A cogent reminder of the importance of federal policy, presidential leadership, and the elusiveness of economic justice.

GOING BIG

FDR'S LEGACY AND BIDEN’S NEW DEAL

A political autopsy describing how Democratic presidents abandoned the progressive legacy of Franklin Roosevelt and allowed economic inequality to deepen.

Kuttner, co-founder of Economic Policy Institute and The American Prospect, opens with an urgent assessment of our current political landscape: “Joe Biden’s presidency will be either a historic pivot back to New Deal economics and forward to energized democracy, or a heartbreaking interregnum between two bouts of deepening American fascism. We are facing the most momentous threat to the American republic since the Civil War.” The touchstone for his sharp analysis is the New Deal, “a model of progressive policy and politics” that was committed to economic justice. While Harry Truman left FDR’s legacy intact and Lyndon Johnson expanded it with his war on poverty and civil rights legislation that attended to issues FDR had ignored, Jimmy Carter initiated a retreat that has continued for four decades. A quarter-century of prosperity had ended, and the Democratic Party tacked to the right. Following Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama championed economic growth, Wall Street prosperity, and global trade, catering to college-educated workers and the wealthy rather than addressing racial and economic equality for the working class. Once again, economic policy was delegated to Wall Street insiders. Given this historical context and Biden’s centrist credentials, his progressivism came as a surprise, and an expansive legislative agenda and revival of the New Deal coalition of labor, the poor, and racial minorities have resurrected values neglected by previous Democratic administrations. Kuttner sees “grounds for hope” that Biden’s presidency can reverse “the hyper-concentration of capital and…the steady weakening of labor” and enable progressivism to triumph. It will do so, however, only when Democrats occupy the White House, gain majorities in Congress, and tightly regulate finance capitalism. Some readers may wish for more discussion of progressivism from below: grassroots organizations, state and local governments, and democratic socialist political movements.

A cogent reminder of the importance of federal policy, presidential leadership, and the elusiveness of economic justice.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-62097-727-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

The renowned political scientist and philosopher considers classical liberalism and the broad range of enemies arrayed against it.

“By ‘liberalism,’ ” writes Fukuyama, “I refer to the doctrine…that argued for the limitation of the powers of governments through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals living under their jurisdiction.” Born of events such as the English civil war and the Enlightenment, this liberalism also encouraged diversity of thought, religion, and ethnicity, placing it squarely in the crosshairs of today’s authoritarian nationalists, not least Donald Trump. Fukuyama has often been identified with conservative causes, but his thinking here is democratic to the core, and he has no use for such pathetic lies as Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. That said, the author notes that liberalism has many enemies on both the left and the right for numerous real yet correctable failings. The neoliberalism that has emerged over the past couple of generations has accelerated inequality, and numerous institutions have been eroded while others, such as the Electoral College, have been revealed to be anti-democratic. Both left and right, the author argues, have trouble accepting that governing over diversity, the hallmark of liberalism, means governing over many ethnic and national groups, strata of income, and competing interests. He adds, however, “Left-of-center voters…remain much more diverse” in political outlook. Essential to a liberal society, Fukuyama insists, is the right to vote: “Voting rights are fundamental rights that need to be defended by the power of the national government.” While he insists that individual rights take precedence over group rights, he also observes that the social contract demands citizen participation. To the conservative charge that the social contract is one thing but the “common moral horizon” another, he answers that yes, liberalism does not insist on a single morality—which “is indeed a feature and not a bug.”

A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60671-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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