There are many reasons to write a memoir. Some authors reveal intimate experiences in the hope that the subtleties of one life will resonate for many. Others seek to tell whopping good insider tales or simply to set the record straight. John Kerry’s memoir tries to do a bit of all three. At about 600 pages, it offers a detailed, blow-by-blow account of Kerry’s life from birth to the present, recounting his path from naval officer to antiwar activist to local politician and finally to Democratic presidential candidate and secretary of state. More here.
In the late 1960s, the veteran radical Saul Alinsky looked at American society and did not like what he saw. With the antiwar and civil rights movements at critical junctures, many young activists seemed to be forgetting how to build and sustain power, turning instead toward showy street protest and random acts of violence. So Alinsky published, in 1971, his landmark book, “Rules for Radicals” — a guide to “tactics, maneuvers, strategy and principles of action in the making of revolutions.” Using terms that might have been plucked from a military manual, he sought to wrest the high art of strategy away from the “Haves” of the world and give it to the “Have-Nots.” More here.
“Can you donate $5 NOW to defeat the socialist uprising?” a Republican congressional candidate tweeted in late June — just after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-identified democratic socialist, won a New York congressional primary. Numerically speaking, the socialist “uprising” remains small: one safe-seat Democratic primary, a presidential-primary near miss by Bernie Sanders, a handful of local races around the country and a total membership of about 40,000 for the Democratic Socialists of America. What it all means, though, is a different matter. More here.
Five or six decades ago, a big crowd meant something big. When 250,000 people gathered for the 1963 March on Washington, or nearly a million showed up for the 1982 anti-nukes rally in Central Park, it symbolized a certain power and legitimacy, a collective coming-of-age. A major protest presented a huge organizational challenge, and pulling one off delivered a potent message: Here was a force to be reckoned with. More here.
When we elect politicians to office, it’s with the expectation (or at least the hope) that they will do something meant to improve our lives. Presumably this improvement will require change, the correction of past mistakes or persistent injustices — a process known, in its most benevolent guise, as “reform.” More here.
Still gobsmacked by the 2016 election, many liberals may be yearning for a thoughtful, generous and well-informed book to put it all in perspective, a strategic account of where they’ve been, where they are now and where they ought to go. In “The Once and Future Liberal,” Mark Lilla, a professor of the humanities at Columbia and a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, 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. More here.
Late in the 19th century, America was besieged by grave problems: rising economic inequality, violent labor struggles, deep conflicts over immigration and race. But the nation’s leaders seemed incapable of addressing any of these things; they frittered away their hours in disputes over tariffs and trade, and when election time came, they lined up in their respective parties, each one hoping for the chance to distribute the federal spoils to itself. Read more.
Once again, Donald Trump has done something that no president before him dared to do. This time, he has fired an F.B.I. director engaged in an active and continuing investigation of his own campaign. Read here.
A Q&A with historian Beverly Gage about the history of conflicts between FBI directors and the executive branch. Read here.
Conservatives have long complained that “I don’t recognize my country anymore.” In Trump’s America, though, it’s liberals who see something insufficiently, well, American. (Read more.)