Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will PrevailJonathan Chait
MixedSlateChait, in his optimism, understates the force of backlash, of the fierce reaction that always meets progress and often overtakes it, both as it exists and as it can exist. And his confidence that Obama’s legacy will survive gives short shrift to how backlash isn’t just a bump on the road to a better future ... What’s missing from Chait’s analysis, put simply, is a sense of tragedy ... Chait’s self-positioning in the ecosystem of American politics isn’t mindless contrarianism. It comes from a sincere belief that liberals (and the left more broadly) are too stubbornly fatalistic to see that Democratic presidents, and Obama in particular, make real headway on their goals and priorities, despite inevitable obstacles, setbacks, and failures ... It’s not that Chait doesn’t have a point—although, this point may have been stronger had Hillary Clinton prevailed in the presidential contest—but that he overcorrects, understating the real political and policy failures that marked Obama’s tenure. He fails to tackle the more sophisticated critiques of the administration, from both the left and the right.
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American TragedyTa-Nehisi Coates
RaveSlateThese essays are a cross section of Coates’ work that, read with the distance of time, reveal the shifts in his thinking, even as they cover familiar concerns and questions. They also show a broadening of his perspective ... This volume serves to address other criticisms. The charge that Coates is a pessimist, all but disengaged from politics, is belied by his keen interest in compensatory justice, even if he’s doubtful of its ultimate success. The charge that Coates is writing primarily for guilty white liberals becomes laughable on its face: If Coates is writing for anyone besides himself, it is for other black people, a fact you can glean from his subjects and preoccupations ... We Were Eight Years in Power is more than a 'loose memoir'; it’s Coates giving himself a deep read, and inviting us to join him in this look at his intellectual journey. And by showcasing a range of essays—some his strongest work, others deeply flawed—he asks his readers to consider him as a writer, nothing more and nothing less.