I have been writing a lot about America in the 1960s lately. and how the civil rights backlash paved the way for the modern Republican Party’s hardline stance on gun control and the ban on abortion. But I didn’t spend that much time studying what happened within the Democratic Party that led to such a dramatic shift. So this week I fixed it with a giant stack of vacation readings:
“Racial Realignment: The Transformation of American Liberalism, 1932–1965by Eric Schickler, argues that the Democrats’ push for civil rights is not, as is commonly believed, a top-down elite project that took place in the 1960s, but rather a bottom-up pressure campaign in which lower-level Democrats vote , especially northern branch unions, pressured the party to come out in defense of civil rights.
To understand why this happened, it is crucial to understand the Great Migration, the mass exodus of black Americans from the South to the cities of the North. They went on to become an important pillar of the trade union movement and the Democratic Party, pressuring the masses to adopt a civil rights platform. Therefore, to better understand that period, I return to the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Isabelle Wilkerson.The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration“.
To expand my historical framework, I chose “What It Takes to Win: A History of the Democratic Partyby Michael Kazin, which traces the party’s history from Andrew Jackson to Joe Biden and includes an analysis of the modern era of the party’s urban cosmopolitanism.
And for a retrospective pop culture metaframe, I also watched The Trial of the Chicago Seven, Aaron Sorkin’s re-enactment of the 1968 trial of a group of anti-Vietnam War protesters that A. O. Scott described in his Times review as “very special.” A sober episode of “Drunken History”. Someday I’ll write an essay that’s been spinning around in my head for years about Sorkin’s work outlining the blind spots of American liberalism. Today is not that day.
Books that will delight you this summer
Kate Godfrey, a reader from Oakland, California, recommends:Joan is fine” Vaike Wang:
There she stood on the shelf of the local library. I am a retired graphic designer. I liked the cover. No text expectations. Inside was the story of a dedicated health worker questioning the meaning of life and family. A brilliant poignant story about loyalty to yourself and others.
Christina Arrostuto, a reader in Auburn, California, recommends:New York, New York, New York: Four Decades of Success, Excess and Transformation” from Thomas Daya:
I expected to learn more about my favorite city. What I did not expect was a detailed yet succinct, compelling and insightful description of the social, political, economic and humanistic forces that swept not only New York, but the United States as a whole throughout my life during the baby boomer era. Mr. Dyzha has created an anthropological mosaic in which all our present joys and sorrows are clearly visible. Between the lines, I could see a roadmap for both continuing the path to progress towards the betterment of our society and changing course on issues that have caused so much suffering.
What are you reading?
Thanks to everyone who wrote to tell me about what you are reading. Please keep doing it!
I want to hear about things you have read (or watched or heard) that have made you realize that you were wrong about something, no matter how small the revelation was. Tell us what it was and how it changed your mind.