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Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive for Permanent Power Paperback – Bargain Price, August 28, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Edsall has been reporting the nuts and guts of American politics for decades now, and there is no more reliable guide to infrastructural facts." -- Todd Gitlin

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (August 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465018165
  • ASIN: B001G8WGLQ
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,091,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas Byrne Edsall is an online columnist for the New York Times and a correspondent for The New Republic. He holds the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at Columbia University. He joined the full-time faculty at Columbia in 2006 after a twenty-five year career at The Washington Post. During that time, he covered all aspects of national politics, including presidential elections, the House and Senate, lobbying, tax policy, demographic trends, social welfare, and the politics of race and ethnicity.

Edsall served in 2006 as a guest columnist for the print edition of the New York Times. Before he came to the Washington Post he reported for The Baltimore Sun and The Providence Journal. He has covered politics for The National Journal, and has contributed TV and radio commentary to CNN, CSPAN, MSNBC, PBS, FOX, and NPR.

Edsall is the author of five books: The Age of Austerity (2012); Building Red America (2006); Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics (2005); Power and Money: Writing About Politics (1988); and The New Politics of Inequality (1984).

He is also the editor of or contributor to a number of other books: Red and Blue Nation? Characteristics and Causes of America's Polarized Politics, contributor (2006); Varieties of Progressivism in America, contributor, 2004; Deadlock: The Inside Story of America's Closest Election (2001); Present Discontents, contributor (1997); The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order 1930-1980, contributor, (1989); The Reagan Legacy, (co-editor and contributor) (1988).

Edsall has written extensively for magazines, with articles appearing in American Prospect, The Atlantic Monthly, Civilization, Dissent, Harper's, The Nation, The National Journal, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, the Washington Monthly.

Edsall's 1992 book Chain Reaction was a Pulitzer finalist in general non-fiction. His awards include the Carey McWilliams Award of the American Political Science Association, the Bill Pryor Award and the Front Page Award of the Newspaper Guild, a yearlong fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and several Media Fellowships at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Edsall attended Brown University and received a B.A. from Boston University.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has been seriously misrepresented in the press (a stupid review by George Will and a misleading review on Amazon). It is a very serious work of scholarship with a good deal of insight into the problems of the Democratic party. Edsall characterises the Democratic party as (a) an uneasy and unstable alliance of minorities and the poor, who have serious economic issues on the one hand, and liberal, affluent elites with interests in new age values and individual liberation on the other. He charges that Democrats have no coherent economic policy to protect marginal groups in the age of globalization, no coherent policy for rectifying government inefficiency and stifling bureaucracy, and no credibility in dealing with military affairs in particular, and foreign affairs in general. Liberal values, he argues, have led to the election of Republican mayors and governors, as for instance, noting that Dinkins in New York was so ineffective that he was followed by four successive Republican mayors. Democrats, moreover, are in bed with the most venal of feeders at the public trough, organized unions in education (AFT and NEA), whose bread and butter middle class economic issues prevent Democrats from espousing choice programs that would benefit the less well off.

This book is a fine introduction to political demography and recent electoral and social history in the United States, and deserves to be entertained by serious students of politics, not the hacks that have reviewed it so far.
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Format: Hardcover
Edsall sees that the Republican party has increasingly become a coalition of the dominant (including ascending religious denominations), while the Democrats have become largely an alliance of the socially and economically dominated (including declining religious denominations) and those who identify with them.

Despite Watergate and Vietnam, Republicans have controlled the White House for 20 of the next 28 years, the Senate for 18 of the next 26, and the House for 12 of the next 26. With American businesses firmly in its corner, the Republicans have substantial business acumen (eg. the "K Street Project" and its ability to mobilize all lobbyists to support the entire leadership program), added credibility in debates over taxes and spending, and strong financial backing. Meanwhile, Democrats have become a bifurcated party, with a wide gulf separating the liberal agenda of their leadership elite and the pressing material needs of the party's disadvantaged. To reverse the rightward trend of the electorate, Edsall believes Democrats will have to address gun activists tired of having to get a license, government trying to force integration and affirmative action down people's throats, stop preaching that men and women are the same (men work more hours), increasingly taking people's money, tolerating wrong answers from the IRS and long MVD lines, a never-ending flood of illegals from Mexico, vagrants in the library, etc.

A large number of white males have moved from the Democratic to the Republican party over the issues of affirmative action and equal rights for women (increased job pressures), and busing, and perceived weakness on crime, and welfare - in '04 Kerry lost white voters overall in the $30,000-$75,000 income range by 22 points.
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Format: Hardcover
American political thought and the policies adopted by the Republicans and Democrats have always been in a constant state of change, with each of the two parties scrambling to adapt to an ever- changing world with new concerns and new opportunities. In different decades, Democrats had the upper hand and were perceived as being in step with a large percentage of voters. This trend continued through much of the 1960's and 1970's and Democrats enjoyed either control of the White House or, at least, control of the Senate and House of Representatives.

But things began to change in the 1980's when voters- many of them lifetime supporters of the Democratic Party- began to switch to the Republican camp. How this happened, and what Republicans did to make it happen, are the main subjects of this book. It breaks down, piece by piece, the Republican strategy that began in the 1980's and continues today. It is a multi- faceted strategy that capitalizes on the general support of big business; the importance of religion to many American families; the economic independence and classical economic approach favored by a growing number of Americans; and the general backlash of many voters against what they perceive as an unfair and/or immoral advantage given to certain groups based on minority or "oppressed" status.

Author Thomas Edsall writes this book in an informative way and he refrains from making judgments or criticizing the strategies used by Republicans. All he wants to do is point out what his research (and the research of others) has confirmed and offer a few talking points on what Democrats can do to win back some of its disgruntled voters. This lack of opinion will suit some readers just fine, but it will irritate others who prefer a more scrutinizing approach.
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Format: Paperback
When Thomas Edsall’s Building Red America was published in 2006 the message seemed dated. The message was that the Republican Party was a sophisticated political organization that combined the successful, dominant sectors of the United States, while the Democrat Party was a hapless collection of losers and cultural elitists. The cultural elitists were out of touch with most Americans, including the losers who voted Democrat because they could not cut the mustard in an increasingly competitive economy.

In 2006 most Americans had lost confidence in George W. Bush and his unwon wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the November elections the Democrats won both houses of Congress for the first time since 1992. Two years later they maintained majorities in Congress while winning the White House.

Nine years later, and seven years into the disappointing administration of Barack Obama, Building Red America deserves a second look.

In 1969 Kevin Phillips’ The Emerging Republican Majority predicted just that. In 1974 Democrats thought the Watergate Scandal negated Phillips’ prediction. Nevertheless, Americans who voted for Richard Nixon in 1972 and who in 1974 thought he should resign did not wish that they had voted for George McGovern. They wished that in 1972 they had been able to vote for someone who had Nixon’s values and goals without his penchant for self destruction.

In 1980 when they had the opportunity to vote for Ronald Reagan they enthusiastically did so. Reagan turned out to be to the right of Nixon. Nevertheless, he left office a popular leader, despite a scandal that in some respects was worse than Watergate. A reason Reagan had been elected in 1980 was hostility for Iran. Reagan was caught selling weapons to Iran. No matter.
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