10 Leaders in Business, Politics and Arts Share Their Favorite Books of 2019 - The Wall Street Journal - Canada News Media
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10 Leaders in Business, Politics and Arts Share Their Favorite Books of 2019 – The Wall Street Journal



Flea, Zadie Smith and Robert Iger

Each year we ask more than 50 leaders and luminaries from literature, business, politics and the arts to name the best books they’ve read during the year. You could spend all day reading the full list—and all year reading the books.

Robert Iger

Ta-Nehisi Coates has become one of my favorite authors—he also writes the “Black Panther” comics—and his searing debut novel, “The Water Dancer,” will stay with me forever. I’m fortunate to work with some supremely talented writers and I certainly appreciate the immense power their stories have to develop empathy and an appreciation for the human condition. Our world needs great storytellers to teach us, to enlighten us and to open our minds to our differences. “The Water Dancer” is such a story and solidifies Mr. Coates as one of our great storytellers. The historian Yuval Noah Harari’s profound books have allowed me to consider the state of our world through the prism of the past. But in “21 Lessons for the 21st Century,” Mr. Harari uses history to explore what our future may hold—and makes the case that we should not be afraid of change or disruption, but should rather embrace its inevitability and use it to move us forward. In a business as dynamic as ours, this is a vital lesson.

— Mr. Iger is the CEO of the Walt Disney Co. and the author of “The Ride of a Lifetime.”

Téa Obreht

In preparation for 2019 I found it necessary to break my lifelong habit of reading at bedtime. (It had grown troublesome as I became someone who works way too late and doesn’t realize she’s drifted off, then half-dreams her way through intricate plots at the disastrous pace of one chapter a night.) The rewards have been glorious: My afternoons were spent with Kathleen Alcott’s daringly inventive “America Was Hard to Find” and Karen Russell’s wild and wonderful “Orange World” and Lauren Wilkinson’s genre-bending “American Spy.” I was blown away, too, by

Salvatore Scibona’s

“The Volunteer,” which might be the first book I’ve ever read whose beginning made me cry. It starts with a tiny, desperate boy found at the Hamburg airport speaking an unknown language, and leads us from Latvia to Vietnam, New Mexico and Cambodia, through lifetimes and family myths, memories, upheavals and betrayals of mind and body.

— Ms. Obreht is the author of “Inland.”

Marc Benioff

This year, three extraordinary leaders remind us that we can all be a platform for change. In “The Ride of a Lifetime,” Robert Iger chronicles his amazing career—including his 15 years leading Disney. I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes stories illustrating key moments that shaped Disney’s history and Bob’s 45-year career. His “Lessons to Lead By” will help everyone, from new hires to chief executives. My good friend David Rubenstein brings us “The American Story,” applying his incredible interviewing skills to draw out deep insights from our nation’s top presidential historians. David’s book shows us how the past informs our understanding of the present and can shape our future. Roger McNamee’s “Zucked” captures the disastrous consequences of one of our most powerful companies not making trust its No. 1 value. Every page is a reminder that businesses can do more than make a profit; it should be a corporate responsibility to serve stakeholders as well as shareholders and improve the state of the world.

— Mr. Benioff is chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce and co-author, with Monica Langley, of “Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change.”

Zadie Smith

I reread “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and reremembered it’s a masterpiece. I read “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” by

Shoshana Zuboff

and “Re-engineering Humanity” by Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger and wished everyone would read both before the re-engineering is total. I read “Potiki” by the Maori author Patricia Grace and thought she should get the Nobel. I read “Voices From Chernobyl” by Svetlana Alexievich and was glad she already has one. I read “Fleishman Is in Trouble” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner on a plane to Australia: I laughed and cried. The flight was so long I also read “A Month in Siena” by Hisham Matar. Everybody should get to spend a month with Mr. Matar, looking at paintings. I read “Black Lives: W.E.B. Du Bois at the Paris Exposition 1900,” edited by Julian Rothenstein, and felt thankful for Du Bois. I read “The Politics of Pain: Postwar England and the Rise of Nationalism” by Fintan O’Toole and wished I’d written it. I read “The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes”—that 16th-century servant who revealed the corruption of all masters—and marveled at how a long-departed consciousness could still feel present. I read “Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing” and wished that particular consciousness had not departed. I read “Out of Darkness, Shining Light” by Petina Gappah and “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang and felt delighted by fiction. I read “Feel Free” by Nick Laird and felt lucky to have a poet in the house.

— Ms. Smith is the author of “Grand Union.”

HR McMaster

It is difficult to overstate the threat from a nuclear-armed North Korea. Not only as a direct threat to humanity, but also because a nuclear-armed North Korea would lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. If

Kim Jong Un

gets them, who doesn’t? The Kim family has never built a weapon it did not try to sell. As North Korea’s third-generation dictator threatens a “Christmas present” if the U.S. doesn’t accede to his latest demands, we would do well to understand better the emotions, ideology and worldview that drive and constrain his behavior. A great starting point is Anna Fifield’s “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.” The book is impeccably researched. The prose is lively. Ms. Fifield writes with wit and dark humor about a murderous and increasingly dangerous dictator. Through first- and secondhand accounts, she fills in the gaps of Mr. Kim’s life to paint a less-unfinished portrait of the man. He is smarter and more calculating than anyone gives him credit for, securing power by ramping up the nuclear and missile programs started by his predecessors. This book provides a valuable perspective on this formidable adversary and one of our most vexing foreign-policy challenges.

— Mr. McMaster is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Susan Packard

As I turned the final pages of Patti Callahan’s novel “Becoming Mrs. Lewis,” I couldn’t believe the two main characters had only known each other for a decade. The victim of an abusive husband, Joy Davidman flees America with her two small sons and sets up life in England. She becomes a writer and takes the chance to correspond with

C.S. Lewis,

author of the “Chronicles of Narnia” novels. Davidman wants to know more about Lewis’s conversion to Christianity from atheism. She, too, is a convert, from Judaism. Lewis writes her back, and the two become friends. Over the decade of their fierce and growing love, Davidman’s spirit and self-worth grow: “It wasn’t until England I saw who I could be: a brilliant light, cherished for who I was.” Her love in turn transforms Lewis from a man living only in his intellect. “Logic takes no account for the heart,” she tells Lewis. “How can you tell a heart what to do?” She opens him up to the grace of living fully and vulnerably, and changes this brilliant writer forever.

— Ms. Packard is a co-founder of HGTV and the author of “Fully Human.”

Andrew Yang

Artificial intelligence and other new technologies have the potential to change our economy and society in unpredictable ways. Even techies don’t know what’s going to happen. Kai-Fu Lee’s “AI Superpowers” recognizes the power that will come from these technologies and the dangers of falling behind other countries, especially China. The book has shown itself to be particularly relevant and prescient. Few observers, even two or three years ago, could have predicted the current state of U.S.-China relations. The U.S. needs to invest in these areas to catch up, while also bringing the world together in an organization like the WTO for data.

— Mr. Yang is the founder of Venture for America and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate


Despite my dismay around the dystopian takeover of science fiction and the loss of hope, optimism and fascination that buoyed my Ray Bradbury childhood, I set my petty whining aside to tell you that Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” is a stunner. It’s a terrifying vision of a dismal future brought on by the willful ignorance, racism and greed of human beings, and an eerily dangerous parallel to our present path. Ms. Butler gives us a satisfying protagonist in the hypersensitive teenager Lauren, whose courage and wits are an infinite source of inspiration. Paulette Jiles’s “News of the World” is the only book I’ve read that caused me to yell out loud in the solitude of my bedroom. Young Johanna, displaced by the wildly shifting world around her, shows courage and spiritual depth beyond her years and filled my heart with purpose. It’s a history book and the most profound love story between Johanna and an elderly man named Capt. Kidd. Toni Morrison’s “Sula,” the first book I read together with my then-fiancée in our two-person book club, is an absolute epic. Love and yearning, pathos and racism, a deep friendship connection forged in secret trauma, it was the last Morrison book I read before her passing and must be held in the highest esteem.

— Flea plays bass for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and is the author of “Acid for the Children.”

Twyla Tharp

Three books recently gave me hope that consensus can be reached in our radically divided culture, emphasizing the optimism and courage to be had when we debate our differences. John Sexton’s “Standing for Reason” demonstrates the commitment needed from adults to support the development of knowledgeable and inquisitive young thinkers. Mr. Sexton, a former president of New York University, insists on the power of logic in dialogue to weld the silos of a large urban university into one force. It can be done. In “A Month in Siena,” Hisham Matar’s study of paintings found in this Italian city help transform the brutal loss of his father into a rebirth of faith. The iconography of three Sienese painters gives Mr. Matar his metaphor. In the first half of the 14th century, Ambrogio Lorenzetti portrayed a democratic Siena ruled through individual civic responsibility. In the latter half of that century, following the Plague, Bartolo Battiloro showed Siena’s community spirit deteriorating; its collective guilt and terror made the city susceptible to a hegemonic ruler. Then a century after the plague, Giovanni di Paolo represented individuals once again capable of communicating directly, without intermediaries, in a work appropriately titled “Paradise.” Józef Czapski’s “Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp” is just that. Czapski, a Polish officer, was captured during World War II and taken to a Russian hard-labor camp. At the end of each harsh day, the prisoners maintained their sanity by giving one another lectures on the subjects they knew best. As there were no written documents allowed, these recitations were entirely from memory. Czapski’s almost literal recall of Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” is incredible in its detail; yet even more impressive is his insistence that we can maintain humanity through communication with one another. May we all so triumph in the New Year.

— Ms. Tharp is a choreographer and the author of “Keep It Moving.”

Will Hurd

In “American Carnage,” Tim Alberta explains why our political system is where it is. He illuminates how trends like a widening chasm in incomes, a shredded national identity and a dissipating sense of societal cohesiveness have blurred together into an expression of outrage and how politicians have responded to these changes. He details how “elections in modern America are won principally by mobilizing the base, not persuading the middle.” This is dangerous: The only way we have solved problems in this country is by working together. “American Carnage” helps us understand how and why we’ve forgotten the basic truth that way more unites us than divides us.

— Mr. Hurd is a congressman from Texas.

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The Emancipatory Past and Future of Black Politics – Jacobin magazine



The Emancipatory Past and Future of Black Politics

Our conceptions of black politics today are often monolithic and juxtaposed as separate from or even against democratic-socialist politics. But 75 years ago, black leaders and activists shared a broad consensus around the importance of the labor movement and multiracial class organizing for black liberation.

National civil rights leaders (L-R) John Lewis, Whitney Young Jr, A. Philip Randolph, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, James Farmer, and Roy Wilkins pose behind a banquet table at the Hotel Roosevelt as they meet to formulate plans for the March on Washington and to bring about the passage of civil rights legislation, on July 2, 1963 in New York City. (Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

In 1944, the future for black Americans appeared both hopeful and uncertain. World War II laid bare some of the fundamental contradictions in US society. Here was a war for democracy and against fascism based on theories of racial superiority. Here was also a war being fought by a segregated army and a country where black people were denied basic citizenship rights. Black people’s intense involvement with the war, however — their sacrifices in service of a country that denied them basic human rights — carried with it the possibility for dramatic gains.

It was in this context, seventy-five years ago, that What the Negro Wants was published. Howard University historian Rayford Logan gathered essays from fifteen influential black political figures from across the ideological spectrum tackling what demands black Americans should push for after the war and the various strategies and tactics to be used to win them.

What the Negro Wants provides a unique view into black politics during that time period. The essays reveal the wide array of ideological tendencies operating within black political life, something often missing today from analyses that adopt the monolithic framework of a singular “black community.” Perhaps more striking was the common agreement among the diverse tendencies — and what this tells us about the transformations in black political life from then to now.

The writers shared a broad consensus around the vital importance of the labor movement (especially the Congress of Industrial Organizations, CIO), given black people’s overwhelming working-class composition. There was also much agreement around broadly social democratic demands and the necessity of interracial coalitions. The political aspirations of this period were fundamentally more radical and working-class-oriented than what has emerged since Black Power — which, despite its militant rhetoric, on the whole moved the black movement away from advocating for a more profound redistribution of power and resources in US society.

A multidimensional assessment of both historical and contemporary black political developments is needed for our current moment. A social democratic current is roaring back onto the political scene. A “political revolution” of the type Bernie Sanders envisions would necessarily involve rebuilding a viable working-class political project among millions of black people. It is with this task in mind that we should review the triumphs and limitations of the past.

A. Philip Randolph and the Far Left

In many ways, the political moment of What the Negro Wants was born out of the initiatives of A. Philip Randolph. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) organizer had led a mass movement to a significant victory for black workers. His March on Washington Movement (MOWM) took aim at the discrimination against black workers in the defense industries. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was forced to sign an executive order creating the Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC) in response to Randolph’s credible threat of a mass march on DC right as the war effort began.

In building the MOWM, Randolph was attempting a bold action that fell outside the purview of the dominant civil rights organizations. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) relied on white philanthropists and feared the alienating effects the planned march could have.

NAACP leader Walter White allowed chapters to cooperate but did not actively promote it. Eventually, the National Urban League, civic groups, and churches signed on in support. The BSCP was the organizational anchor of the whole initiative, however. Only the union contributed substantial funds, and BSCP members carried the message about the march to rail stops across the country.

The MOWM actively mobilized working-class black people and was not predicated on the direction of middle-class leaders. Randolph toured the country vigorously, building both the BSCP and the march. This was a movement built in the union halls, fraternal chapters, salons, movie theaters, bars, and poolrooms of working-class black America. It caught on because the issue was compelling, the demands were clear, and the moment was politically strategic.

Randolph outlined these heightened stakes in his call to action: “The Negroes’ stake in national defense is big. It consists of jobs, thousands of jobs. It consists of new industrial opportunities and hope. This is worth fighting for.”

After the establishment of the FEPC, Randolph set his sights on making the MOWM into a permanent organization. Units in St. Louis, New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Cincinnati picketed companies with discriminatory hiring practices.

The St. Louis unit, led by BSCP organizer T. D. McNeal, was especially effective, with weekly meetings attracting several hundred people. In May 1942 they led a silent march of five hundred around the US Cartridge Company complex. That same day, the company raised black workers’ wages and hired seventy-two black women.

Using these same networks, Randolph organized a mass rally at Madison Square Garden highlighting the issues of segregation, lynching, and defense jobs. Black Harlem was implored to dim the lights in their homes during the rally as a sign of solidarity. The June 16, 1942 rally was attended by eighteen thousand people and was a five-hour spectacle of a kind not seen since the mobilizations of Marcus Garvey. Historian David Welky described the scene: “Around eighteen thousand African Americans streamed downtown in their Sunday best. Women wearing festive hats and men in solemn ties jammed buses and subway trains . . . Sixty blocks uptown, Harlem’s street culture fell silent out of respect for Randolph’s audacity.”

In this feverish period of activity, Randolph had successfully captured peoples’ imagination and presented an effective model of working-class mobilization. Randolph’s essay from the collection reflects these heady times with soaring rhetoric and bold demands. Randolph thought the immediate task for black people was completing what he described as the bourgeois democratic revolution.

This entailed universal suffrage, free public education, and the building of trade unions. Though recognizing the need to fight discrimination in both the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and CIO, he insisted that unions were central to any strategy for advancement in a population that was almost entirely working-class: “The major and paramount form of economic action by the Negro people must necessarily be the building of trade and industrial unions and the employment of the technique of collective bargaining. This is so because well-nigh 99 percent of the Negro people are workers of hand and brain who earn their living in the sweat of their brow by selling labor in the market for wages.”

In anticipation of developments to come in the following decades, Randolph promoted a diversity of tactics that included picketing, boycotts, and interfaith alliances.

Chicago railway union leader Willard S. Townsend echoed many of Randolph’s sentiments about the centrality of labor and broader political goals. Townsend asserted, “Negro labor today is perhaps the most articulate section of the Negro national community and is farther on the road to presenting a positive challenge to their problems as a race than any other section.”

The program Townsend drew up is strikingly similar to the Bernie Sanders platform today: national health insurance, permanent rent control, public jobs program, nationalization of public utilities. Communist Party leader and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) official Doxey A. Wilkerson drew a connection between black people’s fate and national economic trends, urging black workers to “enter the labor movement in ever-increasing hundreds of thousands.”

The black left during this period saw the advancement of civil rights as part of a broader movement for social change. Black people were one element of a larger bloc fighting for rights embodied in economic security and the expansion of the social welfare state. The leading figures of this tendency were rooted in the trade union movement and molded by its approach to political activity.

The Liberals and Moderates

The more liberal and moderate contributors to What the Negro Wants shared certain core tenets in outlook with the writers of the far left. Logan acknowledges that the CIO “has been the most aggressive organization in recent years in promoting not only economic equality for the Negro but also political and even social equality.”

Roy Wilkins from the NAACP claimed some credit for the establishment of the FEPC, recognizing its importance as a symbol of civil rights progress. His essay contains a substantial focus on economic matters, highlighting the influence of the broader left milieu on organizations like the NAACP. Adding to the chorus of support for the CIO, Wilkins asserts, “The bitter opposition to the CIO in the South stems not alone from that region’s aversion to organized labor, but from the equality within the CIO and the nonsegregation of its members.”

Mary McLeod Bethune, who famously served as part of FDR’s “Black Cabinet,” emphasized the connection between black people’s class position and its organizational expression. Bethune states, “We must understand that the great masses of our people are farmers and workers . . . this means membership and support of labor and farmer unions.”

Of course, there were still profound differences in outlook among the writers along class, ideology, and program. Accomplished professor and pastor Gordon B. Hancock championed the “double-duty dollar” initiative of buying from black businesses only, despite acknowledging that a separate black economy was not viable. Tuskegee University president Frederick D. Patterson praised the achievements of unions but also put great faith in the establishment of small black-owned businesses. Langston Hughes’s program amounted to a mobilization of the black intelligentsia to spread culture to the South.

Overall, however, What the Negro Wants snapshots a period where the elements of the Left advancing a social democratic project anchored in industrial unionism had gained hegemony in black politics.

Black Power: Radical?

Conceptions of black politics today are shaped more by the era of Black Power than that of What the Negro Wants. Black Power is commonly seen as a more radical mode of political expression than the preceding Civil Rights Movement, and more attuned to the systemic issues black people face today. The era of Black Lives Matter has brought with it a certain nostalgia for this period, drawing in younger activists looking for answers to contemporary political dilemmas.

Yet despite having a more radical and militant veneer, on the whole, Black Power represented a retreat from a working-class politics of radical redistribution and consolidation of a middle-class politics geared toward representation and elite brokerage.

Frustrations with the clear limits of civil rights legislation precipitated disillusionment with established civil rights leaders and their preferred strategies for change. Legislation aimed at shattering the heart of Jim Crow in the South had little to offer working-class black Americans struggling in northern cities. In the crucial domains of housing, employment, wages, and education, there were few victories the northern Civil Rights Movement could point to. Urban riots were the first visceral expression of this frustration, and “Black Power” became the galvanizing slogan that captured this changing dynamic.

The ambiguity of Black Power as a political slogan was both a strength and a weakness. Depending on who was speaking, Black Power could mean very different and contradictory things.

Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton’s Black Power was one of the earliest articulations of the slogan’s meaning as a theoretical framework. As their argument unfolds, one can see how Black Power ideology fit in comfortably with the dominant liberal framework. Using the experiences of other white ethnic groups as a guide, Carmichael and Hamilton insist that black people must first close ranks in order to advance — a strategy that implies an alliance with the black middle and upper classes, as opposed to a broad, multiracial working-class coalition against the economic elite. The problem with such a strategy focused on ethnic group politics is that it fails to acknowledge the divergent interests within such groups, as well as the tendency for the interests of the upper class to win out in such an alliance.

This framework also mischaracterizes the way other ethnic groups have managed to achieve social progress throughout US history. To be sure, ethnic solidarity and self-help strategies have played prominent roles in such efforts. But other multiethnic movements and institutions such as trade unions, public education, and social welfare programs have arguably had a much more substantial effect on ethnic group advancement. Major CIO unions such as the United Packinghouse Workers of America often had to organize African-American, Eastern European, Irish, Scandinavian, German, and native-born Protestant workers around a common program that was not viable if ethnic divisions were embraced. Similarly, one cannot imagine the New Deal taking place without the multiethnic coalition that was stitched together to make it possible.

The emergence of Black Power coincided with the election of numerous black elected officials. This new black political class exerted a great influence on the direction the movement took. Adam Clayton Powell Jr, who came of age in the era before Black Power, shrewdly embraced the movement and channeled much of its early organizational efforts into a narrow electoralism. Powell’s conception of Black Power was increased black electoral power, and therefore very much within established institutional means.

Despite private disagreements with Stokely Carmichael, the two worked together to convene the first Black Power national conference in 1966. The first conference produced a position paper filled with demands that included increased federal aid to cities, voting rights enforcement, and greater involvement of black people in politics. This did not reflect any kind of radical break with the trajectory of the dominant Civil Rights Movement that was focused on securing basic citizenship rights.

The 1967 Black Power conference in Newark had an impressive 1,100 participants. Despite being advertised as a “people’s” conference, the attendees were mostly middle-class and politically connected. Though the conference was large, the political diversity of organizations represented made productive organizing especially difficult. Organizations such as the NAACP, United Automobile Workers, Better Business Investors, and the New York Police Department all had representatives. The incompatibility of interests between the different groups meant that the conference avoided organizing around specific issues such as jobs or education. The conference did, however, produce a noticeably moderate list of proposals that included the establishment of neighborhood credit unions, “buy black” campaigns, the creation of black nonprofits, and cooperative enterprises.

The 1968 Black Power conference in Philadelphia, sponsored by the Clairol company, also revealed contradictions the movement was facing. A heated debate arose around the white leadership of the almost legendary Health Care Workers’ Union, 1199C. The union was known for its bold organizing of low-wage black and Puerto Rican workers, and seen as a key ally to the Civil Rights Movement. Many of these workers said the union was a crucial source of dignity and one of the only avenues available for modest economic advancement. Martin Luther King Jr was a staunch supporter of 1199C, calling it the “authentic conscience of the labor movement.” Leaders in 1199C also initiated groundbreaking political education programs that helped challenge the racism of their white members.

But instead of discussing the merits of the union’s concrete advancements made for black workers, the debate at the conference became singularly focused on whether a black person was in leadership or not. As one conference participant framed it, “With white leadership at the top, how can a black organization progress?”

The first organizational expressions of Black Power were impressive in their ability to mobilize a large number of activists from a wide variety of organizations. But important distinctions can be seen between these efforts and organizational modes of the 1930s and 1940s like the Congress of Industrial Organizations and March on Washington Movement. The early Black Power conferences drew from a middle-class base and produced demands that catered to that element.

Many of the writers in What the Negro Wants saw the CIO as a natural working-class base in which to anchor redistributive demands like full employment, national health care, and raising the minimum wage.

The Gary Convention and After

The Gary Convention of 1972 was a peak moment of Black Power’s currency and influence within wider black politics. Mainstream black elected officials were pulled into participation despite reservations. These elected officials did not want to be pressured into taking positions that might conflict with their often multiracial and multi-class constituencies. Other black power activists did not have to contend with this problem, because they were not elected representatives with a base.

Although representative of a wide array of political strains, the convention was still mostly composed of black political elites. The “Black Agenda” produced by the convention included many laudable social democratic planks. But the common bond of racial identity could not paper over substantial political differences that emerged throughout the convention, however.

The most profound disagreement between black nationalists and more mainstream black political figures centered around the idea of local black political control. NAACP president Roy Wilkins feared that this strategy “would fetter black America forever into the poorest and least influential sectors on national life.” Richard Hatcher, as the mayor of a deindustrializing city, lamented that fundamental control of money, jobs, and resources remained in the hands of larger national corporations and federal agencies.

There were no institutional means of ensuring loyalty and uniformity in action after the convention concluded. Individual political figures used the media attention as a way to advance their own careers through conventional channels. Shortly after the Black Agenda was published, for example, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) published a more moderate platform than what was contained in the agenda. With this move, the CBC established itself as a more official spokesperson for the broader black population and ensured a level of influence within the Democratic Party.

William Strickland, cofounder of Atlanta-based black nationalist think tank Institute of the Black World, reflected on his disappointment with the results of the Gary Convention: “The class factor in black politics is not by itself an insuperable obstacle, but it must be admitted if it is to be successfully transcended.”

Less than a decade of Black Power quickly revealed that the incorporation of a layer of black public officials and voters was achievable through institutional means and without a fundamental redistribution of resources. Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty” created a new stratum of black political leaders who engaged in contained and nonthreatening action. Programs like Legal Services, Job Corps, and Community Action Program activated these new administrators in ways compatible with the ethnic group model of politics. These officials oversaw the disbursement of targeted and limited federal aid to urban areas. In the process, new black political actors were given access to the resources and technical know-how of local public administration. Far from the more expansive reforms of the New Deal era, Great Society programs did not fundamentally alter the relationship most working-class black people had with the economy.

Subsequent developments in black politics have exhibited the same limits and contradictions evident in the Black Power conferences and Gary Convention. The New Left embraced overgeneralizations that associated unions and white workers with inherent racism and reaction, downplaying the rich history of interracial union struggles — and the fact that unions are still the most integrated institution in American society.

It also opened up the door to cynical manipulation by political elites. Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor, outflanked mostly black striking sanitation workers in 1977 by framing the strike as an attack by the white-led AFSCME union on his black administration.

The Jesse Jackson campaign emerged in the 1980s as the prospects for robust social welfare policies diminished and the New Deal coalition frayed. Jackson, similar to Barack Obama, was powerful as a symbol because his lack of concrete substance allowed people to project political hopes onto him. He used churches and media spectacles to give his campaign the aura of a grassroots movement.

To be sure, many movement activists and organizations were inspired by the campaign and participated in trying to build it. But in the end, Jackson’s presidential run did not build a broad enough genuine working-class coalition.

Increasingly, the focus of racial politics for black political elites became affirmative action policies that disproportionately favor the upwardly mobile, high-status job appointments, and minority business development. The Million Man March of 1995, organized by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, was framed as an effort to “convey to the world a vastly different picture of the black male.” It brought out record numbers of African Americans into the streets, but lacked any specific policy demands or long-term political commitments. Gatherings like the Black Radical Congress (1998) and the National Black Peoples Unity Convention (2006) failed to take on issue-based campaigns related to the material needs of black workers. Black Power-era posturing and rhetoric have been repeatedly revived, but without the same ability to influence mainstream political developments to any degree.

The budding social democratic current in American politics, currently centered around the Bernie Sanders campaign, is reviving a working-class politics most pundits thought dead. Despite taking place in a dramatically different context, one can see echoes of the perspectives expressed in What the Negro Wants. The labor movement is decimated, but still significant and diverse. Battles over the public sector will be key to resisting the horrifying plunge in black workers’ living standards. Campaigns on issues like public education, saving the post office, and robust job programs are rooted in the concrete concerns of black working people across the board. Moving forward in this spirit is the only way true racial justice can be achieved.

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On Politics: Our New Morning Tip Sheet – The New York Times



Welcome to our new On Politics morning newsletter, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections, based on reporting by Times journalists and interviews with Democratic and Republican officials, voters, pollsters and strategists.

Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

  • The Iowa Democratic presidential caucuses are next Monday night and the outcome is impossible to predict, but this much is clear: Bernie Sanders is sounding confident of victory, and his poll numbers and organizational muscle give him reason to hope.

  • Sanders drew more than a thousand people to his rally in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday night, and he said something that we had never heard him say as a candidate in 2016. Referring to big-money interest groups, he said, “They’re looking at recent polls in New Hampshire and Iowa and saying, ‘Oh my god, Sanders can win.’”

  • Hyperbole, maybe. But think about it: Sanders never had more than a long-shot chance of winning the 2016 nomination, but since then he has heavily influenced the party’s move to the left. And this weekend he found himself leading in a New York Times/Siena College poll of Iowans, and tied with Joe Biden in an Iowa poll from CBS News and YouGov. He was also ahead in two New Hampshire polls published on Sunday.

  • Still, it’s too soon to say that Iowa is Sanders’s to lose. The biggest reason: Caucusgoers could unite behind a “Stop Sanders” candidate, especially if their preferred candidates don’t qualify for delegates under caucus rules.

  • Despite Amy Klobuchar’s low polling, her team says there are no plans to quit the race after Iowa, even if she has a weak finish there. Klobuchar has already qualified for the New Hampshire debate, and past face-offs have been fund-raising moneymakers for her operation. And she has been heartened by her crowd sizes — 450 people attended in Ames on Sunday.

  • Some of the better-organized campaigns have built up their lists of Iowa voters so much that they are now targeting invitations to forums in the bigger markets at people they’ve identified as undecided. Take Elizabeth Warren’s event in Davenport this morning: Her campaign invited undecideds — not those who are committed to her.

Our colleagues Maggie Haberman and Mike Schmidt reported on Sunday that John Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser, has circulated a draft of his book to close associates and submitted one to the White House for review.

In the manuscript, Bolton describes how Trump linked the release of $391 million in aid withheld from Ukraine to investigations into Democrats, including Biden.

Bolton’s book appears to contradict the argument by Trump’s legal team that the president withheld aid to fight Ukrainian corruption. And it could add fuel to Democrats’ appeals that the Senate should allow new witnesses and written evidence.

Here’s Maggie on the book’s possible impact on the trial:

Whether it changes anything at this stage of the impeachment trial in the Senate remains unclear. So far, there has not been movement toward voting to call witnesses — if anything, it’s gone in the other direction.

Bolton has said he is willing to respond to a Senate subpoena to testify. Senators will now have to decide whether they are willing to ignore what Bolton has told people he is willing to say.

Polling shows that a wide majority of Americans think new evidence should be permitted. But Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, have so far refused to commit to allowing fresh subpoenas. If they hold the line on this, the Senate could vote to acquit Trump as early as Friday.

To bring new evidence, Democrats would need four Republicans to defect and vote with them. And four is exactly the number of Republican senators who have signaled that they might be willing to do it. So all eyes this week will be trained on those senators: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

[Read our five takeaways from the Bolton book]

Jon Hathaway went hat in hand for Biden’s signature during a campaign event on Sunday in Des Moines, and the former vice president obliged. (See how many other presidential candidates’ autographs you can spot.)

Iowa this past weekend became a checkerboard of crisscrossing candidates and campaign workers. With the Senate trial adjourned until Monday, Iowa’s five highest-polling contenders were out stumping and rallying crowds across the state.

Amid all that, Biden and Sanders found good news in various new surveys of Iowa, New Hampshire and the country at large.

The Times/Siena College poll of Iowa showed Sanders had consolidated his strength in recent months among young people and the most liberal voters. An online poll of Democrats in Iowa taken by CBS News and YouGov found Sanders and Biden in a virtual tie. Both candidates have increasingly attacked each other over the past two weeks, sparring on Biden’s past positions on Social Security and Sanders’s record on guns.

[The Upshot’s Nate Cohn on why different polls might be showing different results]

Hurling attacks isn’t your usual front-runner behavior, so the weekend’s events seem to reaffirm that the race is too close for any one candidate to claim that title.

Here’s our colleague Sydney Ember, who was covering Sanders this weekend, with her analysis of where he stands:

Bernie Sanders has been saying for months that he will win Iowa, and his demeanor this weekend was largely the same as it has been for months. At stop after stop, he lamented that he was stuck in Washington for Trump’s impeachment trial but largely delivered versions of his familiar stump speech.

He did, however, emphasize more than usual that the Iowa caucuses would all come down to turnout: If the turnout was high, he said, he would win; if it was low, he wouldn’t.

The Times’s Thomas Kaplan, who was with Biden, said the feeling was a bit different at his events — but that’s to be expected.

Biden’s campaign events this weekend did not give the impression that you were watching someone who was surging to victory in Iowa. He doesn’t draw big crowds, and this weekend was no different. But Biden has never been a big-crowd candidate; he thrives in one-on-one interactions with voters along the rope line. So it’s hard to know how much to extrapolate from his less-than-electric events.

“I’m a tactile politician,” he told reporters on Sunday. “The poll I feel is what I’m doing when I’m out, and it feels good.” His prediction for next week’s caucuses: “I think it’s going to be a close race in Iowa.”

While the polls have not been as kind to her recently, Warren got a jolt of good news on Saturday night, when The Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest newspaper, endorsed her candidacy. When she heard the news, the Massachusetts senator channeled her inner Ellen DeGeneres, busting out a few little dance moves.

Here’s our reporter Shane Goldmacher, who was out with Warren, on how her campaign was responding to the news:

It’s safe to say that Warren was amped about the endorsement. When her communications director, Kristen Orthman, pulled her aside just after she finished her photo line in Muscatine to break the news, Ms. Warren pumped her fists in the air and burst into an impromptu dance. (She showed off similar dance moves in Brooklyn at her first event with Julián Castro this month.)

It’s also safe to say that Warren’s campaign needed a jolt of energy. I had just been prodding her staff members on how they would generate momentum, as she has slipped in the polls and faces the prospect of being mostly stuck in Washington for impeachment. Well, The Register answered that question.

Curiously, Warren didn’t trumpet the endorsement either in a speech later that night at a dinner for the Scott County Democratic Party, or at a Sunday morning event in Davenport. But she did start featuring it in digital ads on Facebook — not just in Iowa but nationwide.


Pete Buttigieg has campaigned relentlessly in Iowa, though his poll numbers have been on a downward slide of late. He is vying for many of the same moderate voters as Biden, but this past weekend he trained his attacks on Sanders.

Polls show that most of the Vermont senator’s supporters see him as the candidate to fundamentally change politics in Washington — but Buttigieg made the opposite argument. Echoing Hillary Clinton’s recent complaint that Sanders was “a career politician,” Buttigieg (without naming Sanders directly) told a crowd in West Des Moines that his opponent represented “the political mind-set that got us here.”

Our colleague Reid J. Epstein was there for Buttigieg’s address at Maple Grove Elementary School. Here’s what Reid had to say about it:

Buttigieg is no stranger to political combat. His rise in the polls last fall coincided with his attacks on Warren’s health care proposals. Now he’s hoping to take a bite out of the lead Sanders has shown in an array of Iowa polls.

Buttigieg says that a win in Iowa would serve as a boost in other states, where his poll numbers appear weaker. If he delivers a surprise victory on Feb. 3, he hopes it can help him build momentum in New Hampshire, where he has been running strong, as well as in South Carolina and Nevada, where he has not made it out of the single digits in any major polls.

“Iowa,” he said Sunday, “is in position to give everyone else permission to believe that we can do this.”

Jonathan Martin contributed reporting from Davenport, Iowa, and Lisa Lerer from Des Moines.

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Politics is a major threat to the global economy in 2020 – Quartz



If you had to describe the state of the economy in an emoji, it’d be: 🤷

No one is quite sure what will happen in 2020, partly because of all the looming political uncertainty. There’s the trade war, US-China relations, US-Iran relations, the US election, the rise of populism, Brexit (still), protests around the world, and the question of what governments will or will not do to combat climate change. That’s the short list.

All of that uncertainty should be a drag on the global economy because it gives companies a reason to delay hiring and investment, and there’s some evidence that that’s happening. However, some experts have been surprised just how little impact it’s had on the economy to date. In a year that promises to be full of political turbulence, can the economy keep calm and carry on?

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