- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (November 5, 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374138214
- ISBN-13: 978-0374138219
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America Hardcover – November 5, 2019
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"Perhaps the most imaginative book to emerge from the Senate since Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts produced Profiles in Courage." ―David M. Shribman, The Boston Globe
"Brown’s elegant portraits of his desk 88 predecessors have marvelous historical value . . . What makes Desk 88 particularly engaging are anecdotes illuminating the heroes’ convictions and character . . . The book’s last chapter, detailing Brown’s view of what Democrats should stand for in the age of Trump, reads like a thoughtful first draft of the party platform." ―Douglas Brinkley, The Washington Post
"[A] delightful book . . . most revealing is Brown’s analysis of his 2018 reelection by seven points in a state Trump carried by eight . . . his ideology . . does not block his capacity for empathy." ―E.J. Dionne, The Washington Post
"Highly readable and engaging. [Brown's] profiles of the eight Democratic senators are enlightening, even for the most famous . . . the unique value of [Brown's] book is in his quintessential defense of liberal ideals." ―Darrel Rowland, The Columbus Dispatch
"A timely history of 20th-century American progressivism . . . [Brown] offers a stout defense of such progressive policies as Social Security and Medicare. This thoughtful, entertaining book will appeal to liberals and students of congressional history." ―Publishers Weekly
“Senator Sherrod Brown is a fearless force for progressive change whose strong voice and powerful vision have helped lift up hardworking families across America over decades. As American families confront the growing income disparity that is at the root of the crisis of confidence felt by so many, Senator Brown’s Desk 88 delivers a timely call to action and reminds us all of our shared responsibility to expand opportunity, strengthen our democracy, and advance a brighter and more just and equal future for all.” ―House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
“Sherrod Brown has always been a fighter for people and progress, and here he offers readers a window into the past that ties our shared history to the hard, important work that needs to be done to move our country forward.” ―Hillary Clinton
“In Desk 88, Sherrod Brown, a formidable writer as well as a formidable fighter for a more just America, presents the stories of eight progressive senators in riveting, entertaining, and deeply moving detail. This book is political history at its best―we come to understand his subjects’ triumphs, failures, ambiguities, and inner lives with an intimacy that perhaps only a fellow senator can provide.” ―Martin Sheen
"Sherrod Brown’s day job as a U.S. Senator provides incentives and occasions for thinking about eight men who shared many of his progressive views and the desk at which he now advocates them. Such is his infectious enthusiasm for his predecessors, you do not need to share his politics in order to enjoy his story of the continuity he feels with the men who sat where he sits." ―George F. Will, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of A Nice Little Place on the North Side
“Sherrod Brown’s insightful and delightfully written account of eight progressive senators over the past century provides a brilliant history of the progressive movement in the United States, relating the contributions of each of these senators to the fight against America’s most pressing problems. It is an inspiring and useful read for anyone who wants to understand the state of America’s politics today.” ―Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize–winning economist
“This is an innovative work of institutional history unlike anything I’ve read before. In Desk 88, Senator Brown offers gripping biographies of the past occupants of his Senate seat, interspersed with his own thoughts about the present and future of progressivism. A terrific read.” ―Kevin M. Kruse, professor of history at Princeton University
“In Desk 88, veteran U.S. senator Sherrod Brown sets forth his case for progressive legislation in the context of an activist government that seeks to improve the lives of working Americans. An assiduous student of American congressional history, Brown has created a lively, absorbing, in-the-heat-of-combat narrative about those ‘bright, meteoric, and short-lived’ periods in American history when progressive ideals have triumphed in shaping national legislation. His unique format of examining the careers of notable former Senate progressives alongside his own decades of legislative education and struggle guarantees this compelling volume a place on the short shelf of important works that memorably explore how our nation’s laws actually get made.” ―Richard A. Baker, US Senate historian emeritus and coauthor of The American Senate: An Insider’s History
About the Author
Sherrod Brown, Ohio’s senior U.S. senator, has dedicated his life in public service to fighting for what he calls “the dignity of work”―the belief that hard work should pay off for everyone. He resides in Cleveland with his wife, Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist and author. They are blessed with a growing family, including three daughters, a son, and seven grandchildren.
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The showcased Senators are:
- Hugo Black
- Theodore Francis Green
- Glen Taylor
- Herbert Lehman
- Albert Gore, Sr.
- William Proxmire
- Robert F. Kennedy
- George McGovern
What do progressives do? They fight against abuses by:
- oil companies
- Wall Street
- the tobacco industry
- gun manufacturers
- predatory wealth
- powerful interest groups
They fight for:
- the voiceless
- civil rights
- women’s rights
- LGBTQ rights
- labor rights
- clean air
- safe drinking water
- car safety
- protections for the disabled
- consumer protections
- Social Security
- worker’s comp
- medical research
- building infrastructure
- voting rights
“Ralph Waldo Emerson told us that history is a contest between the Conservators and the Innovators. Conservators—those with privilege and wealth, who want to hold on to what they have—are vastly outnumbered. But they long ago figured out how to consolidate power: exploit the fear of people who would benefit from change by convincing them that change is too risky. Conservators routinely warn the public that big government—those people in Washington—will take away what they earned with their hard work: a small house, a moderate income, a barely middle-class lifestyle. ‘Fear always springs from ignorance,' Emerson noted. So often, those who have little often line up with the Conservators. … At their best, the senators at Desk 88 fought back against this fear-mongering. … Fear has played a central strategic role in the Republican Party since at least World War II. It was Communism… It was crime… It was the fear of terrorism… It was integration and immigration…"
BEST READ BY: Those of us who want to have our views validated in this era of political insanity. Those of us who need to push back against ignorance to eliminate our fear so they can discover that the progressive party is actually the one that has their backs.
BOTTOM LINE: Written by a progressive Senator of 13 years. Well written. Always interesting, never pedantic.
DESK 88 is part autobiography and part historical account of the Senate through the story of the men who occupied the desk that Brown now occupies on the floor of the Senate. Upon his arrival in the Senate, he was given the responsibility of selecting a desk for the Senate floor. The traditions of the Senate run deep, and one of them is that most senators at some point carve their names in the drawers of their desks on the Senate floor. Brown’s search led him to Desk 88, previously occupied by Hugo Black of Alabama, George McGovern of South Dakota, Robert Kennedy of New York, William Proxmire of Wisconsin, and several other progressive senators. Brown had found his Senate home.
Anyone who has seen or heard Brown speak on issues important to him will appreciate the organization and writing of DESK 88. Just like its author, the book is well-organized and passionate. He alternates chapters on his predecessors with his own career and political views on important contemporary issues. Recounting the fascinating history of former U.S. senators serves as a reminder that although we are at a complex, perilous moment in our nation’s history, we have been here before.
The biographical portraits also shed light on the continuing evolution of life in American politics. Hugo Black was a progressive senator from Alabama, yet he was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan. His membership became public as he was nominated and confirmed to serve on the United States Supreme Court. In contemporary America, it is doubtful that Black would have been confirmed. Nor would men like Glen Taylor or George McGovern ever have been elected to the Senate, as they ran shoestring campaigns without any significant campaign donations. Before the days of television, social media and candidate imaging, candidates could make their appeal to the public in a far different manner than we see in America today.
In the personal portion of DESK 88, Brown makes the case that the progressive idea is not dead. You may not agree with him, but embracing his politics is not a requirement for appreciating the deep and endearing history of the progressive era in America. There was a time in our country when political disagreement could still find politicians seeking common ground for the public good. Brown reminds us of those bygone days, which hopefully will return to America’s political stage.
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman