Democracy, If We Can Fix It – A Reading List to Fight Racism in the Political System

Monday, June 29, 2020

With ongoing nationwide protests against police violence, race in the United States has been at the center of many conversations in recent weeks—books on racial injustice like The New Jim Crow are topping bestseller lists, and social media feeds are full of outrage over the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans. With the upcoming 4th of July holiday, people across the country may be thinking differently about the idea of patriotism, questioning what America stands for and who is really “free.” The democracy that we celebrate with fireworks and barbecues has not, historically and recently, valued and protected all people equally. The following books together build a new vision of a more inclusive democracy, and any of them would serve as an excellent read for the holiday weekend—and this election year—to understand how to fight racism in the American political system.


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Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America
By Ian Haney López

From the acclaimed author of Dog Whistle Politics comes an essential road map to neutralizing the role of racism as a divide-and-conquer political weapon and to building a broad multiracial progressive future. A work of deep research, nuanced argument, and urgent insight, Merge Left is an indispensable tool for the upcoming political season and in the larger fight to build racial justice and shared economic prosperity for all of us.


Democracy, If We Can Keep It: The ACLU’s 100-Year Fight for Rights in America
By Ellis Cose

This vivid work of history and journalism tells the definitive story of the ACLU and provides an essential account of America’s rediscovery of rights it had granted by long denied. From the Red Scare, Japanese American internment, McCarthyism, and Vietnam, Democracy, If We Can Keep It weaves accounts of America’s most difficult ethical quandaries into a deeper story of American freedom.


Use the Power You Have: A Brown Woman’s Guide to Politics and Political Change
By Pramila Jayapal

Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian American woman to serve on the U.S. House of Representatives, shares her story in this passionate and insightful memoir & guide. Use the Power You Have offers a wealth of ideas and inspiration for a new generation of engaged citizens interested in fighting back and making change.


Brown Is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority
By Steve Phillips

Completely revised and updated to address the aftermath of the 2016 election, this paperback edition of Brown Is the New White closely examines election results against a long backdrop of shifts in the electoral map over the past generation—arguing that, now more than ever, hope for a more progressive political future lies not with increased advertising to middle-of-the-road white voters, but with cultivating America’s growing, diverse majority.


When at Times the Mob Is Swayed: A Citizen’s Guide to Defending Our Republic
By Burt Neuborne

In an erudite and brilliant evaluation of the current state of our government, noted constitutional scholar Burt Neuborne administers a stress test to democracy and concludes that our unprecedented sets of constitutional protections, all endorsed by both major parties, stand between us and an authoritarian federal regime fronted by Donald Trump’s tweets: namely the division of powers between the three branches, the rights reserved to the states, and the Bill of Rights.


State of Resistance: What California’s Dizzying Descent and Remarkable Resurgence Mean for America’s Future
By Manuel Pastor

Lauded by James Fallows on the front page of the New York Times Book Review as “concise, clear, and convincing” upon its hardcover publication, State of Resistance makes the case for honestly engaging racial anxiety in order to address our true economic and generational challenges, renewing our commitment to public investments, cultivating social movements and community organizing, and more.


Down for the Count: Dirty Elections and the Rotten History of Democracy in America
By Andrew Gumbel
Andrew Gumbel has interviewed Democrats, Republicans, and a range of voting rights activists to offer a multifaceted, deeply researched, and engaging critical assessment of an electoral system whose ostensible commitment to democratic integrity so often falls apart on contact with race, money, and power.


Inventing Latinos: A New Story of American Racism
By Laura E. Gómez

In this audacious effort to reframe the often-confused and misrepresented discourse over the Latinx generation, Gómez provides essential context for today’s most pressing political and public debates—representation, voice, interpretation, and power—giving all of us a brilliant framework to engage cultural controversies, elections, current events, and more.


The Democracy Fix: How to Win the Fight for Fair Rules, Fair Courts, and Fair Elections
By Caroline Fredrickson

The former special assistant for legislative affairs to President Clinton and former president of the American Constitution Society argues that it’s time for progressives to undo the right’s damage and take the country back. She shows us how we can learn from the Right by having the determination to focus on judicial elections, state power, and voter laws without stooping to their dishonest, rule-breaking tactics.


Electoral Dysfunction: A Survival Manual for American Voters
By Victoria Bassetti

Published alongside the nationally broadcast PBS documentary starring Mo Rocca, this eye-opening guide shows why there's something wrong with voting in America—so wrong that it’s almost funny. The provocative, witty book concludes with a prescription for a healthy voting system from Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote.


Blog section: 
Article related book(s): 
Democracy, If We Can Keep It
Merge Left
Use the Power You Have
Inventing Latinos
Brown Is the New White
State of Resistance
When at Times the Mob Is Swayed
The Democracy Fix
Electoral Dysfunction
Down for the Count