Thursday, August 18, 2005

Another book retort

Just how terrible are today's Democrats? They apparently wanted George W. Bush to win the 2004 election!

Such is the simple thesis for the latest volume of crankatansky critterature to not grace the Not Right shelf. This didn't make the just-released 2005 List of Banned Books, though maybe it should have. Then again, being on any list with America: the Book is too good for Left Out!

You know that old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover?" Well, sometimes you can. Think about it; in these partisan times, seeing the names of Ann Coulter or Al Franken on the cover of a book is a pretty good indicator of what you're going to get. If you buy Guns and Ammo, you can expect to see guns and ammo. If you get a Playboy, you can expect to see some ass. Low-Rider Magazine? Low-riders! And ass. Bill O'Reilly would disagree (just ask Al Franken), but I aim for a smarter audience. So buckle up, because it's the law.

Left Out! by Joshua Frank has a lot going for it, including a dark blue cover and easily readable words. Its binding is superior for a paperback book and its content is set in an aesthetically pleasing typeface. The back cover offers praise, saying that the book "will unnerve many progressives who nurse at the teat of The New York Times" and that the author "dissects the stinking corpse of Kerry's defeat..."

So much for my review of the cover. Delving into the actual book, I realized just how wrong my initial assessment was; the cover is, in fact, very misleading. A more appropriate title for this book would have been, Why Howard Dean Sucks.

Frank himself, the featured of the four authors contained within, has written for such publications as Earth First! Journal, the namesake mouthpiece of the eco-terrorist group to whom Ted Kaczynski once gave his endorsement. So consider yourself warned: this isn't your garden-variety Republican Party primer. In fact, quite the opposite.

The essays generally take on the tack that, while Republicans are pond scum, the Democrats are even worse. Why? Because they're supposed to be so much better. I can understand where that anger comes from. As for how the Democrats are so much worse than the GOP, that I don't understand. In my early days of writing for The Vermilion, I used to get letters to the effect that I deserved to be fired because I didn't toe the Democrats-are-evil line enough. My answer to that has always been, you don't get unity from the left by having every splinter group tear all of the others apart. I'm no Democrat, but I understand that alliance isn't always a bad thing. Indeed, political alliances are all about compromise and nuance, as Jeffrey St. Clair clearly doesn't understand in his essay "Howard's End? The Demise of the Democrats":

These days the creaky curators of the American left paint their opponents as maniacal demons. Hitler is the reflexive metaphor for any Republican. All the corroded left seems to know is the politics of hysteria.

Virtually the entire piece reads like this. It goes in depth as to how Howard Dean is not only not the best hope of the Democrats, but is in fact a disgusting hypocrite with the best of them. Included as explanations are such anecdotes as the following, which is best described as "psychotic analysis":

Like George W., Dean was never his mother's favorite child, which may explain his tendency to throw political tantrums. These are the guys you really have to watch like a hawk.

Yes, that's right: St. Clair actually compares the disastrous Bush regime with Howard Dean's infamous scream. Clearly, perspective is not this book's strong point. St. Clair's overall point is that Dean is a scumbag because he is a hypocritical elitist, which by the author's standards is apparently defined as "anyone who hasn't lived like the Unabomber their entire life."

Dean gets similar treatment from Frank himself, who says that even though Dean is the hope of the Democratic Party, he is still basically worthless:

"[H]e may well be the whistleblower of the bona fide Democratic establishment that was unknowingly working in favor of Republican interests." But four pages earlier, he accused Dean of being "an insider hell-bent on weakening the party, further explicat[ing] that he and his party in fact helped reelect George W. Bush." So essentially, Frank's argument boils down to these points:

1) Dean represents the best of the Democratic Party;
2) Dean destroyed the Democrats;
3) The Democrats deserve to be destroyed because of Dean;
4) Dean enabled the Republicans;
5) Republicans deserve to be enabled if Dean is the best they can do;
6) For the Democrats to survive, they need more people like Dean

Is your head pulsating with pain yet? Mine is. But let's press on because these guys didn't write these essays just for their health. Indeed, I don't think the concept of "health" came up at any point during this book's writing. But I digress.

"Dean was Never Anti-War" calls out Dean on his support (or, at the very least, his lack of initial activism against) the Iraq War; "Defending Zionism and War Profiteering" examines Dean's supposed (if loosely defined) extremist alliance with Israel in a context differing very little from a David Duke screed; chapters trashing Dean's environmental and business records as governor of Vermont; and an unflattering look at his positions as a presidential candidate. Other Democratic politicians such as Wesley Clark, Paul Wellstone, Bill Clinton, John Kerry et al. are similarly savaged (albeit to a lesser extent), the point being that no one with a "D" next to their name is ever going to be good enough for the authors.

This is precisely where the premise of Left Out falls apart. While the book carries the critical message that no politician is innocent and that all citizens should be informed of their transgressions, it carries it with the underlying theme that there is no hope. Though the authors hardly let Republicans off the hook, they pursue the Democrats with a particularly lusty zeal. Nowhere in the book do the authors come up with real answers to the problem, which is perhaps the one thing that would legitimize the points made within. As it stands, the book just seems like a Green Party third-party screed (except that they show no love to the "Gangrene Party" either). We get it, the two-party system is corrupt. Now what? Those of us who join in the call for a more progressive government await the answer to that question, the very one the book supposedly set out to answer in the first place.


Mustang Bobby said...

I haven't read the book, either, but I do know that this guy doesn't know the Dean family. I had the privilege of going to school with Charlie Dean, Howard's younger brother, and I met his parents several times. That was in 1967, and I have a better perspective on their family dynamic than this twit.

Abdul said...

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Flamingo Jones said...

I fall really ill of this Bastard too. You and your battery rock on, Abdul.