Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream
by Ross Douthat & Reihan Salam
Doubleday, 244 pages, $23.95
After publishing “The Party of Sam's Club”—their much acclaimed 2005 Weekly Standard cover story—the Atlantic Monthly editors Ross Douthat (a First Things contributor) and Reihan Salam began developing their ideas on how the Republican party could enact economic policies that would actually benefit their voters.
Grand New Party is the lucidly written, persuasively argued, and thoroughly provocative result. Douthat and Salam's youth—they're among the brightest lights in the next generation of conservative writers—gives them a new perspective on the contemporary political scene, allowing them to step out beyond traditional conservative fixations on tax cutting and limited government—where the supposed Reagan solution is always the correct solution—and to offer incisive criticisms of how the Grand Old Party's ideology frequently serves as a blinder to effective policies for the working class. At the same time, they recognize that the working class has felt increasingly alienated from the Democrats as that party has shifted from New Deal to lifestyle liberalism.
In response to Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas, they argue that it is middle American families who most acutely reap the consequences of our cultural breakdown—and this explains their inclination toward the social conservatism of the Republicans. But the Republicans, in turn, need to match their policies to their rhetoric.
Douthat and Salam's argument comes in two parts. The first half of Grand New Party is a retelling of twentieth-century American political history, all from the perspective of middle-class families. Seen in this light, the political realignments, especially of working-class Catholics who were once such a stronghold for the Democrats, begin to make sense.
In the book's second half, they lay out their proposals for how the GOP can creatively apply traditional conservative principles to contemporary social issues. Government must be limited, sure, but not eliminated, and the state has an important role to play in providing social and economic stability for the working class—and it can do this with proactive policies that emphasize free markets, personal liberty, the centrality of the family, and cultural renewal. The end of the book gets deep into policy wonkery, and no one is likely to agree with all their telling of history or buy all their proposals. Still, Douthat and Salam have made an important contribution to the future of conservatism in America.
—Ryan T. Anderson
Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle over Our Ancient Heritage
by James Cuno
Princeton University Press, 256 pages, $24.95
“Hey hey, ho ho. Western culture's got to go!” So went the chants on the campus of Stanford University in 1988, criticizing the classical canon. Well, it's going—literally. Antiquities of questionable provenance held by many museums are being “repatriated” to their source nations, sometimes as the result of a mere threat. When a claim is made, should museums comply? “The world is divided on this question,” explains James Cuno, with “museums, private collectors and art dealers” on one side, and “archaeologists, academics, and source nation cultural ministers” on the other. Cuno defends the museum side of the issue, and he is well suited to make the case. Cuno, once director of the Harvard University Art Museum, is currently director of the Art Institute of Chicago and is rumored to be on the short list to replace Philippe de Montebello at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The hero of Cuno's book is the Enlightenment-inspired “encyclopedic museum,” such as the Louvre or the British Museum. The villain is nationalism, which is fortified by recent laws that keep archaeological discoveries within national borders or demand their return. These laws, says Cuno, are an unenforceable “bouillabaisse of good intentions and bureaucratic ambitions,” and their “trajectory of retention is tightening, from protection to prevention to return.” Cuno's alternative is the legal scholar John Merryman's triad of knowledge, preservation, and access. Museums that best meet such benchmarks should get the goods.
The book is packed with informative tangents but will do little to mollify those who suspect Western museums of purchasing or retaining illegally exported antiquities. Because UNESCO resolutions have not prevented looting, Cuno calls them a “failed regime.” We could say the same of “Thou shalt not steal.” Cuno laments violent, divided humanity, and he promises that museums “serve as a force for understanding, tolerance, and the dissolution of ignorance and superstition about the world.” Museums are indeed wonderful, but while there are no easy answers to the antiquities question, there may be more compelling explanations for human imperfection than the fact that not enough people spend afternoons at the Met.
—Matthew J. Milliner
Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible
by M. Daniel Carroll R.
Baker Academic, 160 pages, $16.99
The immigration crisis that took center stage in 2006 and 2007 has yet to be resolved. At some point after this election cycle, the policymakers will once again debate the issue and attempt to formulate a resolution. Christians at the Border intentionally offers no policy solutions; its purpose is deeper and perhaps more far-reaching. For Carroll, “what it means to be a human” must be the central question, the “foundation for any discussion” of immigration. In discussing immigration with Christians, Carroll discovered that ideology, background, and experience—not the Christian faith—often provided the lens that brought the immigration issue into focus. Here, Carroll's task is to reframe the debate, encouraging Christians to view the matters at stake through the eyes of faith.
To set the stage, he provides a brief history of Hispanic presence in the United States and an overview of the economic, demographic, religious, and cultural factors at work in the current debate. Carroll, Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary, then turns to his intellectual home—the Old Testament and its implications for Christians—to grapple with this complex question. In a particularly compelling section, he brings to life the story of Ruth and Naomi, a story of immigration, loyalty, law, and assimilation. Carroll notes the lack of legal concern for foreigners in the laws of other ancient Near Eastern cultures. In contrast, Israel has laws granting foreigners protection. “Israel's stance toward the foreigner was part of the larger fabric of its ethical life. It was part of the ethos of what it meant to be the people of God.”
Using Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well and the parable of the Good Samaritan, Carroll argues that Jesus models for us the appropriate response to those neighbors who stand outside our communities. By providing a biblically based human face to today's immigrant, Christians at the Border asks us to formulate a Christian response to the current immigration crisis.
Brokers of Culture: Italian Jesuits in the American West, 1848–1919
by Gerald McKevitt
Stanford Univ. Press, 448 pages, $65
Popular culture associates Gonzaga University with Bing Crosby, who left the school in 1925 to begin his musical career. But Gonzaga is, in fact, one of five western American colleges founded by Jesuits from the kingdoms of Piedmont-Sardinia and Naples who immigrated to the United States in response to the ongoing political and social turmoil in Italy from 1848 until unification in 1870.
Gerald McKevitt, S.J., a professor of Jesuit Studies, chronicles the Jesuits' journey from Italy to the American West. The California institutions founded by Alta Italians include McKevitt's own Santa Clara in 1851 and the University of San Francisco in 1855. Gonzaga was founded in 1887, followed by Seattle University in 1891. The Neapolitan Jesuits arrived in the United States in 1867, focusing their missionary work on the natives of New Mexico and the Rocky Mountain north.
The émigrés were challenged by the American ideal of rugged individualism but, true to their Ignatian training, adjusted without sacrificing their cultural and religious patrimony. The role of the Italian Jesuits in the spiritual, intellectual, and scientific growth of the nineteenth-century American West may come as a surprise, but Father McKevitt provides a readable ap_proach to an intriguing chapter in American history.
—Michael P. Morris
Freedom's Orphans: Contemporary Liberalism and the Fate of American Children
by David L. Tubbs
Princeton University Press, 248 pages, $27.95
Freedom's Orphans is alternately an insightful and frustrating book. David L. Tubbs seeks to document the extent to which liberalism has neglected the interests of children in the pursuit of individual autonomy. He largely succeeds, and his treatment of thinkers from John Rawls to Ronald Dworkin is broad and sympathetic. Traditionalists inclined to agree with his thesis will certainly benefit from the deference Tubbs shows in presenting modern liberal theory as it understands itself.
Unfortunately, his insistence on engaging his interlocutors on their own terms robs his argument of its force. Tubbs has his finger on a central tension in any liberal political order: Because a free society requires morally responsible citizens who won't abuse their liberties, that same society must take serious interest in the development of children. Thus, he argues, the state has a right to legislate in a manner that encourages the formation of traditional two-parent families—largely by reinforcing the natural connection between sex and child rearing—even where such legislation might run afoul of a strictly individualist conception of liberty.
Tubbs' targets range from no-fault divorce to Supreme Court precedents undermining state regulation of contraception and obscenity, and he has much that is interesting to say about each. Insightful is his exploration of the (limited) common ground inhabited by both traditionalists and feminists, whose focus on women demands that it at least take seriously questions of child rearing.
Unfortunately, he fails in his attempt to construct any broader critique of liberal theory. His final conclusion, that liberalism must incorporate a sense of “value pluralism” to allow for vigorous state defense of children's interests, is presented in such an off-handed manner that it raises far more questions than it resolves—for instance, how to distinguish Tubbs' pro-family state action from the welfare-state leviathan. Such omissions are all too common, a consequence of Tubbs' failure to consider the political implications of childhood outside the narrow theoretical framework provided by the thinkers he engages. The result is too much scattered pleading for us merely to think more about children's interests. An intriguing work that could have been much better.
Classic American Films: Conversations with the Screenwriters
by William Baer
Praeger, 252 pages, $49.95
“Can you imagine writing a review of a play and not mentioning the playwright?” asks Ernest Lehman, one of Hollywood's greatest screenwriters. Yet, all too frequently, it is the masterful director who receives critical acclaim, with little attention paid to his collaboration with the storyteller and wordsmith: Alfred Hitchcock and Lehman in North by Northwest; George Lucas, Gloria Katz, and Willard Huyck in American Graffiti; or Steven Speilberg and Carl Gottlieb in Jaws, for instance. William Baer, a trained screenwriter and founding editor of the Formalist journal, attempts to remedy this disparity through his collection of interviews with the men and women who gave form to cinema's favorite characters and conversations. Some of the most acclaimed American films are highlighted with lively production anecdotes and firsthand thematic reflections, including Singing in the Rain, On the Waterfront, The Sound of Music, The Sting, and Tender Mercies. A walk through cinematic history, guided by its major writers.
The Rise of Global Civil Society: Building Communities and Nations from the Bottom Up
by Don Eberly
Encounter, 300 pages, $27.95
And then there is a second subtitle, “Compassion as America's Most Consequential Export.” Sounds like yet another exercise in global do-goodism? You'd be wrong about that. Drawing on the theoretical work of Robert Nisbet, Robert Putnam, William Galston, Peter Berger, and Richard John Neuhaus, Eberly supplies practical instances demonstrating that the building of civil society is key to the cultural, economic, and political development of poor countries. Whereas twenty-five years ago, 70 percent of American “foreign aid” came from government, today 85 percent is provided by individuals, businesses, religious institutions, foundations, universities, and immigrant communities. It is an exciting story, and Eberly offers down-to-earth suggestions about how individuals and institutions can become part of it.