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Archive for the ‘books’ Category

The following is a section from Paul Krugman’s The Conscience of a Liberal. The book is full of excellent insights and provides a brief history of the twentieth century political economy. One of the major claims of the book is that universal health care–one with a mandate for coverage–is the essential step in reducing social/economic inequality.

I like this section–actually the final one in the book–as it expresses the need for a strong candidate who can argue for her (ahem!) policy proposals and fight off the conservative attacks. We don’t need a message of uniting the country–as if Dems and GOPs could agree on the need for universal health care–but we do need our own strong partisan.

On Being Partisan

The progressive agenda is clear and achievable, but it will face fierce opposition. The central fact of modern American political life is the control of the Republican Party by movement conservatives, whose vision of what America should be is completely antithetical to that of the progressive movement. Because of that control, the notion, beloved of political pundits, that we can make progress through bipartisan consensus is simply foolish. On health care reform, which is the first domestic priority for progressives, there’s no way to achieve a bipartisan compromise between Republicans who want to strangle Medicare and Democrats who want guaranteed coverage for all. When a health care reform plan is actually presented to Congress, the leaders of movement conservatism will do what they did in 1993–urge Republicans to oppose the plan in any form, lest successful health reform undermine the movement conservative agenda. And most Republicans will probably go along.

 To be progressive, then, means being a partisan–at least for now. The only way a progressive agenda can be enacted is if Democrats have both the presidency and a large enough majority in Congress to overcome Republican opposition. And achieving that kind of political preponderance will require leadership that makes opponents of the progressive agenda pay a political price for their obstructionism–leadership that, like FDR, welcomes the hatred of the interest groups trying to prevent us from making our society better.

If the new progressive movement succeeds, the need for partisanship will eventually diminish. In the 1950s you could support Social Security and unions and yet still vote for Eisenhower in good conscience, because the Republican Party had eventually (and temporarily) accepted the New Deal’s achievements. In the long run we can hope for a return to that kind of politics: two reasonable parties that accept all that is best in our country but compete over their ability to deliver a decent life to all Americans, and keep each other honest.

For now, being an active liberal means being a progressive, and being a progressive means being partisan. But the end goal isn’t one-party rule. It’s the reestablishment of a truly vital, competitive democracy. Because in the end, democracy is what being a liberal is all about. 

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Currently Reading

Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite writers, and this book is fantastic. Read it.

Some kind of theme developing, eh? I reserved this book and BK’s from the library back in June, and they arrived within days of each other. It’s good and practical. But terrifying.

Another book that’s all about change. Leftists: embrace fantasy! I’m only a chapter in, but will likely blog about this one in the future.

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Currently Reading

The Mistress’s Daughter by A.M. Homes
Already finished this one. Wanda heard my undigested take on the book, but after digested, it doesn’t fare much better. I like the book, but the structure seems all wrong–it’s uneven. Book One – “The Mistress’s Daughter” is great; it’s strange, unsettling, and laced with Amy Homes’ signatures. But it ends abruptly and without any emotional unpacking. Hence the first piece in Book Two–“Unpacking My Mother.” Easily the best piece in the book because of its material focus. Homes is in control of her work here. “The Electronic Anthropologist” is boring and indulgent–she becomes obsessed with geneology and spends a small fortune (and much paper pulp) on her hobby. Finally (skipping a couple of pieces), “My Grandmother’s Table” is sentimental, and seems better placed in a homemakers’ glossy mag than as a bookend to Homes’ first memoir. What is it that makes this such a difficult genre?

The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr
Yet to begin.


Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
Yet to begin. Veace: this has you written all over it. Let’s read and discuss.


A Death Retold: Jesica Santillan, The Bungled Transplant, and Paradoxes of Medical Citizenship edited by Keith Wailoo, Julie Livingston, and Peter Guarnaccia
Remember this story? In February 2003, a seventeen-year-old Mexican immigrant received a heart/lung transplant of the wrong blood type. At the time, I was beginning the process of trying to be listed for a lung transplant, and this case reminded me of the tenacious nature of what I was about to do. My aunt (half-) joked at the time that I should have my blood type tattooed on my chest; I was grateful that there was now one mistake that could certainly not happen (again). This book is a collection of essays that examine the event from different perspectives. I already know a good bit about the strictly medical side of the case, but I’m learning a lot about systems, history, and sociology. A particular interest of mine is the ambivalent feelings Americans have about organ transplants–from horror films to the new-ish “Heroes” campaign.

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