(Once in a while, I take a new book with me to lunch and give it a half an hour or so to grab my attention. Lunch Date is my judgment on that speed-dating experience.)
Who’s your date today? Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? by Thomas Frank. (Frank will be reading at Town Hall tomorrow night.)
Where’d you go? The Tigerly Ox, a newish Vietnamese lunch counter on Madison.
What’d you eat? The Tigerly Ox's fancy version of a steak banh mi. ($8.20.)
How was the food? Great! You should be warned that the Tigerly Ox doesn't serve the so-simple-it's good version of the banh mi that you can pick up anywhere in the International District. This is on crusty, crunchy bread, it's made from fancier ingredients than your typical four-buck-banh-mi, and it's loaded with a nice fishy umami kick from the paté. It's a lot more filling than the typical banh mi, but you should be warned that it doesn't scratch the particular banh mi itch you get when you want a cheap sandwich on airy, cheap French bread.
What does your date say about itself? From the publisher’s promotional copy:
... Drawing on years of research and first-hand reporting, Frank points out that the Democrats have done little to advance traditional liberal goals: expanding opportunity, fighting for social justice, and ensuring that workers get a fair deal. Indeed, they have scarcely dented the free-market consensus at all. This is not for lack of opportunity: Democrats have occupied the White House for sixteen of the last twenty-four years, and yet the decline of the middle class has only accelerated. Wall Street gets its bailouts, wages keep falling, and the free-trade deals keep coming.
Is there a representative quote? "Democrats have been wondering who they are and squabbling over what they believe for virtually my entire life. It has taken them years to get to wherever it is they are today; years filled with quarrels and vituperation and occasional bouts of manic self-love. It has required long periods of slow evolution, usually in the wrong direction; runs of rapid but lousy choices; epochs followed by a savage Thermidor in which hard-headed party toughguys promoted different fad ideas that turned out to be even worse."
Will you two end up in bed together? God, I have no idea how I didn't read this book when it was realeased in hardcover last year. Frank accurately identifies the problem with the Democratic party — elitism and a wrong-headed meritocracy — and his diagnosis is so eerily right-on that it seems like he has access to a time machine. This book explains why Hillary Clinton lost the election, and it was published a year before Hillary Clinton lost the election. It's fascinating stuff, though I hope Frank has some prescriptions for how to fix the problem, because while he's great at being right — seriously, this book is filled with rage and disgust and it's wildly entertaining — it would be even better if he turned out to be helpful, too.