A scrupulously reasonable and analytically rigorous account of a historically significant election.

DO WE HAVE A CENTER?

2016, 2020, AND THE CHALLENGE OF THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY

A writer offers an analysis of the 2016 American presidential election, the meaning of Donald Trump’s victory, and a way forward to a less divisive brand of political discourse. 

Frank (Law and the Gay Rights Story, 2014, etc.) begins his provocative study with a conventional observation. The contemporary political landscape resembles a “battle between two feudal armies,” an irresolvable war between mutually exclusive ideologies espoused by camps that wouldn’t deign to break bread with their adversaries across the aisle. But, the author avers, that polarization didn’t commence with Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency. And neither this problem nor his election is widely understood. Frank rejects the oft-repeated narrative that Trump leveraged “white racial anxiety” into votes. While he certainly exploited racial tensions to his political benefit, the reasons for his appeal are both more complex and numerous. First, Trump had the advantage of running against a notably uncharismatic candidate who presided over an incompetently managed campaign—Hillary Clinton lacked both a stirring “grand vision” and a real sense of the electorate’s demands. In addition, Trump tapped into a profound wellspring of civic frustration that included an exhaustion with military adventurism, crony corporatism, and elite privilege. The author anticipates that Trump will be an “extremely formidable candidate” in 2020. But Frank sketches a path forward for Democrats to an electoral victory, and for the country as a whole out of the weeds of bottomless partisanship, a genuinely centrist comportment based on a “willingness to consider all the possible ways to attack a problem without pre-conceived biases against one set of solutions because of their source.” The author provides an intellectual model of the very centrism he advocates. While he candidly declares his own political allegiances—he’s a Democrat hoping that the president loses in 2020—he sympathetically assesses those who supported Trump, and provides a lucid account of their motivations. In addition, his analysis of the shortcomings of Clinton’s campaign is similarly astute: “It was as if the Clinton campaign did not even see Pennsylvania as a real place where real people lived in a variety of settings. Rather, for her campaign the state was simply a statistical aggregation of voters and since her voters were primarily in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, that’s where she went.” His anatomy of the principal causes of the nation’s combative partisanship—he largely attributes its rise to the emergence of uncommonly emotional issues—is less persuasive. There have been issues of deep moral and existential exigencies over the course of the nation’s entire history. But Frank’s study as a whole is a valuable one. While he expresses alarm at the damage Trump may be inflicting on the nation’s political institutions, he hopefully extols the resilience of America’s federalist system. In fact, he avoids even a hint of melodramatic fatalism: “We have every reason to be smart. We have no reason to despair.”

A scrupulously reasonable and analytically rigorous account of a historically significant election. 

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-578-54105-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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