Here are books I recommend political junkies read while vacationing this summer:
"The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue Collar Conservatism," by Henry Olsen (Broadside, $27.99).
Mr. Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has written an extraordinary book explaining how Ronald Reagan wooed working class voters—particularly Catholic blue-collars in the Northeast’s inner cities and suburbs.
Reagan’s brand of conservatism respected and enhanced F.D.R.’s New Deal programs and opposed the excesses of Lyndon Johnson’s leftist Great Society initiatives.
Olsen argues that many 21st century Republicans misunderstand Reagan who they claim was 100 percent anti-government. Reagan was elected California governor and president with the support of traditionally working-class Democrats because he promised, "Government would be trimmed but not repealed, taxes would be cut but not slashed, programs or actions that helped 'truly needy' or assisted average Americans achieve their dreams would remain in place."
"White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America," by Joan C. Williams (Harvard Press, $22.99). Dr. Williams, distinguished law professor at the University of California, clearly explains "why so much of the elite’s analysis of the white working class is misguided, rooted in class cluelessness."
The true middle class, 53 percent of American families — "who are neither rich nor poor" — flocked to Donald Trump in 2016. They gave him margins of victory in the traditionally Democratic states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Williams holds that establishment politicians and commentators are wrong to dismiss or belittle these white voters as racist or xenophobic. The dream of these hard-working high school graduates "is not to join the upper middle class, with its different culture, but to stay true to their own values in their own communities — just with more money."
"The Soul of the First Amendment," by Floyd Abrams (Yale University Press, $28.00).
This book is only 145 pages long but packs a wallop! Mr. Abrams, a noted First Amendment litigator and visiting lecturer at Yale and Columbia Law schools, examines how 250 years of case law protects free speech, "more intensely, and more controversially than is the case anywhere else in the world, including Democratic nations as Canada and England."
For Abrams, the First Amendment is the "rock star" of the U.S. Constitution and "its fame is justified and [his] book seeks to offer some perspective on how special it is."
"The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us," by Joel Kotkin. (B2 Books, $16.95).
Kotkin, the executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, questions the new urban development that "has adhered to similar tenets: tall structures, small units, and high density."
Consumer cities, like New York, are attractive to the rich, students and single childless professionals starting careers. They are not conducive to retaining the working middle-class and many of those starting families.
"The reluctance of people to have children in dense cities," Kotkin writes, "suggests that super-urbanity often serves as a kind of a way station in which people spend only a portion— often an exciting and career enhancing one — of their early lives."
The tendency of older folks starting families is to move to suburbia which for Kotkin, is “essential to the health of an urban organism."
Despite the demonizing of suburbia by elites, many find it attractive because they can have more space and better schools for their children. And, "only 17 percent of millennials identify the urban core as their preferred long-term destination."
Many millennials are moving to the suburbs in the western and southern parts of our nation, but, unfortunately, not to Long Island where I live. That’s because high property taxes—thanks to decades of corruption and mismanagement — have made our suburbs unaffordable.
"Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and The Rise of Austerity Politics," by Kim Phillips-Fein (Metropolitan Books, $32).
Dr. Fein, a history professor at New York Univeristy (NYU) has written a fine narrative history of New york City's fiscal collapse in the mid-1970’s. While I do not agree with her analysis of austerity politics, which she claims was designed almost universally by "white elites," Ms. Fein aptly captures in print New York’s brush with bankruptcy and the "last-minute machinations and backroom deals" to save the City.
Happy reading this summer.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. To read more George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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