Wake Up, You’re Liberal!: How We Can Take America Back from the Right

My first all-prose book marks the beginning of the end of my belief that the Democratic Party was redeemable. Although I have come to believe that moving beyond the duopoly is necessary, liberals and progressives who have not followed me down the radical path will find much to like here.

Declaring that there hasn’t been a “real” Democrat in the White House since Lyndon Johnson, I decried the hijacking of the government by right-wingers and the seeming powerlessness of the left to stop them. Seeing the left in disarray, I told liberald how to organize a vibrant, relevant alternative to rightist rule and make life better for vast numbers of people in the process. In order to enjoy  mainstream majority status, I argued, liberals should strive to create a viable American left centered around an effective Democratic party.

Why is the American Left in disarray and can anything be done about it? That question has haunted progressives and others who care about democracy for several decades. The revitalization of the left in general and the Democratic Party in general was more pressing than ever when this book was written. The latter, however, is probably impossible at this point.

To research this book I examined hundreds of polls of voter attitudes, talked to political experts and ordinary Americans and studied media coverage of the two major parties to come up with a theoretical new political party–one that would synthesize the liberal, conservative and libertarian impulses that drive the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens, regardless of their party affiliation.

What I found was startling. On most issues, Americans–even Republicans–tend to favor values that could be best described as liberal. They fail to support candidates that agree with them on these issues, however, when they perceive hypocrisy or inconsistency in those men and women.

The introduction is by George McGovern.

Aghast that America has gone to the far-right dogs, editorial cartoonist and columnist Ted Rall wants it back in commonsense—that is, liberal—hands.

Democrats and Republicans alike have ceded the communal high ground, he writes with particular energy, and radical conservatives are ramped on greed and self-righteousness. What we need at this closing-on-fascism juncture, Rall declares, is a reformed Democratic Party, longtime purveyor of a liberalism that aims to “help the downtrodden, not coddle slackers” and can prudently protect our nation without giving up basic liberties—indeed, that will protect individual rights via the Bill of Rights. America has never been a conservative nation, the author asserts: in the 20th century alone, it tamed the Industrial Revolution with regulation and labor laws, set up a social safety net, fought fascism, expanded civil rights, and lifted the sociopolitical status of minorities. Not perfectly, Rall admits, but at least the angle was correct. Is it right for a CEO to pay himself millions as he lays off thousands, or for someone to kill a man because he is gay or Iraqi, or for hospitals to allow people to die because they can’t pay for medical help? It’s not just a matter of statistics, he argues, though those also help prove his point; an instinctive “no” to all of the above is part of the American persona. How has the Republican right virtually consumed the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government? Because of the Democratic Party’s lack of focus, its lack of cool, its unwillingness to approach politics as a barroom fight rather than a tea party, states Rall. He tenders an encouraging Democratic platform, with winning issues from minimum wage to college tuition to vacation time. Senator Kerry could do worse than to read closely this flurry of smart advice (aside from the author’s fondness for they-pull-a-knife, you-pull-a-gun politics), which serves as a quick, bracing, and welcome series of wake-up slaps. —Kirkus Reviews

Political Manifesto (All prose, no cartoons), 2004
Soft Skull Press Paperback, 6″x9″, 336 pp., $15.95

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