A manifesto that looks to the past to find direction for the future.

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SOUL OF A DEMOCRAT

THE SEVEN FOUNDING MYTHS THAT CAN BRING OUR PARTY BACK TO POWER

The Democratic Party must refocus its efforts against the Republican Party, showing that their values are different and that the game is rigged.

Providing plenty of historical context, Reston, son of famed New York Times editor James Reston and a two-time secretary of the State Democratic Party in Virginia, argues that his party has lost its way—and perhaps even its soul. It has become divided into identity-politics blocs which too often fight with each other rather than unite against the opposition. It must return to first principles, writes the author, to the inspiration of Jefferson and Jackson, James Polk and Manifest Destiny, William Jennings Bryan and his evangelical exhortations toward politics based on morality, the eloquence of Adlai Stevenson, and the ebullience of Hubert Humphrey. “Without its founding myths, the Party wanders,” writes Reston, a former aide to President Jimmy Carter, with whom he doesn’t seem much impressed. Though he attempts a balance between pragmatism and idealism, urging that Democrats must again become the party of the white working class that shifted much of its support to Donald Trump, he never really gets specific about how his expansive, big-tent approach will heal the party’s fault lines; it will be difficult for those on the opposite sides of the abortion debate or immigration issues to set aside their polarized differences for the greater good of the party. “It’s more difficult to be a Democrat,” he concedes. “We are operating inside a vast and diverse coalition of ideas and ideals, and usually our opponents are not. Therefore, our task as Democrats is to imagine and encompass the nation as a whole, not just one or two narrow and cohesive slices of it. For this reason, we have to be purposeful in seeking out and embracing our own internal contradictions.”

A manifesto that looks to the past to find direction for the future.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-17605-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: All Points/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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