Chasing the Red, White, and Blue A Journey in Tocqueville's Footsteps Through Contemporary America

David Cohen





320 Pages



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In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville made his journey to America, traveling from New York to the frontier city of Flint, Michigan, down the Ohio River Valley and into Mississippi, then turning east through the Old South and concluding in Washington, D.C. His journey spawned the classic Democracy in America, the book that defined "equality of opportunity" as the wellspring national character.

At the end of the twentieth century, London journalist David Cohen made that same journey, with one new destination—the frontier of Silicon Valley in California. Chasing the Red, White, and Blue is his account: a thought-provoking inquiry into the lives of Americans today. Talking with people at every level of society—from Manhattan real estate brokers and Washington lobbyists to supermarket clerks and illegal aliens—Cohen finds equality elusive and the poor increasingly adrift from American society. But he also finds hope alive in the most unexpected of places.

Just as Democracy in America took the measure of our young republic, Chasing the Red, White, and Blue portrays a much-changed America on the cusp of a new millennium: still united by our passion for democracy, yet divided by our prejudices.


Praise for Chasing the Red, White, and Blue

"A lively, easy-to-read piece of analytic journalism . . . Cohen succeeds in capturing the ethos of the country as it sped into the new century."—Los Angeles Times

"Impressive . . . An audacious book . . . A thoughtful indictment of growing inequality in the United States."—Mark Hertsgaard, author of The Eagle's Shadow and On Bended Knee

"Extraordinary . . . An important and long-overdue revisiting of [Tocqueville's] landmark work."—Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Cohen tours America and pulls Alexis de Tocqueville inside out, or perhaps simply pulls the wool from his eyes, in this sad song to the country's economic disparities and ethical malaise."—Kirkus Reviews

"Chasing the Red, White, and Blue is the kind of heroic, epic investigation of the American soul that we used to associate with such native-born giants as James Agee and John Steinbeck. That it was written by a young British South African retracing the 170-year-old trail of a sojourning Frenchman only enhances its aura of singular brilliance. Alexis de Tocqueville would bow to the achievement of his protégé, David Cohen. The rest of us may take his consummate reportage, inspired analysis and disputatious passion as a model for renewed involvement in our fraught and still-hopeful nation."—Ron Powers, coauthor of Flags of Our Fathers

"Compassionate, fascinating, and compelling . . . The hearty nucleus of Cohen's book seethes with real people discussing their salaries, expectations, and frustrations . . . Cohen perceptively conjures up the unique flavor of each region . . . The basic optimism of his approach and his prescient comments remain intact and eminently useful."—Sam Coale, Wheaton College, The Providence Journal-Bulletin

"Social reportage of the highest calibre, quirky but with a firm grasp of the wider issues . . . A thoroughly satisfying read."—Christopher Silvester, The Sunday Times (London)

"Written with consummate intelligence and passion, illuminated by honesty . . . An essential addition to the bookshelf."—Bel Mooney, The Times (London)

Reviews from Goodreads



  • David Cohen

  • David Cohen is an award-winning British and South African journalist who has written for The Independent, The Guardian, The Financial Times, and British GQ, as well as for The New York Times. He was born in Birmingham, England, grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and returned to England in the late eighties to attend Oxford University where he studied politics, philosophy and economics. He came to the United States in 1997 on a Harkness Fellowship and was hosted by Columbia University for three years. He lives in London with his wife and two daughters.