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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on December 29, 1998
This book helped me to step back from personal experience, hopes and actions to review and refresh my understanding of political history in the past 100 years. The book helped me commit to becoming a better citizen/businessman working to strengthening our society. My consulting company helps implement what Dionne calls "the Progressive project", providing management, planning and communications consulting with business, government and non-profit organizations. Many of the CEOs I coach would benefit from reading this book. Dionne puts his finger on the pulse of the broad political spectrum of Americans, analyzes our hopes and helps us see our false solutions. He then helps us reaffirm our deeper commitments and shows us a nation of citizens worth trusting. I found him fair in dealing with those he clearly disagrees with and instructive when speaking about the failures of those he held out hopes for. The section "Why politicians don't get respect anymore" is a continuation of his earlier work, "Why Americans Hate Politics". I read these books in sequence over the past month and recommend that others do also. His discussion of four crises, economics, politics, morality and our understanding of America's role in the world, allows us to see their interdependence. His discussion of Clinton and Gingrich shows the pivotal role personal risks, or failure to take them, and leadership play in political history. I wish he had spent more time on them as participants in the 1960's. Readers would have gained a better appreciation of their actions in the 1990s. Neither were significant players in those days yet they have assumed responsibility for history they were peripheral players in. I would have liked to have seen more discussion of leadership development and how and why others stepped aside to make room for minor leaguers to play in the majors. The discussion of the press is very good. While I had earlier studied the development of some newspapers, I felt that this book gave me a context in which to appreciate what I had learned. I look forward to Dionne's next book. His first two helped me see that the downfall of Gingrich and Livingston and the impeachment of Clinton are natural outcomes of the process we have all participated in. I hope he and/or others put more focus on the intergation of policy, programs, budgets and personnel. Americans need greater help understanding how change is implemented. It would also help to put more focus on changes across the nation, not just in Washington DC. Dionne has done an excellent job with Washington, however. Thank you for what you have given us. I recommend this book for all citizens. It will help us participate in realigning our society. It made me revisit my political values and strengthen my commitment to a progressive agenda. I hope others are equally challenged and inspired.
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on May 16, 2003
This was just an all around excellent book, not only did it have the tone and future I am hoping for, but it was just so well written. The pages just moved effortlessly on and on and before I knew it the book was over. The only disappointment would be that it had to end. Basically the author takes a look at the early 90's and makes an argument that the trend in America is moving to more support for the Democrats if they can maintain the perception that they have evolved as a party with the times. There is just a ton of interesting facts and stories woven together to provide a very convincing argument.
I admit, I wanted to be sold so I am not the most objective as to the overall effectiveness of the argument so take this review with a grain of salt. I guess it is comforting, if not a bit short sighted, for me to believe the book in it's totality, but I want a nice view of the future and this book provided it. If you are a Democrat and are not feeling too good about the current state of affairs then this book will give you hope and who knows, maybe the author is correct.
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on January 9, 2000
I have given this book a very high rating although ironically, I do not agree with its thesis. Progressives (code-word for "liberals") will not dominate the next political era. Anyone studying the past decade can see that the trends of history are moving in the completely opposite direction of Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy. Nevertheless, Dionne is such a lucid writer and his book is so crammed with interesting facts, that he comes as close to proving his thesis as any liberal possibly can. I appreciate that. His pen is liberalism's best hope.
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on December 16, 1999
Particularly when read after WHY AMERICANS HATE POLITICS, this book deserves to be bound to the hearts of young leaders-to-be with hoops of steel. Implicit in Dionne's entire project is the oft-repeated yet seldom-heeded mantra about knowing the past in order not to repeat it. By situating his analysis in the thick of cultural and political history, he is able to offer not only explanations of our suffering but prophecies of our healing. The ease with which his relatively simple historical inquiry illuminates the enormous blind spots in contemporary political discourse indicates how frighteningly ignorant we are of what our own history has demonstrated about what works and what does not. Dionne is at his best here when he illustrates how eerily parallel are the current conditions under economic globalization to the era of a century past when industrialization and urbanization were reeking the same sorts of havoc. Showing how Newt Gingrich's techno-futurism buffonishly copied McKinley's Gilded Age laissez-faire makes all Dionne's points with precision and weight. The argument to avoid such ominous idiocy by engaging our history--the history of the virtues and failings of ALL our political inheritance--combines with a brilliant section on the role of journalists which could apply to intellectuals and elites of every stripe, to outline precisely the principals which could guide the present and future leaders of the republic toward a greater realization of a more perfect union. Those compelled by Dionne's comparison of the Gilded Age with the Global Era would much enjoy Lawrence Goodwyn's DEMOCRACY'S PROMISE, or its abridged version, POPULIST MOMENT. For a fuller explication of the philosophy of intellectualism found in Dionne's section on journalists, see C. Wright Mill's SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION. In any event, take THEY ONLY LOOK DEAD to heart and let it guide all your future citizenship and leadership. It's that good.
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on December 9, 1998
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne validates both my faith in American government and the progressive agenda with They Only Look Dead. This is a must read for any serious student of government, or anyone with an opinion about how it should work.
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on June 20, 2003
E.J. Dionne is such a fine writer and historian that one can be forgiven for believing, for wanting to believe, that the self-flagellating and pusillanimous lot that is the Democratic Party leadership these days can actually pull the country from the neo-conservative, bible-thumping swamp in which it is mired. "They Only Look Dead" was written before the Supreme Court selected a president for us, before Good King George took us to war on a pretext (with strong Democratic support), and before the popular "no millionaire left behind" program. Mr. Dionne is well aware of the cyclical nature of history and draws many apt parallels between the Gilded Age and our present malaise. So maybe he's right, maybe (triple cliche alert) it is always darkest before the dawn, maybe the pendulum has swung too far to the right. Maybe if the party of FDR and JFK follows Mr. Dionne's advice and remembers who they are and where they came from then happy days will be here again.
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on August 18, 2003
E.J. Dionne's central thesis that the new (new?) Republican majority's philosophy in Congress is a throwback halfway to America's colonial times is this book's first -- and most perplexing! -- wrong turn. It gets worse from there. The author's assertion that 1994 was a fluke has no rationale basis of any kind. Dionne proves to be a poor prophet in that he presumes a Democrat takeover in Nov 1996 or shortly thereafter. To date that has not occurred and it has been nearly 7 years. Over and over again Dionne inappropriately and clumsily attempts to parallel modern politics, circumstances and consequences with ancient history. The worst thing about Dionne's theories is that they aren't even very interesting. Clearly Dionne is living in the past when forward-thinking is needed to save the Democrat party from itself. This book like Dionne's columns and TV commentary over-thinks rudimentary concepts. Lastly, Dionne suffers from wishful thinking.
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on August 25, 2003
Over and over again Dionne inappropriately attempts clumsily to parallel modern politics, circumstances and consequences with ancient history. The bridge he imagines is just simply not there. This book tends to over-think simple, basic concepts. Dionne offers up a weak case.
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