including blacks, Muslims, and immigrants.” These groups generated strong emotions and activated white voters’ racial and religious identities, both of which had deepened during Barack Obama’s presidency and caused a backlash against diversity. The authors cite three main reasons for Trump’s victory: “fractured ranks” within the Republican Party that impeded party leaders from coalescing behind any candidate; outsized media coverage of Trump that made him appear to be the front-runner even when coverage focused on scandals; and “racialized economics,” in which racial attitudes “shaped the way voters understood economic outcomes.” Hillary Clinton had problems with both message and campaign strategy, never attracting enough support from diverse voters, including women. The authors doubt that Russian interference changed the outcome of the election. “Russian-sponsored content,” they conclude, “was an infinitesimal fraction” of tweets and posts, and although this content was “misleading and polarizing,” the campaign was already filled with similar incendiary content. Moreover, they maintain, “most voters are predictable partisans whose minds are hard to change.”

A cogent, well-documented analysis of the 2016 election.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-691-17419-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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