I was dimly aware that Mark Levin is a talk-radio host, and that genre is
pretty far off my radar. But both
D. Williamson and
C. McCarthy wrote favorably at NRO about this book. That was
good enough for me to fire up an Interlibrary Loan request at the
University Near Here. And (eventually) the sainted ILL staff at Dimond
Library wangled a copy out of Brandeis U.
After such authoritative praise, I was surprised to find myself a little
disappointed. The book is not bad. I'm in agreement with nearly everything
Levin has to say here. But it's pretty standard stuff, and not likely to
Levin's project is to outline "Americanism" as he understands it,
grounded in the Founders' vision, as described in the Declaration, the
Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and elsewhere: dedicated to
the timeless transcendent principles of inalienable natural rights, and limited Federalist
In opposition, we have the source of all our political woes, the
Progressive movement. Starting in the late 19th and early 20th century,
they too-successfully championed a politics unchained from the
dead-hand constraints of the past. They especially derided the lofty
language of the Declaration, and desperately sought to reinterpret the
Constitution in a way that might legalize governmental plunder intrusions into
previously forbidden areas.
Okay, but we know all that. But I suppose I could recommend this book
to the reader who (a) doesn't know all that, and (b) is open-minded
enough to learn about all that.
Levin's style employs a lot of quotes, mostly historical. They come from
good guys (Locke, Jefferson, Mill, Montesquieu, Berlin, Hayek, Friedman, Coolidge, …) and bad
guys (Marx, Hegel, Rousseau, Wilson, Croly, Dewey, …). There are a lot
of quotes, and they are long. (Do we really need to quote all ten
amendments making up the Bill of Rights? Even the Third Amendment?)
Which brings me to my biggest problem with the book: its quoting style.
Levin doesn't use
for most of his
lengthy quotes. (Sometimes he does, mostly he doesn't.)
Often there's just a sentence or two of Levin's own words stuck in between
paragraph after paragraph of (for example) the tedious pomposity of John
Cynical me wonders: what percentage of the words in this book are
actually Levin's, and how much is just copy-n-paste from his sources?
Less-cynical me says (however): that's not necessarily bad. When your
saying something insightful or revealing, it's best to quote to quote
them fully in context.
But I'd like to see things clearly demarcated. That's what block quotes