Hello again, pals and gals. I am still busy with work and various other things in “real life”, so I haven’t been around much recently. But I wanted to try and get a post in today, about a book that may interest many of you.
I’ve just finished reading What It Means to Be a Democrat, written by former Congressman and presidential candidate George McGovern. Published in late 2011, it touches on the history of the Democratic Party, the current state of political affairs in America, and the challenges faced by Democrats as they look to the future.
For those of you who may not be as
old experienced as I am and aren’t familiar with him, George McGovern was the Democratic Party’s nominee for president in 1972. He ran against Richard Nixon, and lost in one of the most decisive and lopsided elections in our nation’s history. However, that loss did not stop him from a long career as an elected official, nor did it prevent him from doing a great deal of good for progressive causes during his time in Washington. He earned a reputation as a compassionate idealist due to his outspoken efforts to support the needy and to oppose war. It could be argued that this very admirable quality contributed to his defeat in 1972, as a nation enmeshed in Vietnam, the Cold War and widespread civil unrest decided that McGovern would be ineffective, and that Nixon was the sort of “tough” president the country needed. That McGovern chose not to abandon his liberal positions after the election was remarkable, and that he holds them dear to this day is even more so.
In What It Means to Be a Democrat, McGovern’s intention is to remind American progressives what our core principles are at a time when the entire nation seems to be sliding to the right. While none of the information covered in the book is exactly news to anyone, it is presented in a way that powerfully defends and celebrates the progressive philosophy. It gives Democrats a real sense of the proud political and social traditions and accomplishments of the party we support. It also serves as a wake-up call, and as motivation to rededicate ourselves to efforts that will keep that tradition strong, even in the face of strong conservative opposition.
The chapters of the book are each dedicated to a particular topic, with excellent discussions of the Democratic take on each subject. There is much food for thought to be found within these topical discussions. Instead of reviewing or summarizing the entire book in a single post, I think I might do one post on each chapter, to highlight the main points presented by McGovern and add a few points of my own.
Hopefully this won’t be too boring for y’all, as it may take me a while to get through the entire book that way (there are 11 chapters, with topics ranging from immigration and education to health care and the environment). And if I am posting about the book more than a few times, I don’t want it to come off like a lecture or Oprah’s Book Club or something. However, I did enjoy the focus that McGovern placed on each individual concept, and the way he related them to the past, present and future of the Democratic Party. It was a shot in the arm that was sorely needed in this combative and wearying election year. If I can convey some of McGovern’s ideas and energy via these posts to my fellow progressives, then I think that would be a positive and worthwhile thing to do.
I will start putting the first post together, which will deal with the topic of compassion – possibly the singular trait which most divides the left from the right, and one which is quite topical in light of recent news regarding the Paul Ryan budget and Mitt Romney’s days as a school bully. In the meantime, if anyone thinks this is either a good idea or an awful one, feel free to sound off in the comments. If I can tell that nobody’s interested, I might not bother. But if it seems like something that would be worth your time I’d like to give it a try.