A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

3 July 2017 — 0845 mdt

Summer reads for progressives

Updated 7 July. Ten weeks of summer remain. If you read a book a week, you can get through this list easily. I recommend starting with Asymmetric Politics, Shattered, and White Working Class.

Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats. Matt Grossmann and David Hopkins, September, 2016. Oxford University Press. Democrats consider compromise an intrinsic good. Republicans consider it a betrayal of principle. That’s just one of many ways America’s two major political parties differ from each other.

The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream. Jacob S. Hacker, 2008. Oxford University Press. How and why the principles of social insurance upon which Social Security and Medicare rest have been inverted and corrupted by the you’re on your own crowd that dominates today’s Republican Party and threatens three generations of social progress. Read this to understand the philosophical basis of Trump-Ryan-McConnell Care.

White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America. Joan C. Williams, May, 2017. Harvard Business Review Press. Whites without a college degree, once the backbone of the Democratic Party, voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a 39 percent margin. They love Social Security and Medicare, but hate food stamps, and resent academics and other elites. Williams explains why, and how Democrats can bring the defectors back to the political party that for all its faults still has their best interests at heart.

The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns. Sasha Issenberg, 2012. Broadway Books/Random House. Have you ever received a letter, email, or phone call, that tried to shame you into voting or donating money? That reminded you of an outlaw bill collector? Issenberg explains the social science behind these disreputable, but effective, techniques, and takes you inside Obama’s 2008 campaign for a look at how his data specialists discovered and exploited opportunities to reach voters and convince them to mark their ballots for Obama.

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t. Nate Silver, 2012 (paperback, 2015). Penguin Press. A good companion book for The Victory Lab. Public opinion polling is one kind of prediction. Weather forecasting is another. A fascinating, clearly written, book that one can understand without having a degree in mathematics.

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign. Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, April, 2017. Crown/Random House. In 2008, Hillary Clinton proved she knew how to run a losing primary campaign. Last year, she proved she also knew how to snatch defeat out the jaws of victory in a general election: hire a control freak campaigner, promise to put a lot of coal miners out of work, diss the white working class as deplorable racists and homophobes, spend money where she couldn’t win, pinch pennies where she could win, and never come clean on her speeches to Goldman Sachs. When Shattered was published, her sycophants tried to discredit the book, but only succeeded in boosting its sales.

Social Security Works!: Why Social Security Isn’t Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All. Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson, with introduction by David Cay Johnson, January, 2015. Altman also wrote The Battle for Social Security, which also belongs on your bookshelf. Social Security is so successful a program that even Donald Trump has promised not to cut it, but the far right has fought to eliminate the masterpiece of the New Deal since its passage in 1935. Altman and Kingson marshal the arguments you can use to defend Social Security.

Timing and Turnout: How Off-Cycle Elections Favor Organized Groups. Sarah F. Anzia, 2013. University of Chicago Press. Teachers unions and municipal employees unions like low turnout elections because their members can exert a disproportionate influence on the outcome. That theory’s not new, but Anzia’s proof that it’s true is — and her book seriously riled, and riles, a lot of unions. In fact, conservatives may appreciate Timing and Turnout more than progressives.

Taxing the Poor: Doing Damage to the Truly Disadvantaged. Katherine S. Newman and Rourke O’Brien, 2011. University of California Press. Montana does not have a sales tax — and this book will make progressives doubly glad of that. That Alabama has one of the nation’s most regressive tax structures will not surprise anyone, but some may be taken aback to learn that so does Washington, a state known to some conservatives as the Soviet of Puget Sound. Taxing the Poor is becoming a bit pricy; look for used copies.

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. Nancy Isenberg, June, 2016 (Penguin paperback with new preface, April, 2017). Viking. The highly acclaimed, impeccably researched, wryly written, lowdown on the low down.

Added 7 July. Listen Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People? Thomas Frank, March, 2016. Metropolitan Books/Macmillian. A powerful, eloquent, convincing, indictment of the Democratic Party — the party that once represented lunch bucket Joes and Jills but now represents their bosses and educated elites with more book learning than common sense and decency.