August 16, 2022


Lately I’ve written a lot about America in the 60’s and the way the backlash against civil rights paved the way for the hardline positions of the modern Republican Party on gun control and the abortion ban. But I didn’t spend much time looking at what happened within the Democratic Party that enabled this seismic shift. So this week I addressed that by reading a huge collection of holidays:

  • Racial Realignment: The Transformation of American Liberalism, 1932-1965by Eric Schickler, shows that the Democrats’ embrace of civil rights is not, as is generally believed, an elitist top-down project that occurred in the 1960s, but rather a bottom-up lobbying campaign in which constituencies, particularly labor unions in northern states, pressured the party to embrace the cause of civil rights.

  • To understand why this happened, it is necessary to understand the Great Migration, the mass exodus of black Americans from the south to northern cities. They became an important constituency for the union movement and the Democratic Party, gaining popular pressure to adopt a civil rights platform. To better understand that period, I’ll turn back to Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson”Another Sun’s Warmth: The Epic Story of the Great American Migration. “

  • To expand my historical framework, I chose “What It Takes to Win: A History of the Democratic PartyWritten by Michael Kazin, which traces the history of the party from Andrew Jackson to Joe Biden, and includes an analysis of the modern party era of urban cosmopolitanism.

  • For a retrospective of popular culture, I also watched “Chicago Trial 7,” Aaron Sorkin’s dramatic depiction of the 1968 trial of a group of anti-Vietnam War protesters, which AO Scott described in his Times article as “a very special, sobering episode of Sugar History.” One day I will write the article that has been creeping in my head for years about Sorkin’s work mapping the blind spots of American liberalism..today is not that day.


Kate Godfrey, a reader in Oakland, California, recommends, “joan is fineBy Weike Wang:

It was there on the shelf of the local library. I am a retired graphic designer. I loved the cover. There are no expectations about the text. Inside was a story about a medical professional wondering about the meaning of life and family. A wonderful story about loyalty to oneself and others.

Christina Arostoto, a reader in Auburn, California, recommends, “New York, New York, New York: Four Decades of Success, Exuberance, and TransformationBy Thomas Degas:

I was expecting to know more about my beloved city. What I did not expect was a comprehensive, succinct, compelling, and insightful account of the social, political, economic, and human forces that swept through not only New York, but the United States as a whole throughout my childhood. Mr. Dyja has crafted an anthropological mosaic that brings all our present-day joys and woes into a prominent picture. Between the lines, I could see a roadmap for both continuing the paths toward progress in improving our society and, while daunting, changing course on issues that have caused so much suffering.


Thank you to everyone who texted me to tell me what to read. Please keep submissions coming

I want to hear about the things you read (or watched or listened to) that made you realize you were wrong about something, no matter how little revelations. Tell me what it was and how you changed your mind.



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