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As a congressman, Barney Frank was a happy warrior and joyful scourge of Republicans and conservatives. In his excellent memoir, “Frank,” he applies the scourge to his fellow Democrats and liberals.

Most tellingly, he dismisses the way Democrats dismiss white working-class males’ hostility as “a manifestation of excessive religiosity, a gun fetish, or homophobia.” Nor are they anti-government, he writes. Rather:

“The white males who used to vote for Democrats have not become philosophical opponents of an active public sector. They dislike much of what they perceive the government is doing, but they are even angrier at what it is refusing to do – adopt policies that will reverse the harm they have suffered from the economic shifts of the past decades.”

He also criticizes the left, including his LGBT partners, for their focus on “public demonstrations, in which like-minded people gather to reassure each other of their beliefs,” rather than effective grassroots activity. He cites “the National Rifle Association’s great success in dominating the policy debates about gun control, despite being in a minority in every national poll I have ever seen.”

Why?

“The NRA wins at the ballot box, not in the streets and not by checkbook….They urge all of their adherents to get on the voting rolls. They are diligent to the point of obsession in making sure that elected officials hear from everyone in their constituencies who opposes any limits on guns…and they then do an extraordinary job of informing their supporters of how those officials cast their votes.”

Too often, he says, liberals indulge themselves in those feel-good public demonstrations. His rule:

“If you care deeply about an issue, and are engaged in group activity on its behalf that is fun and inspiring and heightens your sense of solidarity with others, you are almost certainly not doing your cause any good.”

In other words, Moral Mondays are fine. But the election is Tuesday.

Finally, he takes a swing at the media, with whom he had a love-hate relationship. When he retired from Congress, he recalled:

“I was the subject of many stories in the press. Typically they were very generous, but they also reproached me for failing to show proper reverence for journalists and disregarding their feelings. The sensitivity of those who pride themselves on discomforting others continues to bemuse me.”

Frank doesn’t take himself too seriously. He takes both friends and foes to task. And he’s written an enjoyable read for anybody who enjoys politics, left or right.

 

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