cover image The Republic of Conscience

The Republic of Conscience

Gary Hart. Penguin/Blue Rider, $25.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-399-17523-7

This lament from former Colorado senator and Democratic presidential candidate Hart is an odd mixture of trenchant critique of the current political order and a liberal baby boomer’s cri de coeur for better days. These add up to a less than cohesive argument. Domestically speaking, Hart cries out that “the American Republic in the 21st century is massively corrupt” thanks to a “permanent political class” that acts “for the benefit of concentrated wealth.” This criticism is ultimately dwarfed by Hart’s concern over the current national security apparatus’s massive scope, dating back to 1947 when America asserted primacy over the postwar world. Well before recent revelations about domestic surveillance, America had made a trade-off between liberty and security that was “problematic at best and perilous at worst.” Hart singles the Obama administration out for special criticism, warning that drone-based surveillance and assassination programs are “creating precedents [the administration] will live to regret.” When he doesn’t veer into banal campaign stump slogans like “we must decide who we are,” Hart makes some fair points, particularly about the distinction between the national interest and special interests. But with so much of his argument dominated by a view of government that peaked in the Kennedy administration, Hart seems not to realize how little novelty he brings to the discussion. Agent: Philippa Brophy, Sterling Lord Literistic. (July)