Joseph O’Neill teaches at Bard and is the author of six books, including the novels The Dog and Netherland. (August 2020)

Follow Joseph O’Neill on Twitter: @JosephONeillx.


Save the Party, Save the World

Joe Biden; illustration by Ellie Foreman-Peck

Code Red: How Progressives and Moderates Can Unite to Save Our Country

by E.J. Dionne Jr.

Politics Is for Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change

by Eitan Hersh
Somewhat unexpectedly, ensuring the success of the Democratic Party has become the most important political project in the world. The United States remains the world’s largest economy and superpower, and its constructive international leadership is essential if the climate crisis and other world-historical dangers are to be overcome. This can happen only if Democrats dominate the national government for the best part of the next ten years or so. Republicans cannot be trusted with meaningful power precisely because they form one of the world-historical dangers that must be overcome.

Brand New Dems?

Illustration by Joanna Neborsky
A crisis of trust—of brand—lies ahead for the Democratic Party. Good branding strategy isn’t salvation, of course. It must form part of a broader scheme for chronic winning that involves sustained grassroots organizing. But the more goodwill a party enjoys in the eyes of the public and of its base, the easier grassroots organizing will be. Political scientists often say that elections are determined not by campaigns so much as by “fundamentals”—the economy, incumbency, demographics, voting rules, and so forth. The comparative brand strength of the political parties is an intangible fundamental. The challenge, for the Democratic Party, is to turn the (D) designation into a resilient asset and the (R) designation into a resilient liability.

No More Nice Dems

All Politics Is Local: Why Progressives Must Fight for the States

by Meaghan Winter

American Resistance: From the Women’s March to the Blue Wave

by Dana R. Fisher
The likes of Joe Biden and Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer seem actually averse to defeating Republicans. Unlike their opponents, they don’t appear to think that the job of Team Blue is to take on the other side as forcefully as possible. On the contrary: to this day, they apparently believe that Democrats should, whenever possible, bolster the GOP’s standing as a good-faith party with goals and principles as valid as their own. Their core mission is to practice a ceremonial innocence about the unshakable virtue of American conservatism—and to do so even as the worst, full of passionate intensity, are cleaning their clocks.

Real Americans

Mosammat Rasheda Akter (center), originally from Bangladesh, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance while holding her daughter after becoming a US citizen during a naturalization ceremony at the New York Public Library, July 2018

This America: The Case for the Nation

by Jill Lepore

This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto

by Suketu Mehta
Primordial America (at least in the popular imagination) was where folks prayed hard, worked hard on the land, and had rightful recourse to violence. In this imaginary place, people were white, Christian, English-speaking. They had God-given dominion over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. All of this inevitably informs the way American nationals apprehend one another and their country. They feel in their bones that some people are Americans and other people are merely citizens of the United States.