Apr. 24th, 2017

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Subtitled: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama

I _should_ have read this when it came out, but I am sort of happy I did not, because I got to read it for the first time now instead, and then chat about it at book group. Of course we all love Ifill, and are so sad that she is no longer with us. Ironically, everyone else at book group had probably watched her on the news more than I had -- and I loved the book while most of the group was very disappointed. And it wasn't because we all felt the same about the book, and the bar was in different places for each of us. Nope -- I thought this was a five star book and there wasn't anyone agreeing with me.

I had thought, as I read it, that this would have been a really different book for me if I had _not_ been watching TRMS (and before it, Countdown with Keith Olbermann) for over a decade (collectively). With a few exceptions (notably, at the chapter level, Artur Davis), I could readily bring to mind images from the shows -- I could remember seeing the people in the book on the shows, being interviewed or consulted for commentary on recent events. I head their voices, I had a feel for their sense of humor (or lack thereof). If you could not readily imagine the people in this book, I can see how it would have been incredibly confusing and difficult to read. But instead, this was roughly equivalent to reading Soap Opera Digest, and I followed it up with wikipedia level research to figure out Where Are They Now.

The funniest of all _those_ stories are the many veering curves in the career arc of Artur Davis. Not only did he _not_ win the 2010 Alabama gubernatorial election he was aiming for during this book, he didn't win his primary. He switched parties, moved to Virginia, started writing for the National Review and supported Mitt Romney -- all after NOT supporting ACA because he didn't care for the mandates (which, in turn, were all there because of Republicans and especially Mitt Romney).

Don't take my word for it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artur_Davis

It's a heckuva story.

But that's not in _The Breakthrough_. What _is_ in _The Breakthrough_ are the early stories of Michael Nutter, Adrian Fenty, Deval Patrick, Cory Booker, David Paterson among many others. These are the stories of the first generation of electable and often elected African American (mostly) men who didn't win office exclusively in majority-minority districts. Ifill explores how they found ways to appeal to white voters without offending their black base. She also explores the dynamic of the 2008 election and the question of which is harder to overcome: racism or sexism. This was the part my group, I think, was least convinced by, perhaps because of the result of the 2016 election. While those African American women elected to office (Kamala Harris gets a few pages) and interviewed here deprecate how serious sexism was for them vs. racism, this is, actually, the strategy for dealing with bigotry that cannot yet be faced head on. Ifill also touches -- very lightly -- on how women don't vote as a bloc, which I think is more important for the sexism vs. racism question.

If you can make sense of the names that people this book -- if they are familiar to them, or you can become familiar with them enough to animate the interviews that form the backbone of this book -- it is a wonderful, nuanced and light-handed exploration of the intersection of race, gender and class. And honestly, even if you did read it back in 2009, you might want to go re-read it. Time has only made it more interesting as an examination of a generation of leaders and how they got to where they were.
walkitout: (Default)
Both kids went to school today! A first since the day before Good Friday. I got some housecleaning done and some decluttering (my closet, again. You would think it would be in good shape by now, but I'm thinking another 2-3 go rounds before it is where I want it to be). I made the hoppin' john fritters for lunch.

I walked with M. and her dog. When A. got home, I read a chapter of _The Marvelous Land of Oz_ to her. We walked (she scootered) around the block. We had dinner at Crossroads Cafe, where R. picked A. up and I headed out to book group.

I also caught up on some Tivo'd episodes of NCIS. That was fun. It was a relaxing day and the weather was remarkably pleasant.

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