A heavy-handed yet ideologically coherent take on contemporary politics.



A classical liberal offers a wide-ranging discussion of American political and social ills.

As a Renaissance man who worked in construction, firefighting, oil-spill cleanup, and the commercial maritime industry before becoming a lawyer, Hartwig is drawn to the multifaceted lives and intellectual curiosity of Thomas Jefferson and the other men who founded the United States. As a classical liberal, the author is also deeply sympathetic to their philosophy of limited government. Rather than signaling a new age of American politics, he sees the election of Donald Trump as president reflecting how far the U.S. has departed from its classical liberal moorings to became a “Placebocracy,” in which the government “devises solutions that appear to solve the problems of its constituents, while actually making things worse.” Because of Hartwig’s atypical ideological roots, readers across the political spectrum are likely to, at various intervals, nod in agreement at his hot, forceful views or want to toss his book aside. Like many on the left, the author places the declining incomes of middle-class Americans, corporate subsides, and preferential tax treatment for the rich at the center of the nation’s decline and rails against “short sighted” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, religious fundamentalism, and “corporate monoliths.” Alternately, he joins many on the right in his occasional screeds against Hollywood celebrities, the “pop science” of climate change, and the “political correctness” that polices “any banter whatsoever involving ethnicity, culture, gender…or the myriad of other topics that used to be considered benign.” He is most passionate in his intriguing critiques of the American educational system, which is not only another example of an inept government at work, but has become “infected” with “political correctness” and “partisan politics” as well. In his comprehensive book, Hartwig presents eloquent and consistent arguments that eschew right or left paradigms, offering many rich details. But, given the author’s self-professed predilections toward history, many scholars will bristle at some of his superficial interpretations. Jefferson would be shocked, for instance, to read that his Federalist rival John Adams—the man he called a “monarch” and who signed the big-government, anti–free speech Sedition Act—was a man committed to forestalling the “excesses of the state.”

A heavy-handed yet ideologically coherent take on contemporary politics. (acknowledgements, "Recommended Reading (A Partial List) / Bibliography")

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59152-260-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Yucca Ash Press

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2020

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

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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 choir is sure to enjoy this impassioned preaching on familiar progressive themes.


Essays on current political topics by a high-profile actor and activist.

Milano explains in an introduction that she began writing this uneven collection while dealing with a severe case of Covid-19 and suffering from "persistent brain fog.” In the first essay, "On Being Unapologetically Fucked Up,” the author begins by fuming over a February 2019 incident in which she compared MAGA caps worn by high school kids to KKK hoods. She then runs through a grab bag of flash-point news items (police shootings, border crimes, sexual predators in government), deploying the F-bomb with abandon and concluding, "What I know is that fucked up is as fundamental a state of the world as night and day. But I know there is better. I know that ‘less fucked up’ is a state we can live in.” The second essay, "Believe Women," discusses Milano’s seminal role in the MeToo movement; unfortunately, it is similarly conversational in tone and predictable in content. One of the few truly personal essays, "David," about the author's marriage, refutes the old saw about love meaning never having to say you're sorry, replacing it with "Love means you can suggest a national sex strike and your husband doesn't run away screaming." Milano assumes, perhaps rightly, that her audience is composed of followers and fans; perhaps these readers will know what she is talking about in the seemingly allegorical "By Any Other Name," about her bad experience with a certain rosebush. "Holy shit, giving birth sucked," begins one essay. "Words are weird, right?" begins the next. "Welp, this is going to piss some of you off. Hang in there," opens a screed about cancel culture—though she’s entirely correct that “it’s childish, divisive, conceited, and Trumpian to its core.” By the end, however, Milano's intelligence, compassion, integrity, and endurance somewhat compensate for her lack of literary polish.

The choir is sure to enjoy this impassioned preaching on familiar progressive themes.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18329-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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