Non-Fiction: Democracy, If We Can Keep It by Ellis Cose

DEMOCRACY, IF WE CAN KEEP IT “makes an air-tight case in defense of truth, free speech, and civic activism’s importance to democratic society. This book could not arrive at a more pivotal moment.””

— Ford Foundation President Darren Walker

Federal agents storm through American cities, arresting leftists they call enemies of the state as other government officials celebrate the abuse.

Yet this is not Portland, Oregon, in 2020.

One hundred years ago, in the wake of World War I, U. S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer targeted for arrests and deportations leftists he accused of wanting to destroy the country. And just as Seattle Mayor Ted Wheeler has decried President Trump’s use of federal troops to assault and detain peaceful demonstrators in his city, many Americans resisted Palmer’s tactics.

“Although most feds went along, a brave Labor Department official blocked many of Palmer’s attempted deportations as violations of residents’ basic rights,” notes author Ellis Cose, who tells Palmer’s story in his latest book, Democracy, If We Can Keep It: The ACLU’s 100-Year Fight for Rights in America.

“Louis Freeland Post, that underappreciated servant a century ago, had a lot to do with bringing Palmer’s abuses to an end. It would be great if federal officials today were more willing to stand up to Mr. Trump.”

“Clearly, the lesson for our time is that during periods of national turmoil,” said The Los Angeles Review of Books, “when the popular will is inflamed by calls for blind patriotism and strict obedience to the political orthodoxy of the moment, even people of good intentions may be tempted to buckle under and forgo their principles.”

Hired as the ACLU’s first writer in residence, Cose had unrestricted access to its archives. He produced an intimate history of the ACLU and its critical role in shaping the American ideal of civil liberties. The ACLU played a pivotal role in legal precedent-setting events including the Scopes Trial, the Scottsboro Boys imprisonment, Japanese American Interment, McCarthyism, the Civil Rights era, Vietnam, Edward Snowden, and now President Donald Trump’s assault on any law limiting his power.

Cose is the author of 12 books, including the award winning The Rage of A Privileged Class. He was a Newsweek magazine columnist and editor for 17 years, and is a former New York Daily News editorial page editor and writer. He has appeared on numerous television programs, including Dateline, ABC News, and Good Morning America. ◊

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