Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America

Sherrod Brown. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-374-90953-6
Ohio lawmaker Brown debuts with a timely history of 20th-century American progressivism told through the political careers of eight congressmen who previously sat at his desk on the Senate floor. Addressing his subjects chronologically, Brown begins with Alabama senator Hugo Black, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who joined Congress in 1927 and became one of the most ardent supporters of FDR’s New Deal and an architect of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. Among such well-known figures as Robert F. Kennedy and George McGovern, Brown also profiles more obscure politicians, including Rhode Island senator Theodore Francis Green, who briefly became chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at age 93, and Idaho’s Glen Taylor, whose 1947 showdown with the “ultra-segregationist” Theodore Bilbo resulted in the Mississippi Democrat being denied his Senate seat. Throughout, Brown is careful not to idealize his subjects, noting, for example, that Tennessee senator Al Gore Sr. suffered from a lack of focus and that Green was “sometimes annoyingly correct in grammar and speech.” Each profile is followed by Brown’s “Thoughts from Desk 88,” in which he offers a stout defense of such progressive policies as Social Security and Medicare. This thoughtful, entertaining book will appeal to liberals and students of congressional history. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 09/09/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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