LEFT FOR DEAD by Michael Tomasky


The Life, Death, and Possible Resurrection of Progressive Politics in America
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 A thoughtful, good-natured critique of the left by one of its longstanding supporters. Tomasky, a columnist for New York magazine, seems to delight in the unreality of contemporary American politics--in, for instance, the fact that the Pentagon insists that even though the Cold War is over, the nation needs to be able to wage two major wars simultaneously, or in the way in which politicians of both parties agree that the poor need self-discipline and the wealthy need a tax break. That there is no organized leftist response to such claims, he continues, is the fault of the left itself; under Newt Gingrich the right has coopted the left's historical language of ``community and aspiration,'' while the left has been absorbed by infighting and self-righteousness. ``The left loves the idea of self-examination,'' he writes provocatively, ``but abhors its practice, because any serious self-examination will show that the left is considered broadly and laughably irrelevant by many people.'' Tomasky goes on to argue that while the left has always been negligible in number, its proponents can make a difference in national politics. That will not happen, he maintains, unless the left changes its ``tendency to find what's wrong with others' ideas rather than what may be right with them, to impute bad motives to their proponents, or to take a line of text or one plank in a proposal as proof that the writer has moved to the right or that the proposal is reactionary.'' Spurning a place at the table in rational discussions of illegal immigration or affirmative action can only increase the left's irrelevance, he says; instead, progressive causes need to recapture the Enlightenment belief in ``democracy and reason not as dead ends but as unfinished works that can and must be improved.'' A book that may speak to a small audience, but that speaks eloquently and sanely all the same.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-82750-6
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1996


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