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Homegrown Democrat


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About the Author

Garrison Keillor, author of nearly a dozen books, is founder and host of the acclaimed radio show A Prairie Home Companion and the daily program The Writer's Almanac. He is also a regular contributor to Time magazine.


His Minnesota boyhood and the putative values of his state allow novelist and NPR favorite Keillor to conjure up a heartwarming case for liberalism, if not necessarily the Democratic Party platform. "[T]he social compact is still intact here," he writes of life in St. Paul, summing up attacks on that compact in a Menckenesque rant: "hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists...." Liberalism, Keillor declares, "is the politics of kindness," and he traces his own ideology to his kindly aunts and his access to good public education, including a land-grant university. Though he criticizes Democrats for losing touch with their principles, as when they support the drug war, he catalogues "What Do-Gooder Democrats Have Done for You," from civil rights to clean air, though he acknowledges, "The great hole in the compact is health care." "The good democrat," he declares, distrusts privilege and power, believes in equality, supports unions, and is individualist-"identity politics is Pundit Speak," he notes, which might get him in trouble with some interest groups. "Democrats are thought to be weak on foreign policy... but what we fear is arrogance," he writes, in a chapter notably short on prescription. Near the end, he offers another potent monologue, if not a rant, about September 11 and Bush's "Achtung Department" (aka Homeland Security). It doesn't all hang together-heck, Keillor's so loosy-goosey, he begins most chapters with a limerick-but call this Prairie Home Companion meets Air America. (On sale July 19) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

While Keillor might wish he were known first as a writer his fiction appeared in The New Yorker long before Prairie Home Companion became a public radio fixture the truth is that his readership comes precultivated from the horde of Lake Wobegone obsessives to whom his voice is soothingly familiar. That audience is probably going to vote Democratic this November, and Keillor's partisan hope is that his offering will help get some of them actually to work for the party's presidential nominee. The Keillor encountered here is at times openly surly. But Keillor most effectively connects with others when he is happy, and so his positive consciousness streams in which he invokes the Scandinavian-derived, northern Midwestern progressive, Socialist Democrat tradition are far more memorable than his snarling, anti-Republican rants. Some urbanites will read Keillor's paeans to wise municipal Democratic stewardship with amusement, but all will appreciate Keillor's candor in distancing core Rooseveltian values from certain tendencies of political correctness and Yuppie hubris. Recommended for public libraries where political (and Lake Wobegone) books circulate well. Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

[A book] of grace, empathy, and insight. (The American Prospect)

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