REASON is a passionate and urgent statement about liberalism: what it is, the measure of its importance for America, and how it can return to the forefront of American politics. Reich sees the radical conservatism that has taken over the public agenda---the desire to fight unilateral "preemptive" wars, to stifle dissent and restrict civil liberties, to shower the rich with tax breaks and cut social services---as dangerous for both America and the world. He argues convincingly that the tenets of the liberal tradition must be a part of our national governance. He makes clear that radical conservatives have ascended in part because of an efficient infrastructure and a political organization driven by big money, and shock troops of mediagenic personalities. He explains how liberals can begin to re-ascend the political ladder by reclaiming the courage of their convictions, and finding powerfully effective ways to minimize the abuse of wealth and power in our political system.
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Onto 2004's already crowded political non-fiction bookshelf, comes Reason by former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich. It's a call to arms for liberals and progressives against what Reich terms the "Radcons", radical conservatives who combine the aggressive "neoconservative" foreign policy of Richard Perle and Robert Kagan with an insistence on interfering with private morality, all the while eliminating social safety nets. At times, it seems like Reich is trying to have it both ways: he condemns the Radcons for being judgmental and demonizing those with whom they disagree but, in the process, he often does some demonizing of his own in his summarization of their philosophies. Reich's arguments are most persuasive when he takes the approach of the Radcons but turns them around. Yes, he says, morality is crucial to the survival and prosperity of the United States, but instead of worrying about what people do in their own bedrooms, we should focus on public morality, especially as it pertains to overpaid CEOs, corrupt corporations, and the government's tacit approval of them. Despite his long history with the Democrats, or perhaps because of it, Reich saves some of his most pointed criticisms for his own party. He assails the Democrats for ceding the ongoing electoral struggle to the Republicans (and the Radcons, naturally). It's stupid, says Reich, to pursue a centrist approach to capturing the voting blocs necessary to achieve victory in the White House or congress because there is actually no such thing as centrism. Instead, there is a shift in the political dialogue as the right tacks further rightward and drags victory-hungry Democrats with it, thus alienating and ultimately disenfranchising the substantial liberal electorate. Reich ultimately sees good news for liberals on the horizon, however. While he thinks millions of Americans are fed up with the overly cautious Democratic Party that won't stand up for it's progressive principals, they are even wearier of the Radcons and "their intolerance, their mean-spiritedness, their moral righteousness, and their arrogance toward the rest of the world." --John MoeFrom the Inside Flap:
For anyone who believes that "liberal isn't a dirty word but a term of honor," this book will be as revitalizing as oxygen. For in the pages of Reason," one of our most incisive public thinkers, and a former secretary of labor mounts a defense of classical liberalism that's also a guide for rolling back twenty years of radical conservative domination of our politics and political culture.
To do so, Robert B. Reich shows how liberals can:
.Shift the focus of the values debate from behavior in the bedroom to malfeasance in the boardroom
.Remind Americans that real prosperity depends on fairness
.Reclaim patriotism from those who equate it with pre-emptive war-making and the suppression of dissent
If a single book has the potential to restore our country's good name and common sense, it's this one.
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