E.J. Dionne Jr. & Norman J. Ornstein & Thomas E. Mann
PositiveThe Washington PostIts emphasis is less on Trump, however, than on the long-term structural and cultural changes that made his election possible. The authors have no patience for a ‘both sides’ argument about the degradation of our political culture. They lay the blame firmly within the Republican Party … So what is to be done? If the book’s first half focuses on the sorry state of things today, the second half focuses on how to not make the same mistakes in the future. The authors claim to be genuinely — if tentatively — hopeful about what Trump’s election may ultimately yield for American civic life … It is hard to object to much about these plans, with their emphasis on fairness and comity and partisan goodwill. And yet there is something incongruous about the authors’ belief that good policy, judiciously presented, will yield the desired political transformation. As the authors note, one of the more depressing lessons of the 2016 election was that policy simply didn’t matter much.
PanThe New York Times Book Review[Lilla] says his aim is to unify today’s fractured liberals around an agenda 'emphasizing what we all share and owe one another as citizens, not what differentiates us.' Unfortunately, he does this in a way guaranteed to alienate vast swaths of his audience, and to deepen left-of-center divisions. Rather than engage in good faith with movements like Black Lives Matter, Lilla chooses to mock them, reserving a particularly meanspirited sneer for today’s campus left ... All too often Lilla opts for attitude over substance. Though he calls for liberals to adopt 'a coldly realistic view of how we live now,' he spends much of his book jeering from afar at millennial 'social justice warriors,' whose 'resentful, disuniting rhetoric' supposedly destroyed a once-great liberal tradition ... Lilla’s labels can be slippery; he often conflates liberals, leftists and Democrats. By contrast he takes a rather narrow view of 'identity politics' as something practiced mainly by left-wing movements and not, say, by the Republican Party ... The Once and Future Liberal is a missed opportunity of the highest order, trolling disguised as erudition.
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewDespite Ulrich’s emphasis on women’s voices and ideas, A House Full of Females centers its narrative in part on a man named Wilford Woodruff. An apostle of the church and one of Mormonism’s early converts, Woodruff played a significant role in Mormon history. But his most important quality, from Ulrich’s perspective, is that he kept a detailed diary ... In asking readers to enter Wilford and Phebe’s world, Ulrich assumes a certain amount of background knowledge. She takes for granted that her readers know something about the landmark events of early Mormonism ... A House Full of Females is sensitive to the difficulty and confusion that accompanied early plural marriage, with its implied loss of status for women. But the book also tells a more complicated tale about women’s on-the-ground experiences ... yet in the best ways, A House Full of Females remains a work of traditional 'women’s history,' a straightforward exploration of women’s lives and experiences on their own terms.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewFrank has been delivering some version of this message for the past two decades as a political essayist and a founding editor of The Baffler magazine. Listen, Liberal is the thoroughly entertaining if rather gloomy work of a man who feels that nobody has been paying attention ... Frank’s book is an unabashed polemic, not a studious examination of policy or polling trends. In Frank’s view, liberal policy wonks are part of the problem, members of a well-educated elite that massages its own technocratic vanities while utterly missing the big question of the day ... But [his] conclusion, too, may rest on a faulty analogy with the 1930s. Franklin Roosevelt did not suddenly decide on his own to enact Social Security or grant union rights. Those ideas came up from below, through decades of frustration and struggle and conflict.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAs the historian Steve Fraser demonstrates in his wide-ranging new book, the idea of the 'limousine liberal' has a long and messy history all its own...Despite its title, however, Fraser’s book is not really about liberals and their supposed foibles. Instead, he seeks to describe how 'right-wing populists' have insulted, vilified, mocked and analyzed those liberals in both the present and the past.