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Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  4,152 ratings  ·  669 reviews
From the bestselling author of What's the Matter With Kansas, a scathing look at the standard-bearers of liberal politics -- a book that asks: what's the matter with Democrats?

It is a widespread belief among liberals that if only Democrats can continue to dominate national elections, if only those awful Republicans are beaten into submission, the country will be on the rig
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 15th 2016 by Metropolitan Books
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K. Thomas Frank is mostly right in his conclusion. The fact that Hillary is the Democratic nominee and not Bernie Sanders -- and the way the Dem elite tr…moreThomas Frank is mostly right in his conclusion. The fact that Hillary is the Democratic nominee and not Bernie Sanders -- and the way the Dem elite treated Bernie -- pretty much backs up what Frank has written in his book. I'm guessing, though, that Frank might be surprised just how close Bernie came to dethroning Hillary. The movement Bernie has helped galvanize provides some hope.(less)
John Brilliant, engaging, insightful, this is a convincing dissection of American liberalism by a very articulate but very heartbroken liberal. The analysi…moreBrilliant, engaging, insightful, this is a convincing dissection of American liberalism by a very articulate but very heartbroken liberal. The analysis is bold and the critiques sharp with targets on both sides of the aisle. The only drawback is it was written before the 2016 election. Frank’s columns on the election in the Guardian are the best accounts out there. I listened to the audio which added to the affect. Franks speaks as well he writes which is no cmall achievement. Enjoy(less)

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Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Monica Lewinsky saved social security.
I am a lifelong Democrat.
I am a working man.
I am so depressed by this book.
I highly recommend it.
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Thomas Frank stirs up my aggravation with our political system as no other person can. He excoriates the Democratic Party for selling out the American People (those not part of the Top Ten Percent). I read many passages of this book aloud to my wife, and both of us were like, "Damn, Thomas Frank! Tell it."

I don't mean to get all political on Goodreads, but Frank does a brilliant job breaking down the empty promises of Democrats during election season since the Clinton era and the things they ac
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Damning critique of the neoliberal wing of the Democratic party. I pretty much agree with most (heck all!) of Franks’ analysis, although he veers into a full blown sarcastic polemic. Which is ok I guess, I mean, I agree with his points and his arguments but sometimes the anger is so seething that it distracts from the argument. I guess the more emotional someone gets with their arguments the more leery I get… and I do have to say I often have trouble myself in avoiding this trap! It’s not always ...more
Apr 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There was a time when America worked. Not just for the well-born and expensively educated. But for millions of working class men and women whose jobs paid enough for them to live comfortably, own a home, maybe send the kids to college.

How did we go from this?

And this?

To this?

And this.

It took a new consensus. A bipartisan consensus. Democrats like to blame it all on Ronald Reagan whose policies are not without fault. But as Thomas Frank explains in this furiously angry, brilliant book "...the tri
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Hot damn. This is a gallon of lighter fluid for that liberal fire you've been stoking in your heart. Far too few writers are willing to take our own Democratic Party to task for its failings and flaws. Must read for anyone hoping for politics that value people over profits. ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Like many others, I was shocked and saddened to witness the election of Donald Trump as President last month; and given that the way he won was by tens of millions of people voting for him who had directly voted for Obama in just the last election, I thought it was high time I finally learned a little more
Mar 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: united-states
A valid critique of the Democratic Party, which has been historically cast as the ally of the working man. Frank points out that recent decades have seen a shift in the party toward the center, as it embraces well-moneyed and socially liberal professionals as its new base, effectively leaving the poor behind. While the Clinton and Obama presidencies saw many of the vital protections for the poor and working class eroded, Democratic leadership has been a boon to the wealthiest members of society. ...more
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: listened

Wow. Even allowing for exaggeration (Frank, a truly outraged liberal, piles the vituperation on here with all the fury of a betrayed lover) this is a dismaying expose of the failures of the Democratic party. And I'll admit, to my shame, that I would probably have written him off as a disgruntled radical before last month's presidential election. That was an eye-opener, though, and now, along, I assume, with many others, I'm open to taking a closer look at where and how the Democrats lost credibi
Frank’s thesis in this book is that Democrats have not been effective creating a party that changes with the demands of the country. Democrats lost the last presidential election, not because Trump was so good, but because the Dems were so inadequate.
"When it comes to the ‘defining challenge of our time,’ however, many of our modern Democratic leaders falter. They acknowledge that inequality is rampant and awful, but they cannot find the conviction or imagination to do what is necessary to reve
Mar 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I viewed Bill Clinton's presidency and the Clintons generally in a mostly positive light before picking this up. WOW. I didn't realize what a huge sellout Clinton was to working class people and people of color. It was a bit of a shock. After reading this, I feel a bit bad for laying all the blame for the financial collapse at the feet of Bush, which makes me a little sick to say, honestly. I thought the repeal of Glass_Steagall was a momentary lapse of judgement, or arm-twisting from Republican ...more
Michael Perkins
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
They were not listening then (2016), they're not listening now (2020).


This article (and the book) compliments Frank's book.


I read this book first thing when it came out in 2016. I could not get anyone else to read it. One person said he had heard all this "ad nauseum." Too bad his candidate lost because the party had drifted so far away from where it used to be.

I recently read this book, which has stories of how the Demo party lost t
Apr 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Some outlooks and observations that are factual and truthful to scale at the same time. A situation less rarely seen or heard by governmental policy or announcement of their appointed czars in over a decade.

If his (Frank's) purpose is to inform or to rabble rouse, regardless. The Democratic Party in most of the issues and liberal platform points of long past purposes and eventual incorporation into practical applications that actually worked for a PROGRESS? All of that ceased earlier than he des
Jamie Bradway
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Despite the griping about liberals I've heard my whole life, I still haven't experienced a truly liberal presidential administration. I guess it's just a favorite slur of the right, mostly devoid of meaning.

Thomas Frank frequently rouses rabbles - I sometimes think that's his main goal, so I have been dismissive of his writing in the past. However, Listen, Liberal is a concise summation of how the Democratic Party abandoned the principles of leftist governing in order to win. At least, initiall
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Every Democrat needs to read this book. Period.
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a book-length essay about the massive failures of the Democratic Party over the last 40 years or so. It was written before the 2016 election, but makes that result much easier to understand. Frank's main point is that while Democrats give constant lip service to helping the middle-class and reducing inequality, their policies have done the opposite. The main reason, according to Frank, is that the party is run by one class of people (the "well-graduated" professional class) and naturally ...more
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh, sadness. Thomas Frank’s Listen, Liberal or Whatever Happened to the Party of the People? is a relatively short book but it took me forever to read because it made me sad, angry, and frustrated. Frank answers my other question about the 2016 election: why did so many Obama Democrats desert the party and vote for Trump? Frank supplies those answers with brutal honesty. I’m no longer surprised that Hillary Clinton lost; if the Democratic party didn’t have its head so far up its own ass, it woul ...more
Nov 17, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was recommended to me by a Bernie bro online when I said I wasgoing to vote for Hillary Clinton and that she's really very good, not the evil witch monster misogynists on both the right and left enjoy painting her as. I'm the sort of person who actually reads the book recommendations of those who disagree with me, so I immediately took this book from the library.

Did I learn anything new from it? Not exactly. But I did find it very interesting and I don't necessarily disagree with Frank
Scott Rhee
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, nonfiction
Those of us who voted Democratic in the recent election are, right about now, harboring multiple and simultaneous thoughts. One of them is: I told you so. Another one is: holy shit.

Another thought (and it may, unfortunately, only be plaguing a cross-section of Democrats who voted in the last election) is: we fucked up.

My “we” here is an all-inclusive we that includes all Democratic politicians, including all past Democratic presidents since 1992 (you know who you are, Bill and Barack), and anyon
Tanja Berg
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
My last birthday was the saddest ever. It coincided with Trump being elected president. Now he has entered office. How could this happen? True to myself, I've been trying to find the answer in books. First "Hillbilly Elegy", then "Just Mercy" and now this one, "Listen Liberal". Just the name and the cover with the pointing finger would have put me off really, but I got this recommended. Plus, in order to find answers to an unpleasant question, I must delve into issues my virtuous liberal self wo ...more
Thomas Ray
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you think the Democrat is the lesser of two evils, read this book and think again. Bill Clinton did far more damage than any Republican could have: NAFTA. Ending Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Vastly ballooning the prison population. Banking deregulation.

Obama is pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership--treason: subordinating national law to international corporations' profit. Obamacare cleverly puts insurance companies on a "cost-plus" basis: by legislating that insurers can charge "
Polemics should always be approached with caution.

The truth is that this book appeals to my political and social sensibilities. But it needs to be much more, it needs to reach out to the sceptics and the unconvinced and the out and out hostile, in order to do its work. And this height, I'm afraid, it doesn't quite reach.

It's a book about the Democratic Party and meritocracy and liberal...well, not quite hypocrisy (this is a subjective perception, after all), but certainly blindness. And the th
Karel Baloun
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
5 stars for eloquent and polished style, presenting detailed, well researched history of how the Democratic Party turned away from FDR and the working class, to be captured by the Ivy League liberal elites and wall st. Minus 1 star from unrealistic bitterness and extending the callousness and "failing the working class" of Clinton to Obama. The country was not ready to turn away from Reagan in the 90's, and it is not clear that the Voting Majority is ready to do so today.

fav quotation: "This is
Alex Sarll
'Or, Whatever Happened To The Party Of The People' - I do love a good subtitle, and that's a beauty. To my knowledge I've not read Thomas Frank before, but I like the morbid glee with which he drills into the Democrats' failings, like some maniacal dentist tutting 'It'll have to come out' over pretty much every tooth, even while being careful to acknowledge that yes, obviously the Republicans are even worse. But that was the problem all along, wasn't it; here, as there, the party of the Left was ...more
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just as easily I could have given this 1 star as he misses a lot of very salient points, the most important of which is this: every single job in a society is necessary. We need people to build supercomputers as well as sweep the streets and collect the trash. If we aren't giving everyone a living wage for their work then we are basically living in a slave state. Attention: We Are Living in a Slave State!

I’m also sick and fucking tired of people blaming liberals for losing the 2016 election. I d
May 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
As Thomas Jefferson said, we must dream of an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity. As we move further away from that goal, we need to do more to change course, but we shouldn't just give up on the destination for the sake of throwing a mutiny.

This book delivers a valid critique of Obama-Clintonism (deregulation, incarceration, war, health system, etc.) but that is not new information. The new angle here is supposed to be a "diagnosis of the liberal malady." Fran
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've been a long time reader of Thomas Frank, dating back to his "Conquest of Cool" and his editorial stint at "The Baffler" of which he was a founder. He is consistently thought provoking and willing to attack the complacency of the liberal class as he so effectively does in this book. The book itself is very reminiscent of Christopher Lasch's "Revolt of the Elites" which similarly attacked the then developing meritocracy twenty years ago for both its overweening self adulation and its abandonm ...more
Leonard Pierce
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
This will be my last entry of 2016. Next year will begin, barring some unexpected act of fate, with the ascension to the presidency of Donald Trump, as dim-witted, incurious, crass, and crooked human being that has ever held public office in America. Trump has spent the hours since the election staffing his White House with the greatest collection of grifters and cranks this side of Tammany Hall, and trolling the country he is meant to be leading on Twitter. The primary occupation of politically ...more
Leo Walsh
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Part of me wants to give LISTEN, LIBERAL by Thomas Frank 3-stars. because it's, in essence, a long rant against the Democratic party's failure to support the downtrodden, it's historical role. By embracing conservative, neoliberal (free market) economics under Bill Clinton, Frank points out this has left working-class voters feeling abandoned. This leaves the Republicans an opening, where they employ populist rhetoric to rile working-class whites, and then pass policies that hurth their voters.

Todd N
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I really liked this book, though I accidentally bought the Kindle version and the Audible version not realizing that there was no Whispersync keeping the two in sync. I thought that all Kindle-Audible combinations had this feature, so I’m a little wiser and sadder from that experience. I stuck with the Audible version, which is actually read by Mr. Frank himself.

Mr. Frank takes the elites of the Democratic party out behind the woodshed and basically beats them with a rhetorical stick for eight a
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this book before the 2016 election. This book was very enlightening and raised many more questions that I hope to dialogue about with those around me. Frank's book has a real call to live out a fight against our current system.

Frank scathes the current Democratic party for its choice to forget that it is "the party of the people." Instead, the moves of the key figures of the past 30 years, the Clinton's and Obama, have done more to contribute to economic inequality by their continual obsequ
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Thomas Frank is the author of Pity the Billionaire, The Wrecking Crew, and What's the Matter with Kansas? A former columnist for The Wall Street Journal and Harper's, Frank is the founding editor of The Baffler and writes regularly for Salon. He lives outside Washington, D.C. ...more

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“Regardless of who leads it, the professional-class liberalism I have been describing in these pages seems to be forever traveling on a quest for some place of greater righteousness. It is always engaged in a search for some subject of overwhelming, noncontroversial goodness with which it can identify itself and under whose umbrella of virtue it can put across its self-interested class program.

There have been many other virtue-objects over the years: people and ideas whose surplus goodness could be extracted for deployment elsewhere. The great virtue-rush of the 1990s, for example, was focused on children, then thought to be the last word in overwhelming, noncontroversial goodness. Who could be against kids? No one, of course, and so the race was on to justify whatever your program happened to be in their name. In the course of Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book, It Takes a Village, the favorite rationale of the day—think of the children!—was deployed to explain her husband’s crime bill as well as more directly child-related causes like charter schools.

You can find dozens of examples of this kind of liberal-class virtue-quest if you try, but instead of listing them, let me go straight to the point: This is not politics. It’s an imitation of politics. It feels political, yes: it’s highly moralistic, it sets up an easy melodrama of good versus bad, it allows you to make all kinds of judgments about people you disagree with, but ultimately it’s a diversion, a way of putting across a policy program while avoiding any sincere discussion of the policies in question. The virtue-quest is an exciting moral crusade that seems to be extremely important but at the conclusion of which you discover you’ve got little to show for it besides NAFTA, bank deregulation, and a prison spree.”
“When the left party in a system severs its bonds to working people—when it dedicates itself to the concerns of a particular slice of high-achieving affluent people—issues of work and income inequality will inevitably fade from its list of concerns.” 8 likes
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