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The Optimistic Leftist

The Optimistic Leftist

Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think

Ruy Teixeira

St. Martin's Press

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The words “optimism” and “the left” do not seem to go together very well these days. The dominant view on the left--reinforced by the election of Donald Trump--is as follows: (1) progress in today’s world has largely stopped and in many ways reversed; (2) the left is weak and at the mercy of a rapacious capitalism and a marauding right; and (3) the outlook for the future is bleak, with ordinary citizens suffering even more deprivation and the planet itself sliding inexorably toward catastrophe.

But all these propositions are wrong. It is not the case that progress has stopped. Today, we live in a freer, more democratic, less violent and more prosperous world than we ever have before.

It is not the case that the left is at the mercy of the right. The form of the left is changing but its numbers are strong and growing. It remains a vital force—the vital force--for reforming capitalism.

And it is not the case that the future of humanity is bleak. The problems we face today are solvable and, moreover, are likely to be solved in the coming decades. Life for ordinary citizens should improve dramatically over the course of the 21st century.

It is not just that these pessimistic propositions are wrong. They also do real harm to the left by undermining its appeal. Pessimism makes people less likely to believe in positive change, not more likely. It is time for the left to realize that their romance with pessimism is a bug not a feature of their current practice. There is no substitute for optimism and an economic climate that promotes optimism. The time has come, as Ruy Teixeira argues in this book, for the optimistic leftist.

EXCERPT


INTRODUCTION


Welcoming the Future


 


The left is likely to dominate the twenty-first century and there is little the right can do about this except adapt. This seems counter-intuitive in...

Reviews

Praise for The Optimistic Leftist

"Ruy Texeira tells leftists and centrists, cosmopolitans and communitarians, organizers and activists which is the way to a pragmatic utopianism based on the energy and accomplishments of humanity." —Brad DeLong, Washington Center for Equitable Growth

"For readers interested in American politics and history as well as those looking for a digestible discussion of economics." —Booklist

"A political analyst offers American liberals a host of reasons to be cheerful...[Teixeira] provides an often counterintuitive argument that embraces capitalistic growth, technological advancement, globalization, environmental activism, and a more optimistic attitude in general toward the course of history." —Kirkus Reviews

"I admit, I opened Ruy Teixeira's new book prepared to be unconvinced. But the case he makes is cogent and persuasive and, I believe, historically inevitable. If you're anywhere on the left side of the political spectrum, you're feeling pretty glum these days. Well, read this book!" —Michael Tomasky, columnist, The Daily Beast, and editor, Democracy

“Think that Donald Trump’s victory means the end of progress—and progressivism? Crack open Ruy Teixeira’s The Optimistic Leftist, and think again. According to Teixeira’s readable revisionism, short-term challenges have blinded us to long-term opportunities for economic growth, technological progress, and, yes, the revival of the center-left . Abandon hopelessness all ye who enter!" —Jacob S. Hacker, Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science & Director, Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University

"Progressives could use a dose of optimism and Teixeira makes a strong case for it. While the U.S. electorate pulled the lever for the politics of fear, he argues that a coherent, forward-looking, inclusive agenda for strong, equitable growth will ultimately prove a winner. As Democrats regroup in the wake of an election that left the Republican party in control of the federal and most state governments, they would do well to consider his thoughtful approach." —Heather Boushey, author of Finding Time: The Economics of Work-Life Conflict

"How could the left possibly embrace optimism and hope in the age of Trump? Here’s how: read this book, absorb Teixeira’s historical take, and recognize that once we stop mourning and get to work, demography, policy innovation on behalf of equitable growth, and opportunity for all must, and will, win the day." —Jared Bernstein, Senior Fellow, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and former Chief Economist to Vice President Joseph Biden

"Ruy Teixeira's specialty is taking the long view, when others are bound up in the next news or election cycle. In The Optimistic Leftist he advances an analysis that should encourage progressives, be cautionary for conservatives, and engage and enlighten everyone who cares about America's political and economic future." —James Fallows, national correspondent, The Atlantic

"Ruy Teixeira doubles down and rightly on the left's historic role that will lead it to mitigate the excesses of our times and propel to dominate politically and ideologically. Just like the for the progressives of earlier era, reformers will face major defeats along the way, but it is the left alone that is pushing for inclusive growth and an opportunity state. That is why they will grow their coalitions and leadership role. It is an important read, particularly now." —Stan Greenberg, author of America Ascendant: A Revolutionary Nation’s Path to Addressing Its Deepest Problems and Leading the 21st Century

"At a moment when gloom is both fashionable and pervasive, Ruy Teixeira's The Optimistic Leftist is a tonic -- not because it will make you feel better, although it might, but because he makes a powerful, provocative and persuasive case that progressives are in a better position than they realize to make our world better. His call for an 'Opportunity State' cuts through so much cant about government's economic role and he argues that the left is better suited than the right to be capitalism's 'caretaker'." Beware: this is the rare political book that could force you to smile." —E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Why the Right Went Wrong

"Ruy Teixeira is one of America's smartest and most far-seeing social observers. He has a rare ability to carefully consider opposing perspectives without being trapped by the conventional wisdom, and arrive at pointed and even shocking conclusions that are later vindicated. His argument is one liberals ought to heed." —Jonathan Chait, author of Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied his Critics and Transformed America

“This engaging and highly readable book will do much to lift the spirits of Progressives who were disappointed by the results of 2016 Presidential election. Taking the long view, Ruy Teixeira makes a compelling case that a variety of macro forces- demographic, economic and social – will enable a leftist agenda to prevail for much of the 21st Century.” —William H. Frey, Brookings Institution, and author of Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics Are Remaking America

"Trump's election has only intensified the American left's pessimism—a lack of faith in its ideals, solutions, and its ability to win over the American public. Ironically, as Ruy Teixeira shows, not only is that pessimism unwarranted, it is ultimately counterproductive to achieving liberal victory." —Markos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of Daily Kos

"Essential reading for perspective and political balance in this dark age of nationalist populism, growing international disorder, and ongoing corporate plunder." —Joel Rogers, co-author of American Society: How It Really Works

"Ruy Teixeira shows leftists and centrists, cosmopolitans and communitarians, organizers and activists the way to a pragmatic utopianism based on the energy and accomplishments of humanity..." —J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics, U.C. Berkeley

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Ruy Teixeira

RUY TEIXEIRA is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and author or co-author of several books on American politics. Teixeira’s book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, written with John Judis (Scribner, 2002), was the most widely discussed political book of that year.

Ruy Teixeira

Linda Parker Photography

Ruy Teixeira

From the Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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