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

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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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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