Monday, November 20, 2006

Books on Review

One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century
Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten

Despite the Bush Administration's current unpopularity, Hamburger and Wallsten contend, the Republican domination of American politics is unlikely to end anytime soon. In this astutely argued polemic, the authors note that political hegemony today has less to do with a party's popularity than it does with pinpoint marketing, judiciary packing and artful gerrymandering. Political mastermind Karl Rove is quoted as having remarked about the young George W. Bush: "He was exuding more charisma that any one individual should be allowed to have." Nevertheless, Rove has relied not upon Bush's charisma, but rather pro-industry regulation to build Republican war chests, careful selection of congressional candidates, and grassroots campaigning of the sort that used to be the province of Democrats. From lobbying to single-issue marketing to co-opting traditional Democratic constituencies (Hispanics, African Americans, Jews, immigrants), the authors find that the Republican machine appears to have identified and commodified every potential vote in the nation. Unfortunately, there's a crippling streak of self-defeatism underlying the text: the Republican agenda is portrayed as an invincible crushing force, and the book provides no view into the limits of Republican power. This convincing work certainly calls attention to the threat that the U.S. may soon be one red state nation under God, but for those who would sooner be dead than red, the authors offer little solace.

Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive For Permanent Power
Thomas Byrne Edsall

In this comprehensive and insightful book, Edsall shows just how much angrier Democrats could be—not least of all at themselves—if only they knew the half of what was going on. A senior political reporter for the Washington Post, he knows the capitol's ins and outs as well as anyone, without the bedfellowism of some other Washington journalists. The book goes a long way to explain why Bush, who ran in 2000 as a "uniter, not a divider," proceeded with an aggressively right-wing strategy once in power. Beginning with the revelation to conservative thinkers in 2000 that the "center of the electorate had collapsed," Edsall assiduously details every aspect of their successful push to galvanize their base and emasculate their opponents. "Without pressure to accommodate the center," he adds, "Republicans in the majority have been, with little cost, relatively unresponsive to criticism." Hence, the administration managed to draw both working-class evangelicals (using classic "wedge issues" like race and outrage over gay rights and abortion) and wealthy K Street lobbyists with little consequence. But he also shows that the Democrats lack salable strategies and have lost "a decisive majority of white voters." With depth and journalistic clarity, Edsall illustrates exactly why, more than ever, Democrats need their own Karl Rove.

Winning Right: Campaign Politics and Conservative Policies
Ed Gillespie

The former Republican National Committee chairman channels his inner Sun Tzu in this memoir-cum-campaign primer, serving up pithy lessons learned on various campaigns...

Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South
Thomas F. Schaller

Instead of "futile pandering to the nation's most conservative voters," in the South, Democrats should build a non-Southern majority to regain dominance, argues Schaller, a University of Maryland political scientist, in this focused, tactical account. The Republicans' Southern monopoly may have helped them achieve national majorities in the past, but it has never constituted a majority alone, Schaller explains. There are greener pastures for Democrats at all levels of elected government: the Midwest, Southwest and Mountain West...

One of these books seems to have been especially prescient, both in its arrival date as well as its message (and messenger). Can you guess which one?

No comments: