I wanted to like this book and Max Boot but couldn’t. I’m an ‘old white guy’ who grew up in an Eisenhower Republican family but switched allegiance to the Democrats during the civil rights battles in the 60s. I was hoping to read about someone who went through a similar transformation but Max’s journey falls short.
The book is part autobiographical: Max was born in Russia into a Jewish family in 1969. His family was allowed to leave the USSR and immigrate to the US in 1976 after pressure was placed on the Communist government by the United States. Max states that the Boots survived here in part on payments from Social Security for which Max says “Thank you, America” but ignores that this support was from a program that was developed by liberals and that has been regularly attacked by conservative Republicans.
His mother was employed by the University of California, a state university, and Max received his undergraduate education at UC Berkeley. While he notes that it “cost next to nothing” at the time, he doesn’t point out that his tuition was low thanks to subsidies that were paid by the taxes of the citizens of the State of California. The UC system is also a product of progressive thinking and is partly responsible for the economic growth in California. It’s paid for itself many times over by developing a highly educated work force that supports the many high paying, high skilled jobs in the state.
Max began his conversion to right wing politics at age 13 when he received a subscription to the New Republic magazine. I suppose you can’t expect much critical thinking from an adolescent, but you would think that it would have taken less than 36 years to realize that conservative Republican values and policies weren’t conducive to helping people who have needs similar to those of his family. Especially since Max seems certain that he is among the most intelligent people to walk among us.
He states that he now sees that the messages of conservative Republicans were often “coded racial appeals – those dog whistles” and that liberals have recognized this for decades. He just didn’t believe the liberals or bother to honestly evaluate their warnings.
Max can’t refrain from making the ad hominem attacks so prevalent among right wing pundits. Most of these are directed at Donald Trump, whom he describes as a “liar, an ignoramus, and a moral abomination”. He also includes a chapter about the “Trump Toadies”.
Max “loved the attention and notoriety” his conservative views generated in his youth. He now recognizes that he has been a part of a movement that has been “morally and intellectually bankrupt”.
He also states that he no longer receives any pay from any conservative organization. Is this the reason that he is looking for another group to hook up with? Or is he worried that since he was not born in the United States his citizenship might be revoked and he might be sent back to Russia if the anti-Semitic members of the right wing get their way?
So Max comes across as quite shallow even while showing off his extravagant vocabulary. While he was quite willing to accept the offerings of a liberal society, he’s been unwilling to consider any responsibility to provide similar benefits to those who came after him.
The book is well written and is a quick read. Ultimately it’s one man’s awakening to the awful realities of what conservative Republicanism has become. It doesn’t really break any new ground for those who have been following politics for any length of time.
In the epilogue Max lists his current beliefs and many of them are liberal. He states he is pro-LGBTQ rights, pro-environment, pro-gun control, pro-immigration including offering a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and he is also in favor of free speech. He and I might disagree on the details about how to reach some of these goals but in these areas we would be pointing at similar directions.
But then Max attacks other progressive programs. For example, he states that single payer medical insurance – Medicare for all – would cost too much and cause insurance companies to go bankrupt or “find a new business model”. Frankly if a company that makes its money by increasing the cost of our health care has to “find a new business model”, I believe that would be a good thing for the health of our economy and of our people. As to the insurance company employees, since claims would still have to be processed I suspect that the people processing claims for the insurance companies would be able to make the switch to work for a government agency processing claims easily, so they should be ok.
I hope that Max’s rejection of conservative Republicanism is actually a genuine realization that ALL people are entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” including getting affordable medical care. If that’s the case, I would be happy to welcome him to join those of us who vote for politicians who truly represent these values.
But I am not convinced by this book that he has truly escaped the “corrosion of conservatism”. Let’s see if time will prove me wrong.
- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (11 December 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1631495674
- ISBN-13: 978-1631495670
- Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.8 x 24.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 499 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)