A senior senator from Ohio highlights the careers, accomplishments, and proposals of mentors and former colleagues.
Brown (Myths of Free Trade: Why American Trade Policy Has Failed, 2004, etc.) arranges his text chronologically, from Sen. Hugo Black, who served from 1927 to 1937, to Sen. George McGovern, 1963-1981. Some of the names will be familiar to readers (Al Gore Sr.; Robert F. Kennedy), but a few—Theodore Francis Green, 1937-1961; Glen Taylor, 1945-1951—are less well known. Desk 88 is the number of Brown’s desk in the Senate chamber, and he reveals that senators traditionally sign the inside before they leave office. Desk 88 bears the signatures of four of the senators he writes about: Black, Gore, Herbert H. Lehman, and McGovern (and now his own). “What drew me to the names at Desk 88 was the idea that connected them: progressivism,” he writes. For each of his eight men, the author provides a brisk biography and a description of his Senate career; following each chapter is a section called “Thoughts from Desk 88,” ruminations about his own experiences, thoughts about issues dear to him, and comments about Republicans and Donald Trump (who, he writes, “promote a racist, phony populism”). In his “Thoughts” sections, Brown writes about his own family and background, the birth of Social Security, minimum wage laws, Wall Street corruption, race, health care issues, world hunger, and policy (with some nasty stories about GOP opposition to the Affordable Care Act—“death panels” and the like). The author argues that Democratic candidates should pound away at the GOP’s opposition to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, minimum wage protections, and so on. At times, in fact, his text reads almost like a campaign biography, but in March 2019, Brown withdrew from 2020 presidential consideration.
Earnest, committed, and even contentious, a text that will cause liberals to smile and conservatives to gnash their teeth.