No Hope is subtitled "Why I left the GOP and you should too." Listen Liberal is subtitled "What Happened To The Party of the People?"
I've read No Hope, but only the first and last chapters of Listen Liberal, so I'll talk about Jimmy Lasalvia's book in this post, and Thomas Frank's in a later post. Spoiler: Frank's book seems the much weightier of the two.
Lasalrvia's book is basically his justification, as a gay Republican, for being the gay spokesperson for the Republican Party for as along as did. Basically, he says he's an economic conservative who's gay and was trying to get the Republicans to be more tolerant of people who weren't straight, white males. He also felt that by supporting Republicans in a conspicuous way - as a founder and head of GOProud - he would also show Republicans that there were conservative gays and that they should change their gay intolerance and court gay voters. There are some successes along the way, but in the end he realizes the Republican party was getting worse not better.
I went along with his story for a while, but soon concluded that he was like the skinny kid who who never gets picked. He wants so bad to be on the Republican team, but, geez, he's gay, no way. He tries so hard to prove he's a Republican team player - he's for smaller government, less taxes, and he bemoans Obama's failed _(fill in the blank) policies. He wants so hard to prove that just because he's gay doesn't mean he's not a good Republican. He can't understand why they don't get his belief that they need him more than he needs them.
I like Jimmy. He's a decent guy. He's loyal. He's sincere. But it takes him forever to get it. Even when all the other gay organizations are dissing him for defending Republicans, he gamely says, "hey, you have to be a team player." Team player is his mantra. You want me to debase myself, ok, I'll do it to prove I'm a team player. For example:
"Again, I compromised my integrity to uphold the Republican code." (p 133)There are successes. GOProud gets to be a CPAC sponsor, but no senior Republican officials show up for their big dance party, that's supposed to show the world that Republicans can be cool. And when CPAC gets a new executive director, they cut GOProud out. GOProud seems to have survived as long as it did mainly because they get a few big donations, like from gay billionaire Peter Thiel. And Ann Coulter comes to one of their fundraising events.
Throughout the book Lasalvia is swimming up the Republican stream that just has too many barriers. When the Romney team won't even talk to Lasalvia, he slowly starts to get it. Despite his belief that the Republicans need him to diversify, they see him as poison and want nothing to do with him.
I wanted to be able to sit down with Laslavia and talk to him. He tells us he grew up as a military brat and that most people on the bases were pretty conservative. And in the book, his conservative beliefs tend to boil down to slogans. I'm guessing, that if he hadn't had to face up to the fact that he was gay, he would have been perfectly happy on the Republican team, even bashing gays.
But he did turn out gay and so he saw this one flaw in the conservative narrative. Not because he was thinking more deeply, but because it kicked him in the groin. But when he writes about other Republican positions, it's always superficial talking points. Things like:
"I focused on Obama's failed record, the poor economy, and the need for Romney's management skills in the White House."I wanted to say to him, "Jimmy, exactly what was the economy like when Obama took office? How is it worse now? Jimmy, you've seen the flaw in the Republican stance against gays, women, and people of color. Maybe you should examine more deeply their economic positions as well. You're just spouting slogans. You need to reexamine everything you believe."
The book offered some behind the scenes snippets of the Republican party - mainly in the arena of gay policies. It reads fast. But partly that's because you don't have to think too hard about any of it.
What I've read so far of Listen Liberal is a much deeper analysis of mainstream Democratic thought. I'll try to do a post on it when I've finished it. The basic thrust I've picked up so far is this:
Democrats have always been fighting against inequality, for the lower and middle classes getting a fair share of the economy. That fight has always been about the distribution of money. That worked when blue jobs that didn't require a high school education could keep people in the middle class. If money is the first hierarchy that separates the economic classes, today, there's a second hierarchy - the professions - that also separates the classes. And the Democrats have sided with the educated against the rest.
OK, that's my take at the moment and it makes a lot of sense. The Republicans have voiced the concerns of the uneducated - abortion, immigration, guns, the terrorist menace. But, let me read some more so I can spell out his argument more accurately.