Tuesday, January 10, 2017

“Our Revolution: A Future To Believe In”– Book Review


During this year’s winter vacation, I read the new book by the junior United States Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, “Our Revolution:  A Future To Believe In”. 


Senator Bernie Sanders describes his personal and professional background, provides a diary of his presidential campaign and supplies fine points for each of his policies.


“Our Revolution” is made up of two parts:  Part One is “Running For President”, Part Two is “An Agenda For A New America:  How We Transform Our Country”.  Part One is the shorter of the two, containing the following six chapters:  “How Do We Turn Out The Way We Do?”, “My Political Life In Vermont”, “Thinking About Running”, “How Do You Run A Presidential Campaign?”, “The Campaign Begins”, and “On The Campaign Trail”. 

Following the introductory chapters on Sanders’ background and political résumé, the remainder of Part One is essentially a diary of his 2015-2016 Democratic Presidential Campaign.  After years as the lone House Representative from Vermont, Sanders won a vacant Senate seat, representing his state as an Independent.  In describing those early days in the Senate, Sanders talks about the hostility he encountered from Democrats when he started; initially wanting to caucus with the Democrats, he found many of them opposed to him doing so.  Leader of the Senate Democrats, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, finally interceded on Sanders’ behalf; it wasn’t until that point that he was finally given committee assignments. 

Part Two’s 10 chapters are as follows:  “Defeating Oligarchy”, “The Decline Of The American Middle Class”, “Ending A Rigged Economy”, “Health Care For All”, “Making Higher Education Affordable”, “Combating Climate Change”, “Real Criminal Justice Reform”, “Immigration Reform Now”, “Protecting Our Most Vulnerable”, and “Corporate Media And The Threat To Our Democracy”.

The chapters in Part Two allow those unfamiliar with Sanders’ policies to glean an in-depth understanding of what they are and exactly why they are of importance to him – as well as why they should be important to the rest of us.  For people who have scoffed at his ideas of a “Medicare For All” system or free public college, here you have a detailed breakdown of how Sanders proposes to pay for these social programs.  The Senator maintains that giving greater access to higher education is crucial for young Americans if they are to effectively compete in what is now a global market.  In discussing climate change, Senator Sanders suggests that since coal will eventually be phased-out, companies that specialize in making solar panels should be incentivized to establish factories in former coal country locales such as Central Pennsylvania and West Virginia so as to put displaced coal miners back to work,  re-training them to manufacture and/or install solar panels.  This, he believes, might also work in Rust Belt states where the unemployed could find new careers in a burgeoning field.   


Those looking for a first-hand memoir by “The Man Himself” will be sorely disappointed.  His personal and professional history are glossed over without much detail.  The divorce from his first wife, the breakup with the woman who was the mother of his first son, Levi, and his subsequent marriage to Jane are just a few examples.  Sanders clearly wants to keep his private life private and who can blame him? 

Throughout “Our Revolution”, Sanders keeps referring to his movement as a “struggle”, which is uncomfortably reminiscent of “Mein Kampf”.  The Senator credits himself with single-handedly changing Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign as well as making the platform of the Democratic Party the most progressive it has ever had.  To some extent, this book is something of a victory lap of a losing campaign, much like Trump’s self-congratulatory “Thank You” tour.  “Our Revolution” is rather self-congratulatory in tone, Sanders patting himself on the back despite coming in second.  He lacks some degree of objectivity and will tell you gladly everything he did right during his campaign but won’t always admit to exactly what he did wrong.

The book is certainly no great piece of literature – it’s written in a very conversational style and as you read it, you can almost hear Sanders himself speaking it to you in his own form of Brooklynese.  It could have used an editor.  In addition to some occasional typos, one example is on page 175, where he almost seems to be suggesting that Alaska is not a state.  Perhaps its most unforgiveable sin is the fact that the book lacks an index, which is shameful – there is absolutely no excuse for that.

While “Our Revolution” cannot be recommended for its relatively flimsy Part One, it most definitely is worth reading for Part Two alone.  The considerably longer portion of the book, it is by far the more interesting read.  There, Sanders goes into  great detail spelling out not only what America’s objectives should be throughout the next four years but also why they are important and how to achieve them as well.  If anyone had any questions about Sanders’ thoughts on various policies, they will all be addressed and answered extensively throughout each chapter. 

In its conclusion, “Our Revolution” ends on an upbeat, inspirational note with the Senator’s coda for the book being, “Let’s get to work!”.   Yes, Senator Sanders, let’s indeed.   

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