10 books to prepare you for primary season
While it feels like we have endured the Democratic primary season for ages already, we still have months to go!
There are now 15 candidates left in the race, after Kamala Harris recently dropped out. The debate has been dominated by discussions on healthcare, climate change, criminal justice, the impeachment process, and endless think pieces from liberal outlets claiming that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have the same platform.
This reading list of essential books on American politics will get you in the mood for the next phase of the primaries and prepare you for those fun political conversations that you can't escape over the holidays.
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Prisoners of the American Dream is Mike Davis’s brilliant exegesis of a persistent and major analytical problem for Marxist historians and political economists: Why has the world’s most industrially advanced nation never spawned a mass party of the working class?
An extensive afterword by the Nation’s National Affairs correspondent, John Nichols, continues the story with Sanders’s entrance into the Senate, the drama of the 2016 Democratic Primary, his ongoing resistance to Trump, and the thrilling launch of his 2020 bid for the White House. A new foreword by Nina Turner, former president of Our Revolution and co-chair of the Sanders for President campaign, provides a rare glimpse of Bernie as a person. Outsider in the White House is the story of a passionate and principled political life.
This book attempts to spark public discussion by revealing the tainted origins of modern policing as a tool of social control. It shows how the expansion of police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment, social justice—even public safety. Drawing on groundbreaking research from across the world, and covering virtually every area in the increasingly broad range of police work, Alex Vitale demonstrates how law enforcement has come to exacerbate the very problems it is supposed to solve.
Surveying a period from the late seventeenth century—the era in which W.E.B. Du Bois located the emergence of “whiteness”—through the American Revolution and the Civil War to the civil rights movement and the emergence of the American empire, How Race Survived US History reveals how race did far more than persist as an exception in a progressive national history. This masterful account shows how race has remained at the heart of American life well into the twenty-first century.
A Planet to Win explores the political potential and concrete first steps of a Green New Deal. It calls for dismantling the fossil fuel industry, building beautiful landscapes of renewable energy, and guaranteeing climate-friendly work, no-carbon housing, and free public transit. And it shows how a Green New Deal in the United States can strengthen climate justice movements worldwide.
From the colonial era to Trump, Steve Fraser recovers the repressed history of debtors’ prisons and disaster capitalism, of confidence men and the reserve armies of the unemployed. In language that is dynamic and compelling, he demonstrates that class is a fundamental feature of American political life and provides essential intellectual tools for a shrewd reading of American history.
Whether class or race is the more important factor in modern politics is a question right at the heart of recent history’s most contentious debates. Among groups who should readily find common ground, there is little agreement. To escape this deadlock, Asad Haider turns to the rich legacies of the black freedom struggle. Drawing on the words and deeds of black revolutionary theorists, he argues that identity politics is not synonymous with anti-racism, but instead amounts to the neutralization of its movements.
Jenny Brown uncovers a century of legal abortion in the United States until 1873, recalls women’s experiences in the illegal days, and shows how the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s really won abortion rights. She draws inspiration and lessons from the radicals of Redstockings, the Army of Three, and the Jane Collective, putting together a road map for today’s organizers from the black feminist argument for reproductive justice, the successful fight to make the morning-after pill available over the counter, and the recent mass movement to repeal Ireland’s abortion ban.
An unsparing account of the degradation of US democracy, American Breakdown is essential to our evaluation of its prospects. Arguing that Trump’s re-election seems just as likely as impeachment, Bromwich turns his attention to the new struggles within the Democratic Party on immigration, foreign policy, and the Green New Deal.
Since the birth of the nation, impulses of empire have been close to the heart of the United States. How these urges interact with the way the country understands itself, and the nature of the divergent interests at work in the unfolding of American foreign policy, is a subject much debated and still obscure. In a fresh look at the topic, Anderson charts the intertwined historical development of America’s imperial reach and its role as the general guarantor of capital.