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Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians Hardcover – April 5, 2007
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Who are the members of today's Democratic party, and how does the party serve them? What are the differences in funding between Democratic- and Republican-led efforts? How do the parties react to movements within their base-and how does this affect the outcome of elections? Disgruntled Democrat Flanders-author, journalist and Air America radio host-explores the answers to these and other questions on a cross-country tour of the Democratic party and its (nominal) members. Highlighting progressive victories taking place outside the party establishment, Flanders presents the lessons Democrats in power could learn from their constituents "if they were inclined to learn." In-depth analysis of movements from Utah's liberals to South Dakota's recent, successful anti-abortion campaign provides insight not only into campaign leaders, but into the role of funding, media and old fashioned grassroots-style activism. Flanders (Bushwomen) brings to this work enough data, recent history and progressive ideas-as well as wit, style and acerbic charm-to make this required reading for anyone looking to make sure "the Democratic party is finally serious" about a victory for progressives in 2008.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Blue Grit is a clarion call to progressive voters looking for a new direction. While many pundits continue to argue that the Democratic Party must race to the center in a desperate attempt to win back the White House, Flanders offers a compelling analysis of the strength of the modern progressive movement in America, showing us that the Democratic Party must not abandon its core progressive values and ideals, but capitalize on them to win. -- Donna Brazile
Blue Grit is pure political tonic, a stirring call-to-arms for progressives who feel they've been left out in the cold by their alleged allies. Laura Flanders offers a galvanizing vision of political democracy as it was meant to thrive: in the lives and stories of ordinary Americans. -- Michael Eric Dyson, author of Debating Race
In Blue Grit, Laura Flanders throws a verbal hand grenade into the Democratic 2006 election celebration. She makes it clear that Liberals are as unhappy with the Democratic Party as Conservatives are with the GOP. It seems to me that something important, maybe even historic is stirring in the political arena-stay tuned. -- Richard A. Viguerie
Laura Flanders is a star burst of optimism -- people need that -- and Blue Grit is the perfect vehicle for spreading her message. Politics can be fun again AND progressive goals can succeed. There is a new crowd moving in on tired old politicians and they are stirring up a hopeful new politics. -- William Greider
Laura Flanders' Blue Grit gives hope even to those of us who don't ordinarily go in for that sort of thing. -- Fran Lebowitz
With her usual daring, flair and down home investigative style, Laura Flanders travels America and finds the progressive grassroots movement alive and kicking. Her book, Blue Grit, asks who owns the Democratic Party, "the people in the suites or the people in the streets." It is a crucial question, and this book is crucial reading." -- Eve Ensler
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The book is half blue grit, and half blue snit. It seems there's a split in the Democratic Party these days, and in this book Laura Flanders explains in detail why and how this came about. This would be interesting reading, I would think, to anyone who's into politics, be they on the right or the left.
I don't consider myself a "progressive", but I enjoyed this book mainly due to the detailed accounts of the inner workings of politics, at least on the Democrat side. I also enjoyed Laura's fun, upbeat, not preachy and not mean writing style. I don't agree much with her politics, but I'm reviewing her book not her politics, and it's fun to read.
My one major criticism of the book in general has to do with the order in which material is presented. We start out with detailed accounts of people and activist groups I've never heard of in states where I don't live (Utah, Nevada and Montana) and the one-little-story-after-another just got quite tedious after a while. I almost stopped reading the book after the first two chapters. I suppose a "progressive" would just love this stuff but not being one I found it boring after a while. It would have worked better for me to start with the national stuff that I've been watching in the news for the past few years and then work into the local stories.
One thing this book did for me is confirm what a "progressive" is for me. According to Laura on page 9, "Those on the Left, to a greater or lesser degree, hold to a belief that this whole society is set up to serve those with power and wealth, and oppress all those without." And that's why I don't call myself a "progressive" because this sounds like good old-fashioned 19th century Marxism. Are we still in the South before the Civil War? Do we live in Russia in 1916? How cynical can you get? I would never be confused with someone wealthy or powerful, but a lot of the way our society is set up does serve me, and I don't feel particularly oppressed by anyone or anything. Perhaps I'm just not enlightened enough.
Another thing I would have appreciated is a real bibliography. There are "notes" in the back, and just enough for me to realize that someone who worked on this book understood the concept, and then did just little enough so that it looked like they didn't care.
Then there's the stuff I found downright funny.
On page 178, Ms. Flanders writes, "Much as I love my listeners on Air America Radio, for example, it worries me how little they like to hear from anyone with an opposing point of view." That kind of honesty is as unusual as it is refreshing.
On page 158, she writes about the Fairness Doctrine and says, "The elimination of the doctrine, by the Federal Communications Commission under Reagan, opened the door for Rush Limbaugh and around-the-clock, one-note, wingnut talk radio." The irony of that coming from an Air America personality is beyond words.
On page 186, Ms. Flanders is writing about why the rich out vote the poor. She writes, "In contrast to most advanced democracies, the right to vote in the United States isn't conveyed automatically with citizenship and coming of age. Voters have to prove themselves and always have, and the challenges related to registering, qualifying, and having one's vote be counted have always worked to help manipulate or suppress votes." Really? I can't even remember what, if anything, I had to do to get my voters' registration card. I haven't had to do anything since. My biggest problem with voting is forgetting to do it.
Anyway, this is a fun book to read regardless of the author's politics. And, unlike preachy pundit books, even someone on the other political side from the author can learn something.
She tackled voter fraud and suppression toward the end of the book and she makes some excellent points on the subject.
On page 12 she states that "Progressive change in America is not half as impossible or improbable as some people would like us to think." I think she's right about that. She tells the reader why.
One of the author's biggest criticisms of the Democratic Party is the way that the party runs its campaigns.
Often times there is no inclusion of local organizations and the funding ends immediately after an election loss. The party folks don't hang around. The sense of long-term commitment is absent.
Accessibility to campaign tools is another of Flanders' complaints. I can identify with that myself. Yard signs. Something simple and inexpensive is not available a lot of times. Republicans do a far better job of making signs available. Democrats sometimes suggest making your own.
Overall this is a good book. Not a real page-turner but the author makes some very good points and her points are solid.
The story that Laura Flanders tells in her prescient book is one that the fourth estate--fawning over Barack Obama's rout in Iowa--would have been well advised to read. They might have learned a thing or two: That progressive movements are not built over night and that they are not built on the backs of candidates, no matter how inspiring they are. Flanders is not a conventional campaign correspondent--conventional campaign correspondents don't actually cover campaigns; they cover candidates--and that is why Blue Grit, which chronicles progressive change in unlikely places, is much more valuable than the daily dose (often mind numbing) of political reportage. For a good example, see Flanders' recent stories in the Nation magazine on why the current campaign is not about Obama and why the real battle is not between Obama and Clinton but between the suites (the penthouse party) and the streets.
Flanders is more attuned to the people who make political change, often against great odds, than anyone else writing today. Thus her book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the current moment, a field guide to a more promising political future.
What is happening and what will happen in '08? As Flanders points out, the Democratic gains in '06 "didn't usher in new power for a new agenda." But the political shift is taking place at a different level. "The top of the ticket is not where the action is. Political change, as opposed to personnel change, works from the bottom up..." Will we see political change in the next election or just another changing of the guards?
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Flanders is a top-notch storyteller, social observer and enthusiastic cheerleader for...Read more