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They Only Look Dead: Why Progressives Will Dominate the Next Political Era Hardcover – February 20, 1996

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Editorial Reviews Review

Progressives everywhere, wake up and look alive! E. J. Dionne brings good news. Dionne analyzes the recent political chaos and concludes that it's due to Americans moving towards a New Progressive Era, not towards a New Right.

From Publishers Weekly

Despite the title, this book is less a contrarian projection of the future than a savvy if incomplete analysis of our current political landscape. Washington Post columnist Dionne (Why Americans Hate Politics) suggests that our current political chaos derives from multiple crises-of economics, politics, morality and our national purpose-with interesting parallels to upheavals the country faced in the late 19th century, culminating in the first Progressive era. And the "Anxious Middle"-the swing group in elections-is pandered to, says the author, by both parties. He goes on to suggest that President Clinton, even without his gaffes, would have faced intractable divisions within his party, that Newt Gingrich represents a new breed of technology-oriented conservatism and that journalism must adapt to promote a more serious level of debate. Dionne argues quite plausibly that the new conservatism will fail because it "seeks to define away" the problems we face, yet his vision of a new Progressivism ignores some practical steps, such as a move away from identity politics, that must presage such change. Author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (February 20, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684807688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684807683
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,119,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ed Murphy( on December 29, 1998
Format: Paperback
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.Read more ›
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John G. Hilliard on May 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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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14 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Todd Winer on January 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
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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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Max Simmons on December 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
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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