A cleareyed argument that “strategy and governing [have] been replaced by instincts and partisan id.”

THE IMPOSTORS

HOW REPUBLICANS QUIT GOVERNING AND SEIZED AMERICAN POLITICS

A political writer argues that “the modern Republican Party has become a post-policy party.”

In this thoroughly researched book, Benen, blogger and award-winning producer of the Rachel Maddow Show, makes a solid case that in recent years, Republicans have repeatedly upended their once-cherished beliefs in order to focus on more power-oriented political and ideological goals. The author clearly demonstrates how Republicans have consistently reversed positions in order to score points against the Democrats, whether on trade, taxes, guns, immigration, or deficits. Regarding deficits, “since Watergate, every Democratic president has left office with a deficit smaller than when he started, and every Republican president has left office with a deficit larger than when he arrived.” Furthermore, even when Republicans agreed with Democrats, at least in principle, as in the case of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, their votes often failed to reflect bipartisanship. Despite 130 congressional hearings over multiple committees, Republicans—who had once supported many of the Affordable Care Act’s tenets—claimed Obama had “rammed through” the ACA. A particularly ironic example of willful contrariness was the Ebola crisis of 2014, during which Republicans either accused Obama of being “too hands off” or of being alarmist. Donald Trump, who had yet to declare his candidacy, even called for his resignation. The author ably lays out the many disturbing trends in the Republican political arena, making a convincing case for his argument that the GOP has “quit governing” and now merely focuses on attaining and wielding power or simply negating any progress made by Democrats. Unfortunately, given the pace at which events unfold in today’s political landscape, much of the narrative may feel like old news not long after publication.

A cleareyed argument that “strategy and governing [have] been replaced by instincts and partisan id.”

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-302648-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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