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Stand Up, Fight Back: Republican Toughs, Democratic Wimps, and the Politics of Revenge Hardcover – June 2, 2004

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Editorial Reviews Review

One thing all can agree George W. Bush deserves credit for is creating a groundswell of bestsellers in the run up to his 2004 reelection campaign. Most of the anti-Bush tomes of the time are marked by a sense of outrage and anger. It says something that even E. J. Dionne, Jr., a radio and print columnist noted for a generally placatory left-center tone, allows a clear sense of outrage to creep into his take on the Bush II era, starting with the title. Indeed, Dionne's discontent grows more pronounced with each page, though ultimately Stand Up, Fight Back maps out practical responses to what the author sees as the two maladies that infect contemporary politics--resolute conservative maliciousness and irresolute liberal defensiveness. The Washington, D.C.-based scribe chronicles the three-decades-long ascendancy of the right in response to Democratic complacency. The key for the G.O.P. was its "clarity of purpose and a certainty about the moral superiority of their creed." Dionne, however, finds gaping holes in right-wing morality, notably when chronicling the 2000 Florida debacle and the "grotesque" Supreme Court decision that handed the presidency to the second-place finisher in the popular vote. Dionne wraps things up by outlining a program to stall the precipitous shift to the right. It would be engineered by a moderate and liberal alliance that emphasizes fairness, compassion, justice, and the common good. Not particularly original, and certainly there are bolder perspectives on the current political landscape, but by navigating the practical path, Dionne may have penned one of the season's most influential reads. --Steven Stolder

From Publishers Weekly

Syndicated columnist and NPR commentator Dionne (Why Americans Hate Politics) outlines a sound plan for a Democratic takeover of the White House in 2004. He first criticizes Bush's "compassionate conservatism," arguing that most of it, the tax cuts, for example, was much more conservative than compassionate. Indeed, he says that President Bush's administration was floundering until the September 11 terrorist attacks, which gave it a focus in policy and the mid-term 2002 elections. The newfound focus on homeland security not only gave the administration some momentum, it also put the Democrats on the defensive: unwilling to appear soft on security, he argues, they kept relatively quiet. As a result, Democrats were "complicit in the strategy" propagated by the White House and big losers in 2002. Dionne proposes a two-pronged solution: First, Democrats must develop think tanks and talk radio outlets similar to those used by the right because these sow the seeds of new ideas. The Democrats' solution of relying on the "grass roots" only splinters the party into special interests. Second, Democrats must reframe arguments into the middle ground so that the party is seen as being for both government and individualism, for free trade, but with environmental and labor protections. The new liberal Air America Radio network may be one test of Dionne's theories. Beyond that, Democrats may hope that fallout from Iraq and the economy will accomplish their goal without enacting Dionne's solid ideas, which could have more long-term effects. Dionne proffers perhaps the most cogent analysis to date of why Democrats have lost the battle to the right, and how they might regain control of the debate.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743258584
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743258586
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,724,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The recent death of Ronald Reagan inspired many recollections of the former President's remarkable talent for disagreeing without being disagreeable. Even his fiercest political opponents found him to be an amiable man who did not take political differences in a personal fashion. Sadly, politics today is played by a different set of rules. To see how the game is played today, one need only start with a current list of some of the bestselling books from either side of the political spectrum. Bookstore shelves yield discordant titles such as DELIVER US FROM EVIL: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism and Liberalism by Sean Hannity; BIG LIES by Joe Conason; TREASON: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism by Ann Coulter; and THE REPUBLICAN NOISE MACHINE: Right-Wing Media and How it Corrupts Democracy by David Brock. These are just a few of the representative titles found in the politics section.
STAND UP, FIGHT BACK by E.J. Dionne, Jr. is a call to arms to those people who, regardless of political views, are troubled by the fiercely personal nature of American politics and the growing tendency to make every political debate partisan. Dionne worries that one side in the current political climate, liberals and progressives, have lost the will to fight for traditional principles supported by the vast majority of Americans. The current political atmosphere, Dionne argues, is damaging not only to democracy but also to important political institutions as well.
At other moments in our history, revenge has been an important theme in American political life.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By William Hare on July 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
E.J. Dionne is a mild-mannered, highly erudite Oxford graduate who pens reflective and intelligent political opinion pieces for the Washington Post. This book is a wakeup call to liberal-progressives that the battle so long thought lost by so many is far from that; the seeds for victory are at hand as long as the case is correctly made.

Dionne tackles the proposition that, because of a well-financed Republican spin machine, which has sought to demonize the word "liberal" and put forward the proposition that those who follow the philosophy's principles are misguided or worse, too many progressives have backed away from the fight and often taken apologetic positions. Dionne believes that any posture of defensiveness should be abandoned for an aggressive campaign. Dionne points out that, while moral fiber and patriotism are trotted out as staple Republican core values, the record tells a different story in instances where tax cuts are sought to please a wealthy coterie of party supporters and traditional beliefs about war and peace are turned upside down by neoconservatives who all too frequently seek to attack first and ask questions later.

A reporter who took the Howard Dean movement seriously from the beginning and was on the scene during key periods of the Vermont populist's presidential campaign, Dionne quickly noted that the fresh new face on the block was attracting a large support base by tackling the issues and asserting hard-core progressive positions on taxation, health care, and the environment.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bumzaway on June 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In addition to delivering a insightful view of where the left and right are today, Dionne offers a slogan the Democrats (and yes, liberals) wold be wise to use: "Patriotic Progessives."
For too long, conservatives have pushed the center to the right and railed against those who have dared disagree or didn't reflexively fall in line.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on September 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
E.J. Dionne is a levelheaded and experienced Democrat and here he tempers his criticism of the Republican Party's harmful policies with deeper examinations of how the Democrats have failed to remain part of the scene and to stand up for their own ideals. The root of both problems is the current American political climate of revenge and power grabs, rather than the constructive advancement of strong ideas. Dionne realizes, much better than most of this year's political writers, that the arrogance and unyielding ideology of the Bush camp is really just a symptom of the current political culture.

Dionne does a great job pointing out the ridiculous double standards employed by the Republicans. Examples include calling even the mildest criticism of Bush unpatriotic even though Republicans continuously heaped far worse on Clinton; claiming populism while slavishly kowtowing to corporations and wealthy campaign contributors; or piling on rhetoric against "big government" at home while acting in Iraq as the most heavy-handed government the world has ever seen. But Dionne also has plenty of constructive criticism for the hugely disappointing failure of the Democrats in opposing the relentless push of far-right conservatism, not just in politics but also economics, moral values, media, and even language. The Democrats have failed to present a united front (as can be seen in the vastly different behavior of the two parties during the Florida recount travesty of 2000), are afraid to stand up for their own beliefs, are prone to watering down their agenda to avoid Republican name-calling such as "liberal" or "un-American," and have failed to inspire the large percentage of Americans looking for an alternative to the elitist policies of the neo-conservatives.
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