This should be today’s go-to book on its subject.



A warts-and-all history of “the oldest mass party in the world.”

In his latest, Kazin, a Georgetown historian and editor emeritus of Dissent, delivers a lively, timely survey whose central theme is the Democrats’ two-centuries-long effort to assist ordinary working people. That theme is neither novel nor, coming from a historian of the left, surprising. Yet despite the author’s Democratic favoritism—he occasionally writes in the first person—this is not an anti-Republican tract. Like Heather Cox Richardson’s analogous history of the Republican Party, To Make Men Free, Kazin applies tough scrutiny and due criticism to an institution that, as early as the 1840s, was unparalleled in its electoral and institutional innovations and acceptance of popular politics. While erring in calling Thomas Jefferson’s original Democratic-Republican Party a “proto-party” and ignoring earlier pioneering state-level achievements in enlarging the electorate, Kazin is on solid ground. To enliven his narrative and illustrate his arguments, he foregrounds often forgotten public figures like William Jennings Bryan (whose biography, A Godly Hero, Kazin wrote), Belle Moskowitz, Sidney Hillman, and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. The author’s chapter on New York politics and Tammany Hall is brilliant. He doesn’t shy away from emphasizing the party’s control by Southern slaveholders, starting in the days of Jefferson and Andrew Jackson and extending into the 1860s, nor the outright racism of their heirs. He also digs into the deep misogyny in party ranks and the schisms that resulted from its extraordinary, unprecedented diversity—except for the long exclusion of African Americans. Without flinching, Kazin charts the party’s downward course from Franklin Roosevelt’s huge 1936 election victory—“the most complete victory in the history of partisan presidential elections”—to its abject losses starting in the 1960s. As the narrative thins toward the end, arriving at the present day, the author closes with unmistakable tones of lament for the party’s recent fortunes and missteps.

This should be today’s go-to book on its subject.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-20023-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.


A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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