Why did I choose to read this book?
Full disclosure: Ed Burmila has been a friend of my family since 2008. I met him when I started dating my now husband, and he was literally the first friend of the husband’s that I met. I was a fan of his website Gin and Tacos, and we’ve kept in touch all this time.
I chose to read this book because (1) I want to support my friend and (2) I trust his knowledge and expertise to guide me through the history and evolution of the current Democratic Party. It turns out that I had the skeleton of an idea of what was going on, but as is often the case, Ed showed me that it was so much worse than I ever thought.
What is this book about?
At its heart, this book is meant to show how the Democratic Party went from the New Deal Democrats of FDR to a party that doesn’t seem able to get anything done. The reason they don’t get anything done is because powers behind the scenes have slowly but surely been guiding their leaders towards a mindset that they can never do anything that might alienate centrist voters (read: the mythical “reasonable” Republican). He tracks a path from FDR all the way through Obama, Trump, and Biden so you can see how we got here: supporting a party that can’t seem to do anything helpful for ~reasons~.
What is notable about the story?
I am (or was, I guess) an American education scholar, and I have been shouting for years about how it wasn’t George W. Bush who set up public schools for ruin, it was Clinton. Burmila spends a hefty amount of time on Bill Clinton’s years in the White House, and for good reason. His inability to keep it in his pants aside, Clinton was the pivot point from “maybe we could be the New Deal party again!” to setting the party firmly into “Republican-lite.”
I admit I was also swept up in the hope and change of the Obama years, and it was sobering to see that Obama also bought fully into the Clinton model. This was also when the Democratic art of talking themselves out of things comes into stark relief. Obama had large majorities in both the House and Senate and yet healthcare is still a nightmare to this day. They love to say “look how hard we fought!” but also “but we couldn’t get it done because [insert reason here] so make sure you vote harder next time and we will keep fighting!” It’s the circle of Democratic life.
Next time you’re watching the news or hearing a Democratic politician speak, see how many times you hear them say they’ll try to/fight for/introduce legislation for something that would honestly help people, but they never actually say they’ll DO it. This book only solidified my belief that the Democratic party is now the party of plausible deniability and they are masters of the art form.
Was anything not so great?
This is not so much a critique of Burmila’s writing as it is of my own attention deficits, but I am NOT a reader of non-fiction books. Articles? Sure! Blogs? You bet! But an entire book meant to educate me on political history? Normally this book and I would never, ever share space. It was a shame that I only thought at the last minute of having the husband write a guest review – he would have finished the book faster.
I am glad I read it. We live in an era that demands personal responsibility when it comes to facts and understanding them. It’s important for me to take the time to educate myself with reliable sources so I know why things are the way they are and so I can avoid the possible effects of rampant misinformation. It took a long time, but I am glad I read it.
TL:DR Even though we are primarily fiction readers, we need to read this book.
What’s the verdict?
5 stars on Goodreads.
If you are a reader of this blog and you consider yourself a Democrat (or at least anti-Republican), I insist that you seek this book out and force yourself to read it. Burmila brings humor into his writing, both in the paragraphs and via footnotes, which will make the medicine go down easier (I suggest purchasing the physical copy, as the Kindle copy lacked the immediacy of access to the footnotes, missing the comedic timing a bit).
It is our duty as citizens to understand what this party is doing right now, and heed Burmila’s recommendations for how we might right the ship. It’s also worthwhile to note that while he had a longtime blog dedicated to these topics and has been writing articles for several news outlets, Burmila is a newcomer on the book scene where fresh faces and perspectives will be necessary to get our country out of the dangerous rut it finds itself in. Go get it.
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