Required reading for electoral handicappers, polling bookies and other political junkies.




American politics is nasty, ugly, messy and divisive—and that’s just the way it should be.

RealClearPolitics senior elections analyst Trende, frequently heard on the seemingly contradictory avenues of Fox News, CNN and NPR, allows that the current scene looks especially chaotic, but adds, “the type of instability we’ve witnessed recently is really the rule in American politics, whereas extended dominance of either the presidency or the House is the exception.” Thus the often-mooted predictions, usually just after an election, that one of the major parties is headed for extinction or permanent minority status is usually wrong—and though Trende doesn’t adequately allow for the possibility of gerrymandering or poll fixing, we should hope that he’s right. Voter coalitions are similarly fragile, he writes; they tend to cluster around issues, and once the issue is addressed or forgotten the coalition tends to disintegrate. That some coalitions have been killed deliberately is another matter. The author examines the slow but steady expulsion of Southern conservatives out of the ranks of the Democratic Party during the FDR administration, which he calls “a feature of the New Deal, not a bug.” Without being blatant about it, he also examines the rightward tilt of the current GOP in that light. FDR eventually had to re-recruit the Southerners; the question remains whether the GOP will have to seek out moderates to fill its tent, given the fact that in the last election the “Republicans nominated several candidates who were too stridently conservative for their states and districts, even in 2010.” The big news in the book is Trende’s observation that the Obama victory of 2008 drew on the narrowest reading of the broad-based coalition that Bill Clinton assembled in the early 1990s, and the steady withering of his base may prove harmful in 2012. Nonetheless, writes the author, “[t]his book offers no sexy prediction about what will happen next in American politics,” but instead a smart look at just how predictably unpredictable the electorate has proven to be.

Required reading for electoral handicappers, polling bookies and other political junkies.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-230-11646-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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

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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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