When I was asked to review The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be by Michael Lux of Openleft.com fame, I expected another partisan rehash of "Yay Liberals! Boo Conservatives!" with little depth. Instead, what I got was one of the most insightful and exciting historical looks at America's ongoing battle with itself and its ideals I have ever read.
The book takes an illuminating walk through American history, from our founding to modern day, highlighting "Big Change Moments" that have altered the course of our country, for good or bad. Filled with quotes, facts, and long-lost historical tidbits, the book could come off as dry, but Lux's voice and humor bring the reader along and make it nearly impossible to put down.
To be completely honest- this is the first book since college that I have found myself taking notes on and highlighting passages in, just because it was filled with so much amazing information.
This book is much more, however, than just an interesting read. It is a timely cautionary tale on what has become the troubling buzzwords of the current administration: "compromise" and "bipartisan."
The book weaves a tale of progressive ideas pushing for the expansion of the original American Dream and the conservative backlash that seeks to use fear of change to keep the stale status quo.
From the Declaration of Independence & the Bill of Rights to Emancipation, the New Deal, and the Civil Rights Movement, it shows how progressive ideas have always sought to expand personal freedoms, help the common man, and improve America. It also shows the damage that's been done to that advancement when progressives give in and "compromise" with conservatives, often ending up with damaged, skewed laws that cause more harm and take decades to undo.
These historical tales will resonate with everyone, but it is particularly illuminating for the LGBT community. Historical tales of compromise legislation for woman's suffrage (with shades of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell") and leaving behind parts of minority groups in attempts to pass some laws (ENDA battle, anyone?) will make every LGBT person reading the book shudder with familiarity.
While the book has an obvious liberal/progressive slant, it never veers too far in the direction of being preachy or strident, something that will make those in the mushy middle, and even on the right, able to appreciate the book and challenge them to think about their conservative views.
That might be the true power of this book: it gets across important ideas and messages that our country needs to hear right now in a way that is completely accessible to everyone reading it, whether they are political junkies or just looking for an illuminating read.
It truly shows that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, a lesson the progressives in this country and in government right now desperately need to learn.
In conclusion, this book is quite simply a must-read.