A probing and limpid explanation of an often misunderstood patchwork of systems, requirements, and mechanisms.

READ REVIEW

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT VOTING—AND WHY

A thorough examination of the specifics of voting in the U.S.

Constitutional scholar and law professor Wehle has designed this book as a guide for those seeking greater insight into a variety of related topics, including the slippery concept of the right to vote, the background basics of voting, and the structural barriers to voting. Though the writing is clear and conversational, there is a serious aura about the proceedings. She introduces readers to what she calls the “Voter Two-Step”—first register, then vote. This is not as simple as it sounds, as each state has its own stipulations; furthermore, the Constitution has no express provision conferring the right to vote. State legislatures administer federal, state, and local elections, so Wehle offers state-by-state breakdowns of specific requirements; early, provisional, and absentee voting; and the rights of those with disabilities. She then explores one of the most controversial elements of our political process, the Electoral College—“If this sounds to you like an insider’s game, you’re right. If this sounds bizarrely anti-democratic, you’re right again”—before moving on to gerrymandering (“politics-driven…congressional districts”); term limits; voter fraud and its cousin, voter suppression, the dicey role of money in politics, and the troubling role played by the Supreme Court regarding campaign finance laws. Though Wehle can—and has reason to—get cynical at times, she cogently lays out what readers need to know, all with an eye on an important question: “Who…is in charge of our democracy? If it’s not ‘We the People,’ who is it?” In the face of depressing news and statistics about voter turnout, tampering, and other issues, “the answer isn’t despair or complacency,” she writes. “The answer is to vote.” An appendix lists state-by-state registration and identification requirements, among other useful information.

A probing and limpid explanation of an often misunderstood patchwork of systems, requirements, and mechanisms. (illustrations)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297478-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more