Book Reviews

Listen Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People by Thomas Frank

In my quest to be more well rounded in my news consumption this month, I picked up a few different political books to consume. One of these was a middle of the road book, written by a liberal, condemning liberals.

I really enjoyed this book and it was really eye opening for me. I think what I’m going to learn most about my no news, fox news, cnn, world news challenge this month is that I really do live in a blue bubble here in Portland. I only talk to people who think like I do. I only read news that confirms what I already believe to be true.

If this book taught me anything it’s that I don’t really know anything. I know what I choose to read and what I choose to hear.

Now this book isn’t without its faults. Frank seems to have a personnel vendetta against innovation and Uber in particular. Not without reason, but it also goes a bit far. Like, innovation isn’t BAD, and it’s a good thing liberals support innovations. However, it’s not ALL THERE IS, and focusing solely on that as the key to solve all our woes is not helpful. Not EVERYONE is going to want to be college educated and start their own business that will turn into a monopoly. We need to make sure those people still have access to good jobs with fair wages.

That’s where we are falling behind: with the working class. We are too focused on the ‘Professional’ class. The elite educated class. We believe all our problems can be solved with education and the flip side of that is that we are leaving out a huge voting populous that used to be ours. We used to be the party of the people. What happened?

Frank sets out to show how our two party system has morphed into Conservative and Not-As-Conservative and I think he does a pretty good job. Which billionaire do you want to elect next that has no real idea of the struggle of the working class? We cannot elect people solely on which candidate is more moral: we (liberals) will lose that election again and again if we continue down that path.

I voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 because I could afford to vote for her over Trump. I am an educated college graduate with a good job and I can choose morality over everything else because I will continue to have income in my field. Clinton’s proposed policies supported people like me. They supported the educated and the innovators. The white collar workers. What they ignored were the blue collar workers.

Blue collar workers who might have no interest in being college educated (and that’s okay!). Not everyone wants to be! AND THAT’S OKAY. And those used to be our people, liberals were the party of the working class – and we have left them behind. We have told them there is no place for them among our elite educated class where everyone supposedly wants to be. They cannot always afford to vote for morality as much as they might want to.

62,984,825 people voted for Trump and they aren’t ALL racist misogynistic idiots. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that those with high moral standards in that number were people of white privilege that didn’t feel like they had a lot to lose on the morality front of the election. If the election had been about whether to vote for a racist or not, I believe that most people would have voted for the person who wasn’t a outright racist. But that’s not all there was at stake for those people.

A lot of those people who voted for Trump don’t have to worry about policies that effect people who aren’t white, straight and male (privledged people) because they ARE those things and they will always be protected by that. They might, however, have to worry about their manual labor jobs. They have families to support, rent to pay, mouths to feed, and they need their jobs to do that. And a college education isn’t always worth a whole lot when you live in small town America. So all they’re hearing from the liberals is that jobs will come to them if they just go to a big city and get a degree. INNOVATE! Otherwise you’ll get left behind. It’s YOUR fault you work where you do. Those jobs don’t work anymore. Get an education and all will be solved. And that doesn’t exactly work for them.

That is what Frank’s book is all about. It’s not perfect, it has its flaws. Frank is by no means a Trump guy. He hates the guy as he says several times. Frank’s beef is with liberals throwing elitism at blue collar workers as a solution for them. A solution that doesn’t resonate with them. And when they’re being told ‘too bad, that’s how things work now’, that message doesn’t resonate. They turn to the party who is telling them they will keep their jobs (even if they won’t). The turn to the party that says they will fight for their right to good wages in a factory (even if they won’t). Because the rhetoric liberals are pushing when it comes to the working class just isn’t realistic for them.

The News

The News – Intro

Dry January is over for me and so it’s the perfect time to start drinking again and focus the month of February on the news media. I honestly can’t imagine doing this challenge completely sober so it’s great timing.

This challenge will change weekly and the goal will be to show that our knowledge of ‘what is happening’ in the world depends on what we are reading, who we are talking to and sometimes even where we live.

The first week will be spent with no news! That’s right. I’m taking January 31st-February 7th off from the news. I will be happily skipping the State of the Union this year. I will not seek the news on Reddit, Google, Facebook, BBC, Fox, MSNBC, CNN, local news, you name it, I’m not having it.

Week one will be a chance to cleanse the pallet. The one exception is I will be able to ask people around me what’s going on in the news if I desire. I will also be able to pick up the news just from listening to people around me talk about it. I’m hoping to show what someone who doesn’t pay attention to the news picks up as news worthy.

Week two (here’s where the drinking comes in) I’ll be only reading Fox News. I don’t have cable so I won’t have to WATCH fox news (thank baby Jesus), but I will be only getting my news and headlines from them. Then I’ll report to you what the news for the week is when I only got my news from Fox.

Then I’ll be moving on to CNN for week three. If you don’t think CNN has a bias then clearly you’ve been reading too much CNN. It’ll be interesting to see the contrast here.

Why is this so important to see things from all sides? Although bias is impossible to get rid of completely (heck I’ve been pretty bias this entire post so far), it’s still important that we look for it and learn how to identify it. Here’s an example of a news story told three different ways:

Via All Sides

Now I realize this challenge focuses solely on AMERICAN news, which is why for the last week (which will bump a bit into March due to the weird way February works) I’ll be reading Al Jazeera, which I think is a fairly balanced world focused news site, although by no means perfect being owned by the government of Qatar. I’ll do an expose on a few different countries for week four via BBC News because they have an excellent search option to narrow down news by world region, and I’ll let you know what the top story is in those countries. News happens in other parts of the world too my American friends!

BBC’s awesome world news menu, which gives a nice overview of news going on in each region of the world.

I’ll also be reading three books this month, one on on the left, one in the middle and one on the right of U.S. politics. They are called Listen Liberal by Thomas Frank, Republican Like Me by Ken Stern and other is called The Loudest Voice in the Room by Gabriel Sherman. Thomas Frank and Ken Stern books are both written by current or former liberals. Frank spends his book so far examining where the left has failed the working class and Stern spends his book getting out of his blue bubble and experiencing some GOP love. Gabriel Sherman’s book gives a deep look into Roger Ailes life and legacy as founder of Fox News.

So that’s the February challenge. No news has already started for me and I’ll be honest, I wanted to check the news several times already today. Help I’m dying.