April 27, 2004
Winning Back America Excerpt:
Each day we'll be posting an excerpt from "Winning Back America". Check back often:
One of the shortest answers I will ever give follows the question of what I like to do to relax. Whenever I’m home, we’ll have dinner together as a family, which is time that I relish. But I was never very good at relaxing.
When I’m at home, I work around the house. As far as television is concerned, I only watch the news. The books I read these days tend to be historical in nature, though I do have a weakness for physics—quantum physics, molecular physics, and astrophysics. I’m not a physicist at all; I don’t do the higher math and I couldn’t explain string theory, but I’m addicted to the “Science” section of The New York Times.
I’ll often be asked which books have affected me. One of the greatest political books I’ve read is Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. The book is based on the life of Huey Long, the populist Louisiana governor and senator who was murdered in 1935. Long was originally chosen as a third-party candidate to siphon off votes from someone the bosses didn’t want, and he turned out to be a larger-than-life figure who dominated politics in his state. The lesson I took from the book was: Be careful what you wish for; you may get it.
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird meant a lot to me. The book’s theme is racial justice in the South, and Atticus Finch is the paradigm of a guy who is willing to stand up for what is right. Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey is an extraordinary voyage by a counterculture writer into an America of the past that wasn’t countercultural at all.
There is a book I think every American should read. It’s called Nickel and Dimed, and it was written by Barbara Ehrenreich. If you think the discussion about the travails of the middle class and the working poor is a liberal invention, you must read this book. It demonstrates exactly how hard it is to get by in America, and how much harder it is as a single mom. The author was a waitress, a chambermaid, and worked at a Wal-Mart; in the process, she found out how difficult it is to make ends meet when you have no benefits, no sick pay, and no chance to change your schedule if you need to. There are millions of Americans in the same situation. By and large, they don’t vote because they’ve given up on the system. The Democrats haven’t done enough for them, and the Republicans don’t care.
Harry S. Truman is my great political hero, and David McCullough’s biography is a truly magnificent book. I read Truman to Anne and Paul when they were in the second and third grades, and they both loved it. It is one of the books that has had the most impact on me in the last ten years.
Posted by David Fox on April 27, 2004 at 06:00 AM | Permalink