HARD LEFT by Tavis Smiley


Straight Talk about the Wrongs of the Right
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 Liberal pulpit-pounding from a young master of the exploding what's-wrong-with- America genre. ``People are tired of being preached to, from the Left and Right,'' talk-radio host Smiley observes. That said, he does an awful lot of preaching in this short book, in which he aims to convert his audience to Democratic populism through a mix of folksy exhortation (``well, we'd darn well better raise our voices quickly before the rhetoric of the Right overwhelms us all'') and broad-view oratory (``whites today weren't responsible for slavery. But they have indirectly benefitted from the racial inequality and economic injustice that arose out of it''). In measured moments, Smiley offers sensible observations on the desirability of consensus-building and unification; drawing on his background as a poor black in a largely white area of rural Indiana, near the national headquarters of the KKK, he insists that people of all ethnicities can get along and form an equitable political coalition. He also gives credit where it is due, allowing that when conservatives ``talk about the moral fabric of our country being torn apart and the need for a return to family values, they are right.'' Still, for Smiley the left is the Democratic Party, the right the Republicans, which leaves an awful lot of political territory unexplored, and he is too obviously impressed by his own influence (``the real power in this country today is in the media,'' he avers) to be entirely convincing. Some of his facts are questionable, too--he claims, for instance, that while smoking kills half a million Americans a year, illegal drugs produce only 3,000 deaths, which seems a gross undercalculation. But no matter: Smiley is on a roll throughout this book, and his enthusiasm for his cases bears his arguments along even when pure logic doesn't. In the end, the preaching is directed to the choir, no matter how good the oratory may be.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1996
ISBN: 0-385-48404-6
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Anchor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996

Kirkus Interview
Tavis Smiley
author of DEATH OF A KING
November 6, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr. died in one of the most shocking assassinations the world has known, but little is remembered about the life he led in his final year. In Death of a King, New York Times bestselling author and award-winning broadcaster Tavis Smiley recounts the final 365 days of King's life, revealing the minister's trials and tribulations—denunciations by the press, rejection from the president, dismissal by the country's black middle class and militants, assaults on his character, ideology, and political tactics, to name a few—all of which he had to rise above in order to lead and address the racism, poverty and militarism that threatened to destroy our democracy. We caught up with Smiley at the Texas Book Festival to ask him about the book. View video >


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