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Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts from the Heart of America Hardcover – July 15, 2004

121 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

His Minnesota boyhood and the putative values of his state allow novelist and NPR favorite Keillor to conjure up a heartwarming case for liberalism, if not necessarily the Democratic Party platform. "[T]he social compact is still intact here," he writes of life in St. Paul, summing up attacks on that compact in a Menckenesque rant: "hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists...." Liberalism, Keillor declares, "is the politics of kindness," and he traces his own ideology to his kindly aunts and his access to good public education, including a land-grant university. Though he criticizes Democrats for losing touch with their principles, as when they support the drug war, he catalogues "What Do-Gooder Democrats Have Done for You," from civil rights to clean air, though he acknowledges, "The great hole in the compact is health care." "The good democrat," he declares, distrusts privilege and power, believes in equality, supports unions, and is individualist—"identity politics is Pundit Speak," he notes, which might get him in trouble with some interest groups. "Democrats are thought to be weak on foreign policy... but what we fear is arrogance," he writes, in a chapter notably short on prescription. Near the end, he offers another potent monologue, if not a rant, about September 11 and Bush's "Achtung Department" (aka Homeland Security). It doesn't all hang together—heck, Keillor's so loosy-goosey, he begins most chapters with a limerick—but call this Prairie Home Companion meets Air America.
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From Booklist

In his contribution to the latest U.S. presidential election campaign, the writer-host of NPR's long-running Prairie Home Companion takes his stand on the ground of Minnesota to declare why he's on the side he's on. Being a Democrat "was simply the way I was brought up, starting with" the Golden Rule, the Minnesota maxim "You are not so different from other people so don't give yourself airs," and the Christian reminder "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Egalitarianism and fellow-feeling, manifested by good-neighborliness and a social safety net sustained by government, are the bedrock of being a Democrat for Keillor, and Democrats go wrong when they mouth slogans, forget about the powerless, and fail to focus on "real consequences in the lives of real people." Republicans these days--he allows that once they were better--are the obverse of Keillor-style Democrats, and his rants about them are an intemperate pleasure of the book. Its considerable other pleasures arise from the autobiography that constitutes its core; if he sounds like a parody of a Democrat when lambasting the GOP (and--unfairly, one can't help feeling--Texas and the South), Keillor is the voice of truth about where he grew up and went to school. (Full disclosure: this reviewer was taught in the same schools by many of the same teachers six years after Keillor.) Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (July 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670033650
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670033652
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #719,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Garrison Keillor is the bestselling author of Lake Wobegon Days, Happy To Be Here, Leaving Home, We Are Still Married, Radio Romance, The Book of Guys and Wobegon Boy (available in Penguin Audiobook). He is the host of A Prairie Home Companion on American public radio and a contributor to Time magazine. He lives in Wisconsin and New York City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

313 of 341 people found the following review helpful By DevonTT on July 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If you've bought into the usual talk radio screed against liberals, prepare for some serious cognitive dissonance when you read this book. You have been programmed to believe that liberals are treasonous, immoral, elitist spendthrifts hell-bent on stripping America of its military power and you of your right to worship as you please.

In 'Homegrown Democrat,' Keillor describes how his liberal values were instilled by hardworking, modest, kindly Midwestern Christian folk as American as apple pie, who believed in helping one another because that's just what decent people do.

Try to hold these conflicting ideas in your mind at least long enough to ponder the possibility that the stereotypes you've learned from Limbaughian/Coulterian right-wing media are, perhaps, maybe, conceivably not quite accurate and that Keillor's expression of liberalism might possibly, by some remote chance more closely reflect what's in the hearts and minds of all the other liberals you love to hate.

On the other hand, if you're of the liberal persuasion, you will probably quickly connect, as I did, with Keillor's description of liberalism as a natural outgrowth of common-sense, Golden Rule, all-American values.

For me, the most profound concept in Keillor's book is that of the 'social compact.' He writes, 'The fear of catastrophe could chill the soul but the social compact assures you that if the wasps come after you, if gruesome disease strikes down your child, if you find yourself hopelessly lost, incapable, drowning in despair, running through the rye toward the cliff, then the rest of us will catch you and tend to you and not only your friends but We the People in the form of public servants. This is a basic necessity in a developed society...
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115 of 130 people found the following review helpful By K. Byrd on July 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Garrison Keillor quotes Dante as the reason for writing this short, delightful book: "Dante says the hottest place in hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader." I don't usually like Keillor's written work--I prefer hearing him tell stories--but his honesty, good will and hopes for the country that he loves shine so strongly in Homegrown Democrat that it is almost like hearing him talk out loud. I appreciate the fact that he is willing to challenge liberals as well as conservatives and his observations about 9/11 and Homeland Security are quite valid. Homegrown Democrat is a valuable reminder of where we have come from and where we are headed as a country.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Miller on July 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book will, no doubt, enrage Republicans. But, as Keillor says toward the end of this book, the hottest circle of hell is reserved for those who remain neutral during a time of crisis. And so, he has put down his thoughts, for what they're worth, in this slim volume. And for a life-long Democrat like myself, this makes for a wonderful read. It is structured much like an extended conversation at Keillor's favorite St. Paul coffee shop. Autobiographical for much of the first half, the second half is the portion that lays out the case against the current administration and, in turn, will prove to be the most controversial. So many of us shake our heads at the daily absurdities and surreal proclamations that emanate from those within the Bush circles. The cathartic powers of Keillor's book prove to be a healing respite to today's headlines.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Winslow Bunny on August 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I've listened to Garrison Keillor's radio show for years, and read his books. Some of his books have been quite enjoyable, and some have been put down, never to be finished, just unreadable. I don't think that I've ever read anything he's written that has been quite from his heart as "Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America."

All the make-believe story-telling of Lake Woebegon, Big Jimmy and the rest of his characters has been put aside for the honest telling of his story in "Homegrown Democrat." He pays homage to how he was raised, the America of his time, his thankfulness of the blessings he's had in education and out of school, due to the opportunities that he's had and that he's made for himself. While describing his life, he makes the parallel to the conditions of today, and how those same opportunities have changed or become non-existent. The "levelness of the playing field" is not the same as it was in his time, nor in my time, and as surely as the future of this country depends upon the next generation's ability to use the tools that it has been given in education, jobs and social concerns, I also fear that our next generation is getting the short end of the stick when it comes to opportunities. Government, especially U.S. government, isn't created to make everyone rich, but its job should be to insure that each person in generation has the opportunity to grow, develop and acquire the means to wealth. It may mean hard work, but the opportunity should be there. It's the individual's choice to take advantage of that opportunity.

This is an honest book, right from the soul.
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