Though he breaks no new ground, Wolraich presents an engaging survey of a movement's progress from radical extremism to...




A bulletin from an earlier era of American political paralysis.

A century ago, much of America was frustrated and angry with a do-nothing Congress held captive by wealthy interests and controlled by obstructionist Republicans led by Sen. Nelson Aldrich and the colorful speaker of the house, Joe Cannon. Wolraich (Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies about the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior into a Raging Homosexual, 2010) ably explores the birth of the movement within the Republican Party that broke the legislative logjam and released a torrent of reformist legislation, but at the cost of splitting the party and electing a Democratic president and Congress. The Progressives were the tea party of their day, led by Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette of Wisconsin, and they were viewed by the party establishment as unreasonable extremist nuisances. They rejected compromises and half-measures as sops intended only to delay genuine reform and campaigned against fellow Republicans who obstructed them. Their attitude exasperated Theodore Roosevelt, a moderate reformer who, during his presidency, advocated only for politically palatable incremental change before seizing the Progressive banner from La Follette during the wildly contentious election of 1912. These shifts in influence among the Progressives, moderates and conservative "standpatters" occupy Wolraich more than the personalities of the Progressives themselves; La Follette's allies appear only as spear-carriers, and their crafty opponents loom at least as large here. The author's lively prose struggles to overcome the narrative challenge presented by the points of congressional contention at the time: tariff schedules and railroad rate regulation, issues that understandably fail to hold modern readers’ passions. A clearer distinction among the platforms of the Republican Progressives, the Democratic populist William Jennings Bryan and the ultimately triumphant Woodrow Wilson would also have been helpful.

Though he breaks no new ground, Wolraich presents an engaging survey of a movement's progress from radical extremism to conventional wisdom.

Pub Date: July 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-230-34223-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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