By Thomas Geoghegan
In 2008 Thomas Geoghegan—then an established labor lawyer and prolific writer—embarked on a campaign to represent Chicago's Fifth District in the U.S. House, in a special election called when the sitting congressman, Rahm Emanuel, stepped down to serve as newly elected President Barack Obama's chief of staff. For ninety wintry days leading up to the election Geoghegan, a political neophyte at 60, knocked on doors and shook hands at train stations and made fundraising calls—and lost. But out of this humbling experience came something new: another book.
Taking its title from Whitman, The History of Democracy Is Yet to Be Written: How We Have to Learn to Govern All Over Again, combines tales from the campaign trail with an incisive vision of how we might rebuild our tattered democracy. In a polarized country, where 100 million citizens don't vote, and those who do are otherwise rarely politically engaged, he makes an impassioned and witty case for the possibility of a truly representative democracy, one built on the ideals of the House, the true chamber of the people, and inspired by the poet who gives the book its name. "A whole agenda for the Democratic party could come just out of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass," he writes. "If we treated working people with the reverence that Whitman had for them, if we see them in the workplace as Whitman did, we might never have had a Trump."
Thomas H. Geoghegan is a Chicago lawyer and author. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School (1975) and Harvard College (1971). He is president of the law firm Despres, Schwartz and Geoghegan, Ltd., which engages in labor, civil rights, and public interest litigation. His most recent book, Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement, was published by New Press in December 2014. He is also the author of Which Side Are You On? Trying to Be for Labor When It's Flat on Its Back (also from New Press), which was nominated in 1991 as one of the five best nonfiction works by the National Book Critics Circle. He has written four other books, and his articles have appeared in The Nation, The Baffler, Harpers, The New York Times, The New Republic, and other publications.
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