Inundation in story makes us hyper-aware of our immersion in history. The overwhelming quantity of narrative fired at us from every corner of our lives, be it the stories our families tell over dinner, or the non-stop dream-bleeding of the news from every medium, most of it not fit to print, creates for each us the impression that we are but tiny molecules in an ocean of story over which we have no control. Society seems to be an ecology, complex beyond calculation. It’s so easy to forget that we make the rules.
It is for this reason that we need our polemicists. Thomas Frank is always at the top of his class in this regard, and his latest book, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? is an excellent and clear explanation as to just how we got ourselves into this mess. It does not matter what your political beliefs may be. Frank’s book addresses the rules we’ve made to turn the New Deal into both an epithet and a political vampire (or straw man), constantly dispatched with deliberation and resurrected in haste.
Frank has an understanding of where it is possible for us to go because he has an understanding of where we have been. Listen, Liberal is a thoroughly engaging and clear-eyed look at the recent history of the Democratic party, an analysis of how concrete decisions made by the party transformed their base from the lower and middle classes and unions who come from the new deal to the hypercompetitive professional class of “meritocrats” who now hold it in thrall.
Along the way, expect to hear about the Clintons, both Bill and Hillary. Frank sourced all his material from the most adoring bios, but his conclusions won’t make everyone happy. He sees Bill as having out-flanked the Republicans, and Hillary, whom he generally likes, as simply caught up in the feel-good aura of the professional class.
This is not to say that Frank is now a fan of the Republicans. What he does argue here, and quite well, is that the Democrats share a measure of the blame for the insanity of the income gap. Listen, Liberal is a book that deserves widespread reading and success. We need Frank’s clear-headedness to remind us that we write the rules of the market and society. Both are constructs of our own making. Politics is man made and can be unmade. And once we realize this, we can begin de-constructing that which does not serve us, all of us, equally well.
Or listen here.
Or listen right here.