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We're now checking off the days, as the count-down to the Presidential election is in full swing. As we head into the home stretch of this decidedly charged election season, we thought we'd suggest some current political books to assist you prepare to cast your vote.
Supreme Court journalist and New York Times editorial board member Jesse Wegman makes a case for abolishing the Electoral College, noting that the winner-takes-all model means that millions of voters become irrelevant in a presidential election that is often decided by voters in key "battleground" states. For example, the millions of Republicans in 'blue' California and millions of Democrats in 'red' Texas are people all of whom just disappear when it's time to actually cast the electoral votes, because of the winner-take-all rule. Wegman says "the way the Electoral College operates today is not carved in stone. The winner-take-all rule is really just a state invention. There's nothing keeping us from changing it to a different method." This book should be required reading for Americans, as a means of understanding the history of the Electoral College and how it continues to determine the Presidential election outcome.
Fun fact: President Trump may have committed felony voter fraud in Florida, when he initially listed his residence as 1600 Pennsylvania on his voter registration. Felons in some states lose their right to vote — forever! — and needless to say, the law is applied unequally by race. In a state-by-state and tactic-by-tactic review, Daley shows how state legislatures and county governments have tried to suppress voting by voters they believe will not vote for their party. From the petty (not letting college students vote in the state where they go to college — without a car — if they don't change their driver's license address) to the venal — giving Native Americans only three hours a month in which they can register to vote in a building hours from their residence, and only if they have a street address (which few do) — the will of incumbents to keep their personal entitlements knows no bounds. Cue the fair voting activists, like Katie Fahey in Michigan with her "Voters Not Politicians" drive, mathematicians using Monte Carlo simulations in court to disprove the fairness of gerrymandered districts, and Stephanie Hofeller who handed over to Common Cause evidence that her father had enabled a generation of suppressive voter ID laws in the name of non-existent voter fraud. An inspiring and suspenseful story of claiming democracy for all, and the playbook for the change we all need. — Carla
This should be required reading in the lead-up to the 2020 election. Zerlina Maxwell clearly and eloquently analyzes where our politics are right now, and where they need to go. This book so perfectly articulates the need for progressive identity-based politics that aren't white politics, and she looks at all of the major and minor political players to make her case. Maxwell's perspective on electoral politics will definitely invigorate readers and voters: so register to vote and then go pick up this book! — Julia
After the 2010 census, when the Republican Party successfully outmaneuvered the Democratic party and gerrymandered state and congressional districts, Grover "I hate taxes" Norquist said: "We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We just need a president to sign this stuff. Pick a Republican with enough digits to handle a pen to become President of the United States." Very sharpie of him. Norquist recently took millions in government small business coronavirus "bailout" money for his anti-tax foundation because, priorities. "How the South" is about the major warp and weft threads of our national story. Equality for all makes progress, to be trounced by oligarchy. Southern Plantation owners to Western mine owners and cattle ranchers to oil barons suppressing slaves, then sharecroppers and miners, then migrant workers and nursing home aides. Women and people of color disenfranchised by very wealthy white men and their fellow travelers. A false oligarch narrative of violence and fear and communism/socialism/the radical left while wealth trickles up. If your last major romp through US history was Plessy vs. Ferguson, prepare for some shock and ire as you learn that America is the home of the brave, but the brave are often people you have not heard about. Richardson, the author of the indispensable newsletter "Letters from an American," has managed to vault over historians like Doris Kearns Goodwin and John Meacham, with an essential read, and an essential service to all of us who want to understand why up is down. Tracing the entire political history of America in 200 pages (and in a way that would cause the Texas State Board of Education to go into total apoplexy) you will read it and go OMG, finish it and breathe, and then immediately want to read it again. — Carla
Glaude (whose eloquence, wisdom and perspective as an MSNBCcontributor I admire) is just the person to do justice to an analysis of the writings of Baldwin, one of the greatest writers and most influential thinkers of the 20thcentury. Glaude suggests that we are in one of the “after” times, when the Black Lives Matter movement has been challenged by the Trump presidency. He analizes Baldwin’s writings about similar movements during his lifetime (the non-violent approach of MLK, the Black Power movement of the late 60’s & 70’s) which culminated in the dark, disappointing after time of Reagan’s presidency, to suggest how Baldwin would view the Trump years and how he would want us to move forward. Though Baldwin despaired over constant setbacks and his thinking about the movement evolved with the times, one thing remained constant in his writings—hope—hope that though we would never have a perfect union, we could have a more just one if only Americans could rid themselves of the belief that white people matter more. To do this they must first face and accept as truth the lies that they’ve lived with. Reading this powerful, enlightening and beautifully written book is a step to take in that direction. – Jeanne
Confession: I've watched thousands of hours of the "Food Network" (good white noise to stop the dog barking at people outside walking) and fewer than 20 of Fox "News." In this well-researched, riveting and damning book, Stelter makes clear that whatever intentions Ailes and Murdoch had when they founded the "lifestyle brand," to make it a conservative cable network, it took a sharp turn in 2008 when a Black man was elected president, and its attacks on Obama were surprisingly well received by the hitherto more silent racist minority. (Fox has daily ratings meetings analyzing minute by minute.) It's filled with stories about how college drop-out and "elites" hating Sean Hannity turned into the president whisperer, and "phones" his stories in — he was on tape on the last big election night! — from his mansions in Long Island and Naples. How the Russian Intelligence Agency invented the cruel Seth Rich conspiracy to hurt Hillary Clinton, and how Fox ran with it. How Gretchen Carlson's lawsuit included complaints of "severe and pervasive sexual harassment" by nice guy Steve Doocy. How "Team Roger" member and "leg chair" Kimberly Guilfoyle had no choice but to hitch a ride on the "Trump Train," after being forced out of Fox. Since the only reading that Trump does is Twitter and Fox News chyrons (Stelter's reporting indicates he watches opinion TV for hours a day), the eternal feedback loop of Hannity, Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson, and Trump Twitter has created a state-supported propaganda machine of unparalleled destruction. The author quotes David Plouffe arguing with Brian Kilmeade on a rare appearance on Fox and Friends: "Media accounts should hold the powerful to account, not the account to the powerful." — Carla
An intimate and revealing portrait of civil rights icon and longtime U.S. congressman John Lewis, linking his life to the painful quest for justice in America from the 1950s to the present—from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of "The Soul of America." Meacham calls Lewis “as important to the founding of a modern and multiethnic twentieth- and twenty-first-century America as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and Samuel Adams were to the initial creation of the Republic itself in the eighteenth century.” A believer in the injunction that one should love one's neighbor as oneself, Lewis was arguably a saint in our time, risking limb and life to bear witness for the powerless in the face of the powerful.
It's a brilliantly ironic idea to send an adventure travel writer to embed with Trump political rally super fans, and report back on their beliefs and behaviors. Eating with, saving their spots together at the front of the lines (sometimes for days), rushing into the auditorium as one, learning their life stories and how they became MAGA devotees, Hoffman is always respectful, but clear-eyed. The fans run the spectrum from obviously mentally ill to gullible to lonely, but smart enough to know better. The book shows how hard it is to convince a friend or relative that their world view is a cynical social media driven web of conspiracy theories, either designed to undermine Western democracy or promote a particularly extremist version of Christianity: "If you believed the Rapture was imminent and were looking for the Mark of the Beast, why not that vaccines caused autism or that the Q Clock was a font of coded messages or that Hillary Clinton raped babies or that the deep state in collusion with the Fake News was trying to stage a coup?" Still, the book is not all grim. There are funny details about the rally programming (jumbotron Lara Trump, over and over). And gay anthems "YMCA" — with crowd participation — and "Macho Man" — the second to last song before Trump appears to the strains of "God Bless the USA" — were always a part of the eight rallies the author attended. — Carla
Veteran Washington Post correspondent and author Bob Woodward delves deep into some of the 45th president’s most consequential foreign and domestic policy choices. The book includes recent widely reported claims that Mr. Trump knew how deadly Covid-19 was, yet deliberately chose to downplay it, putting the lives of millions at risk. It’s not just lies about the coronavirus, Woodward writes of the President as a man who can’t tell fantasy from reality.
A family portrait of Donald Trump, his parents, and his siblings, this is the first Trump family memoir that sounds truthful. Mary's psychological profile of her Uncle's sociopathy and its root causes in an abusive father are compelling. Even after all the news leaks from the book, there were many stories that I had not yet heard. One of the most intriguing offers the best evidence yet that Trump is not the multi-billionaire he claims to be. After the bankrupted casinos and the schemes that defrauded tax collectors, Mary Trump notes that the entire Trump Management Company was sold in 2004 following Fred Trump's death — to just one buyer and at a huge discount. This was likely to stave off Donald Trump's debts (why his siblings did not protest is the heart of the book). Even to this day, you can find news stories saying the huge jump in his income from 2004 to 2005 must have been due to "The Apprentice" and no mention of the sale of thousands of apartments that his father had acquired. Split four ways, it netted each of Fred Trump's children 170 million dollars, instead of the bank's valuation of 250 million. A great deal — for the buyer. — Carla
— and to share the election season with your kids, here's a picture book about Joe Biden:
Biden’s anecdotal portrait of her spouse’s early years spotlights his competitiveness and risk-taking as a boy who “never refused a dare, even when it was dangerous.” But she places equal emphasis on his role as a peacemaker, devoted brother, and defender of bullied peers—an empathy nurtured by his own experience being mocked for stuttering. The narrative also underscores the influence of his parents’ unwavering encouragement and belief in his ability to succeed, and reveals how Joe Biden’s metamorphosis in high school, when he became a star athlete and class president, paved the way for leadership roles in college and beyond. Bates contributes softly focused, Rockwellian mixed-media illustrations that effectively chart time’s passage. The author’s tone is expectedly laudatory (she cites President Obama’s proclamation that Joe Biden was “the best vice president America’s ever had” and describes her husband as “always voted ‘most liked’ ”), and a line about the figure being “not privileged” strikes an odd note. A concluding timeline concisely supplies details of the 2020 presidential hopeful’s personal and political lives. Ages 4–8.
— plus a picture book written by Kamala Harris' niece:
A beautiful, empowering picture book about two sisters who work with their community to effect change, inspired by a true story from the childhood of Meena Harris's aunt, US Senator Kamala Harris, and Meena's mother, lawyer and policy expert Maya Harris. Share this inspiring picture book with young readers to help introduce vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris.
— as RBG's passing is impacting on the election, here's a book for you and your children to share:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived a remarkable life and has left behind an indelible legacy. Her legal career, including working for the American Civil Liberties Union where she headed the Women's Rights Project, spanned more than half a century, culminating in her appointment in 1993 to the United States Supreme Court. Overcoming gender discrimination in the legal field, she became a forceful voice for women's interests and civil rights throughout her career. A feminist icon to generations of women and girls and, in her later years, an unexpected pop culture hero, Ginsburg's life and career are inspiring to many. Learn more about the life, career and views of Ruth Bader Ginsburg—and share her story with a young person.