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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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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