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Tuesday, 10 February 2009 07:49

Michael Lux's The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be -- Thom Hartmann's Independent Thinker Review

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THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

Each month, BuzzFlash is privileged to have Air America progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann review a progressive book or DVD exclusively for BuzzFlash. See other DVDs and progressive premiums at the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace.

There’s no shortage of excellent histories of the progressive movement, from the beginning of this nation to today. One of the very best of the early Progressive/Revolutionary Era is Harvey Kaye’s “Thomas Paine and the Promise of America,” an earlier one of my BuzzFlash Book of the Month reviews. Others are large and fairly substantial tomes, rich with information, such as several of the writings of Chomsky and Zinn, or Charles and Mary Beard's brilliant (and encyclopedic) 1928 "History of America."

But what’s nice about Michael Lux’s “The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came To Be” is that it’s tight and largely focused on events within the past fifty years. Bookend it with Kaye’s book, and one of the excellent histories of the progressive era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Beard in particular), and you’ll have the entire arc of Progressive History in America.

Of course, Lux starts with Paine and Jefferson and the early progressives in his second chapter, “A Progressive Revolution: How Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson Literally Invented the Idea of America,” and it’s a great summary. The following chapter, “The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Right to Think and Speak Freely” lay out how Paine’s and Jefferson’s liberal/progressive ideas came into concrete form in our founding documents and the American ethos. Lux lays out how the radical ideas of the Enlightenment birthed this nation, and how conservative/hierarchical/kleptocratic/autocratic forces have fought the progressive notions present at our founding quite literally since those first days.

The last half of the book, led into through the transitional chapter five, “The Battle over Democracy,” arcs from the Civil War era right into today’s ongoing battle to hold conservatives at bay, and is particularly thorough and readable. For those old enough to remember the sixties, it’s a great recap and condensation of forty years of “culture wars” and efforts to keep America American. For those who were born after the sixties, this is one of the great and must-read historical summaries of the previous generation’s early battles against anti-American conservatives.

The nicest thing about “The Progressive Revolution” is how cleanly and neatly Lux frames the issues and the players. The book is comfortably readable in a weekend (224 pages) yet drills into enough depth that you’re well armed for the water cooler wars. It manages to condense over 230 years of American history – through the lens of progressives from Paine to today’s Obama generation – into a history that is coherent, linear, and (amazing/impressive to me as a writer) manages to avoid the temptation to wander off into rambling detailed discursions.

Michael Lux’s “The Progressive Revolution” should be required reading (along with Kaye’s book). And you’ll want to be sure to pick up a couple of extra copies to share with your friends and relatives – it’s that good …

Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a daily talk show on Air America Radio. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at http://www.thomhartmann.com and find out what stations broadcast his program.

THOM HARTMANN'S INDEPENDENT THINKER REVIEW OF THE MONTH

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