The Land of Flickering Lights: Restoring America in an Age of Broken Politics

The Land of Flickering Lights: Restoring America in an Age of Broken Politics

by Michael Bennet


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We had become the land of flickering lights, in which the standard of success was not what we were doing for the next generation of Americans, or to enhance our role in the world, but instead whether we had kept government open for another few minutes.”—Michael Bennet

The Land of Flickering Lights is a unique contribution to American political writing at this or any other time. Senator Michael Bennet lifts a veil on the inner workings of Congress to reveal, in his words, “through a series of actual stories—about the people, the politics, the motives, the money, the hypocrisy, the stakes, the outcome—the pathological culture of the capital and the consequences for us all.”

Bennet unfolds the dramatic backstory behind five episodes crucial to the well-being of all Americans. Each of them exemplifies the hyper-partisan politics that have upended our democracy:

  • The highly politicized confirmation battles over judicial nominations at all levels—epitomized by ugly and unprincipled fights over seats on the Supreme Court;
  • The passage of the Trump tax law, which massively increased our national debt and widened economic inequality across the country;
  • The shredding of the Iran nuclear deal, which undermined our national security, caused friends and foes alike to doubt America’s word, and made a mockery of the longstanding bipartisan tradition in foreign policy;
  • The pervasive corruption unleashed by “dark money” in policies and how big donors have been able to stymie urgent action on climate change and many other issues;
  • The sabotage by a congressional minority of the “Gang of Eight’s” bi-partisan deal to reform America’s immigration policies, a deal that would have comprehensively addressed the immigration issues that bedevil us to this day.

    With frankness and refreshing candor, and in elegant prose, Bennet pulls the machinations behind these episodes into full public view, shedding vital new light on our political dysfunction today. Arguing that each of us has a duty to act as a founder, he will inspire Americans of all political persuasions to demand that the “winners” of our political battles be all the American people, nor one party or the other.

  • Product Details

    ISBN-13: 9780802147813
    Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
    Publication date: 06/04/2019
    Pages: 304
    Sales rank: 60,720
    Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

    About the Author

    Michael Bennet has represented Colorado in the United States Senate since 2009. Recognized as a pragmatic and independent thinker, he has built a reputation for taking on Washington dysfunction to address our greatest challenges―including education, climate change, immigration, health care, and national security. When not in Washington he lives in Denver with his wife and three daughters.

    Read an Excerpt

    If we imagine someone whose political awareness began in 2010, the stories told here illustrate the only political conditions they know. For someone in their twenties who may have missed out on a serious American history class, Washington politics look like those of a nation slouching toward despair, dysfunction, maybe even despotism. With every month that goes by, it becomes more difficult to remember an American government that functions in any other way. As a people, we deserve to know that in the United States there once were, and can still be, better courses.

    It is easy for the burden of present circumstance to convince us that we are in a dark hour. But we must also be honest enough to admit that as a nation we have faced challenges greater than this. We are not at our radio on the morning of December 7, hoping that President Roosevelt can help us see our way from an unprovoked attack through to the conclusion of yet another World War. We are not enslaved as human beings or enslaving other human beings. We are not in the throes of civil war or torn apart by armed partisans and lynch mobs trying to roll back the progress of Reconstruction. Rather we are, as we have been many times before, at political loggerheads and wondering, rightly, what we can do to emerge as a stronger union.

    I think often about the words of James Baldwin, written deep in the crisis years of the American civil-rights movement: “And here we are, at the center of the arc, trapped in the gaudiest, most valuable, and most improbable water wheel the world has ever seen. Everything now, we must assume, is in our hands; we have no right to assume otherwise.” '

    Yes, everything now is in our hands; we have no right to assume otherwise.

    Table of Contents

    Prologue vii

    The Accidental Senator 1

    Power Play 31

    The Corruption of Inaction 72

    Giving Away the Store 115

    No Prophets in Our Time 160

    The Test of a Free People 205

    Acting Like Founders 239

    Four Freedoms 266

    The American Dream 273

    For Further Reading 283

    Acknowledgments 292

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