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What We Do Now Paperback – November 30, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Shortly after the presidential election of 2004, Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians contacted a group of prominent writers, journalists, and activists from the Left and invited them to answer one crucial question: "What do we do now?" The response was swift and the resulting collection of 24 essays offers a wide variety of ideas, practical strategies, and inspiration (ideal for those tempted to bury their heads in despair) by writers such as Lewis Lapham, Eric Foner, Jennifer Pozner, Greg Palast, Medea Benjamin, Leslie Cagan, Howard Dean, and Maud Newton. Aside from some thoughtful post-election analysis, most of these pieces focus on the future rather than the past, particularly on maintaining the momentum built by the wide coalition that formed to oppose George W. Bush's reelection. The book also seeks to fill a void. According to Johnson, much of the mainstream media is "profoundly out of touch" with a large group of citizens--principally the 56 million who voted against President Bush--regarding what constitutes important news, and this book is an attempt to move some neglected progressive issues into the spotlight.

The topics covered include the direction and potential of the Democratic Party (with emphasis on formulating a coherent message), voting and election reform, the role and uses of the media, environmental issues, economic policy, international relations, and tax and fiscal policies. Though the book emerged in the wake of a defeat for the Left, there is much optimism here, signaling that the 2004 election may have brought about not the end of a movement, but a beginning. --Shawn Carkonen

About the Author

Dennis Loy Johnson and Valerie Merians are the coeditors of Poetry After 9-11 and publishers at Melville House Publishing. Dennis Loy Johnson is the author of The Big Chill: The Great, Unreported Story of the Bush Inauguration Protest. They both live in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 203 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House; First Edition edition (December 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0976140764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0976140764
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,420,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Frank Burke on January 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book was like sitting around with a bunch of really smart friends after the election and commiserating and getting mad -- except these friends had some really great ideas about what to do about it. The thing I liked was the range. There were some really interesting discussion about how to reform voting and big policy ideas. But even better was Steve Almond's essay about getting mad and sticking up for liberalism, and the one by Maud Newton about the significance of your taxes and what's done with them. The essay about how you can work for the environment was good, too -- stuff the average person can do. We need more books like this in the future, but I'm glad this one came out now because no one is talking about any of this anymore. Since the election, it's like everybody -- the candidate, the party, MoveOn, all the big shots -- have disappeared. This book makes me think this is the future: grassroots, the real power of the left.
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Robin Orlowski on January 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book examines what we in the left should do after George W. Bush was elected to a second term.

Although a majority of people were against his Iraq policies, the allegedly 'liberal' mass media made the election returns seem like a solid mandate. Bush actually had won by a slim margin of victory, and Kerry actually had put up a good showing in that close race.

Notable progressives such as Leslie Cagan and Jenifer Ponzer eschew hand-wringing and finger pointing for constructive and proactive solutions. I fear that we on the left have become too accommodating to other viewpoints without giving the American people an affirmative reason to vote for our own side.

We consequently have allowed our opponents to define (mislead others) what being a liberal is instead of reminding people that liberalism is the very same ideology which has fought against tainted food, lynching, and segregated public facilities. I personally do not want to live in an America without these and many other developments.

I also appreciated that this book offered contact information so we could get in touch with other like-minded people, and build an America which all people can be genuinely proud of. This book is not just the authors venting steam, but represents a collection of people who actually want to move others into collective action.

Notable progressives such as Leslie Cagan, Donna Brazille, and Jenifer Ponzer eschew hand-wringing and finger pointing for constructive and proactive solutions.
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Claire Weinstein on January 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a heartening book in dark times. The essays are all very different but i found some of their suggestions brilliant and common-sensical. I would recommend this book for the average citizen who is unhappy with the way our country is going and wants to do something about it.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Martone on January 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
A group of my friends and I have been passing this book back and forth since before Christmas. I really liked the way it says it's okay to get mad, you should, but do something constructive. For example, it's got proof from Greg Palast on how the Republicans stole Ohio. So we should be angry. One essay from Lewis Lapham says democracy is supposed to be wild and loud and that makes me think we should be shouting. That's why I was glad to read this book when I did, which was just after the election, when everybody was depressed and giving up. I'm glad somebody made this book so fast and said if you get mad you will fight longer. My friends and I had been sharing the Move On book which is good but that's what it's missing. Read this book and I guarantee it will leave you all fired up.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Poor Richard on January 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
I got this book because I saw a program about it on CSPAN that was very stirring. Some of the contributors had gathered the day after the inauguration in the famous Cooper Union hall, where Lincoln spoke out against slavery. They were quoting him as they spoke about what they'd written and while they were all talking about different issues, they all said the same thing: don't quit, we can win, but it's a serious struggle and we must start now. The very best was the poet Robin Morgan, who read from the writings of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Franklin, and so on, showing how secular they were; most were even atheists (Washington never even used the word "Jesus" in the thousands of letters he wrote). They worked hard to keep church and state separate in the Constitution and in the government they devised but you'd never know that from the fundamentalists in charge now.

I bought the book for Morgan's essay, but the thing I wound up loving about it was that it had other essays in it from not just other artists but from people who aren't the usual talking heads. For politicians, it's Howard Dean, for example, not one of the usual hacks. So I felt like I learned something different from all of them. But the best things in the book, to me, are the things from artists. My favorite essay is from a novelist named Steve Almond. I also liked that the book has some humor, such as a really stunning satire from another novelist, George Saunders. There's even an essay about taxes from a fiction blogger named Maud Newton who is a tax attorney, too. There's even a lovely essay from a poet suggesting poems to read to keep heart! This is very refreshing and in a funny way it made me want to rengage in the struggle in a way I haven't for a long time. It's not just about supporting stiff rich men like John Kerry, it's about the whole culture. I really love this book.
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