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Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America

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Since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2006, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown has sat on the Senate floor at a mahogany desk with a proud history. In Desk 88, he tells the story of eight of the Senators who were there before him. "Perhaps the most imaginative book to emerge from the Senate since Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts produced Profiles in Courage." —David M. Since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2006, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown has sat on the Senate floor at a mahogany desk with a proud history. In Desk 88, he tells the story of eight of the Senators who were there before him. "Perhaps the most imaginative book to emerge from the Senate since Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts produced Profiles in Courage." —David M. Shribman, The Boston Globe Despite their flaws and frequent setbacks, each made a decisive contribution to the creation of a more just America. They range from Hugo Black, who helped to lift millions of American workers out of poverty, to Robert F. Kennedy, whose eyes were opened by an undernourished Mississippi child and who then spent the rest of his life afflicting the comfortable. Brown revives forgotten figures such as Idaho’s Glen Taylor, a singing cowboy who taught himself economics and stood up to segregationists, and offers new insights into George McGovern, who fought to feed the poor around the world even amid personal and political calamities. He also writes about Herbert Lehman of New York, Al Gore Sr. of Tennessee, Theodore Francis Green of Rhode Island, and William Proxmire of Wisconsin. Together, these eight portraits in political courage tell a story about the triumphs and failures of the Progressive idea over the past century: in the 1930s and 1960s, and more intermittently since, politicians and the public have successfully fought against entrenched special interests and advanced the cause of economic or racial fairness. Today, these advances are in peril as employers shed their responsibilities to employees and communities, and a U.S. president gives cover to bigotry. But the Progressive idea is not dead. Recalling his own career, Brown dramatizes the hard work and high ideals required to renew the social contract and create a new era in which Americans of all backgrounds can know the “Dignity of Work.”


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Since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2006, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown has sat on the Senate floor at a mahogany desk with a proud history. In Desk 88, he tells the story of eight of the Senators who were there before him. "Perhaps the most imaginative book to emerge from the Senate since Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts produced Profiles in Courage." —David M. Since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2006, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown has sat on the Senate floor at a mahogany desk with a proud history. In Desk 88, he tells the story of eight of the Senators who were there before him. "Perhaps the most imaginative book to emerge from the Senate since Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts produced Profiles in Courage." —David M. Shribman, The Boston Globe Despite their flaws and frequent setbacks, each made a decisive contribution to the creation of a more just America. They range from Hugo Black, who helped to lift millions of American workers out of poverty, to Robert F. Kennedy, whose eyes were opened by an undernourished Mississippi child and who then spent the rest of his life afflicting the comfortable. Brown revives forgotten figures such as Idaho’s Glen Taylor, a singing cowboy who taught himself economics and stood up to segregationists, and offers new insights into George McGovern, who fought to feed the poor around the world even amid personal and political calamities. He also writes about Herbert Lehman of New York, Al Gore Sr. of Tennessee, Theodore Francis Green of Rhode Island, and William Proxmire of Wisconsin. Together, these eight portraits in political courage tell a story about the triumphs and failures of the Progressive idea over the past century: in the 1930s and 1960s, and more intermittently since, politicians and the public have successfully fought against entrenched special interests and advanced the cause of economic or racial fairness. Today, these advances are in peril as employers shed their responsibilities to employees and communities, and a U.S. president gives cover to bigotry. But the Progressive idea is not dead. Recalling his own career, Brown dramatizes the hard work and high ideals required to renew the social contract and create a new era in which Americans of all backgrounds can know the “Dignity of Work.”

30 review for Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    Sherrod Brown is the democratic senior senator from Ohio. He sits at desk number 88 in the Senate. He tells about the senators who have had the seat before him, such as: Senator Hugo Black; he had the desk from 1927 to 1937. Some of the other Senators that sat at this desk were George McGovern, Al Gore, Robert F. Kennedy and Theodore Green. Brown tells about each of the eight men and he works in information about himself. I was surprised at how many decades it took to stop child labor. Sherrod Brown is the democratic senior senator from Ohio. He sits at desk number 88 in the Senate. He tells about the senators who have had the seat before him, such as: Senator Hugo Black; he had the desk from 1927 to 1937. Some of the other Senators that sat at this desk were George McGovern, Al Gore, Robert F. Kennedy and Theodore Green. Brown tells about each of the eight men and he works in information about himself. I was surprised at how many decades it took to stop child labor. Apparently, business and the Republicans fought every child labor law sent to the Senate. I found the information on Senator Lehman interesting. I sort of had the feeling I was in the Senate and the desk was talking to me. The book was interesting and well worth the read. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. The book was twelve hours and forty-six minutes. Sherrod Brown and Leon Nixon do a good job narrating the book. Nixon is an actor and voice-over artist.

  2. 4 out of 5

    John Ryan

    Exceptional! Rich history of those who are elected to help working people rather than the rich. Interesting stories of people who made America a better place to work and live. It’s just the honest, well written story we need with today’s sad political state. Even people who don’t like politics will like this book, perhaps even more so.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cristie Underwood

    I love that Senator Brown wrote this book detailing how the previous Senators to sit at Desk 88 impacted history with their service. Each one had setbacks, but was still able to contribute to the better of America. This book is one that needs to be read, as it emphasizes the contributions made by Senators in the past and how working together with others can truly impact the future of our Country. We live in divided times and this book shows how Senators with different values held the same seat I love that Senator Brown wrote this book detailing how the previous Senators to sit at Desk 88 impacted history with their service. Each one had setbacks, but was still able to contribute to the better of America. This book is one that needs to be read, as it emphasizes the contributions made by Senators in the past and how working together with others can truly impact the future of our Country. We live in divided times and this book shows how Senators with different values held the same seat and were able to each make positive change.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Sherrod Brown is a better Senator than he is a writer, but that speaks to what a great Senator he is. What I learned most from reading the stories of eight Senators who sat at Desk 88 was that compromise is part of the job. You need to look at the entirety of a person's life, rather than looking for a flaw and claiming that it discredits all the good things he or she fought for. Now it would be nice if a woman (or a minority) were to get to sit at Desk 88.

  5. 5 out of 5

    John Newton

    In general I'm not a big fan of memoirs by living politicians (at least the ones by Americans that I have read). They seem to follow a common formula in which the author turns the details of their into some quintessential American story and then recounts their political successes along with anecdotes of their struggles fighting the good fight (however that is defined). This book by Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio follows another model, however, with short biographies of eight progressive senators. In general I'm not a big fan of memoirs by living politicians (at least the ones by Americans that I have read). They seem to follow a common formula in which the author turns the details of their into some quintessential American story and then recounts their political successes along with anecdotes of their struggles fighting the good fight (however that is defined). This book by Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio follows another model, however, with short biographies of eight progressive senators. It's a walk through 20th-century (and early 21st-century) American history as seen through the life stories of men like George McGovern, Robert Kennedy, and Hugo Black. These aren't hagiographies and along with the achievements of these men, Brown covers their failings and failures too. Between each of the biographical chapters there are others titled "Thoughts from Desk 88." (The desk 88 is a reference to the one in the Senate that Brown sits at and which was also used by a number of other progressive senators.) Those chapters do fit into the more conventional political memoir model, and you'll have to have some tolerance for Brown selling himself and his achievements to get through them. It is worth it to do so, however, especially if you wonder where progressivism goes from here. Brown is committed to a progressivism that is not limited to blue bubbles and instead calls for one that is responsive to the concerns of working-class and rural Americans—a commitment also reflected in some of the choices of progressive senators he focuses on in this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir

    It has been almost two decades since Robert Caro published volume three of his biography of Lyndon Johnson, MASTER OF THE SENATE, which covered the years from 1949 to 1960 when Johnson served in the United States Senate. The book was a revelation about the history and workings of the Senate and how Johnson mastered the organization as no politician before him. When it released in 2002, Sherrod Brown represented Ohio in Congress. In 2006, he would win election to the Senate. He has been It has been almost two decades since Robert Caro published volume three of his biography of Lyndon Johnson, MASTER OF THE SENATE, which covered the years from 1949 to 1960 when Johnson served in the United States Senate. The book was a revelation about the history and workings of the Senate and how Johnson mastered the organization as no politician before him. When it released in 2002, Sherrod Brown represented Ohio in Congress. In 2006, he would win election to the Senate. He has been re-elected twice, which is no easy task, given the state’s conservative electorate and his unabashed progressive leanings. As the 2020 presidential campaign began, many progressives hoped he would run for president, but for now he has chosen to remain in the Senate. DESK 88 is part autobiography and part historical account of the Senate through the story of the men who occupied the desk that Brown now occupies on the floor of the Senate. Upon his arrival in the Senate, he was given the responsibility of selecting a desk for the Senate floor. The traditions of the Senate run deep, and one of them is that most senators at some point carve their names in the drawers of their desks on the Senate floor. Brown’s search led him to Desk 88, previously occupied by Hugo Black of Alabama, George McGovern of South Dakota, Robert Kennedy of New York, William Proxmire of Wisconsin, and several other progressive senators. Brown had found his Senate home. Anyone who has seen or heard Brown speak on issues important to him will appreciate the organization and writing of DESK 88. Just like its author, the book is well-organized and passionate. He alternates chapters on his predecessors with his own career and political views on important contemporary issues. Recounting the fascinating history of former U.S. senators serves as a reminder that although we are at a complex, perilous moment in our nation’s history, we have been here before. The biographical portraits also shed light on the continuing evolution of life in American politics. Hugo Black was a progressive senator from Alabama, yet he was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan. His membership became public as he was nominated and confirmed to serve on the United States Supreme Court. In contemporary America, it is doubtful that Black would have been confirmed. Nor would men like Glen Taylor or George McGovern ever have been elected to the Senate, as they ran shoestring campaigns without any significant campaign donations. Before the days of television, social media and candidate imaging, candidates could make their appeal to the public in a far different manner than we see in America today. In the personal portion of DESK 88, Brown makes the case that the progressive idea is not dead. You may not agree with him, but embracing his politics is not a requirement for appreciating the deep and endearing history of the progressive era in America. There was a time in our country when political disagreement could still find politicians seeking common ground for the public good. Brown reminds us of those bygone days, which hopefully will return to America’s political stage. Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ted Hunt

    Ever since John F. Kennedy used his book "Profiles in Courage" as part of his springboard to the presidency in 1960, White House aspirants have written books to outline their political philosophies. From Barry Goldwater ("Conscience of a Conservative") to Bill Bradley to Barak Obama to, well just about every candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination, the "campaign book" has become almost a requirement. That is what "Desk 88" is all about as well, even though, in the end, Sherrod Brown decided Ever since John F. Kennedy used his book "Profiles in Courage" as part of his springboard to the presidency in 1960, White House aspirants have written books to outline their political philosophies. From Barry Goldwater ("Conscience of a Conservative") to Bill Bradley to Barak Obama to, well just about every candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination, the "campaign book" has become almost a requirement. That is what "Desk 88" is all about as well, even though, in the end, Sherrod Brown decided not to compete for the 2020 Democratic nomination. And like Kennedy did with his book, Brown goes about outlining his beliefs and ideals by telling the stories of eight senators who once sat at his current desk (#88) in the Senate chambers. Rather than the thread binding the men together being "courage," it is "progressivism." It has become a Senate tradition to inscribe one's name inside the drawer of his/her desk, so Brown takes eight of the names from his desk drawer and tells the stories of eight of the "progressive" senators who once occupied his seat. Some of the eight are very well known names- Hugo Black, Robert Kennedy, George McGovern- while a couple are pretty obscure- Theodore Francis Green and Glen Taylor. There were some interesting "nuggets" that I encountered for the first time, like Black's efforts on behalf of labor legislation during the New Deal and the story of Taylor (who was from Idaho) getting arrested by Bull Connor in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1948 (fifteen years before M.L. King was arrested there) for breaking a city ordinance by speaking publicly to a mixed-race audience. But at times the book seems a bit contrived, as the author works to squeeze its subjects into the "progressive" camp by downplaying things like Hugo Black's early membership in the KKK and William Proxmire's knee-jerk opposition to virtually any federal spending on scientific research. He is on stronger ground when he points to George McGovern as being basically the "father" of the federal food stamp program. In typical fashion, McGovern never did a lot of self-promotion (and never made peace with his 49 state defeat to Tricky Dicky in the 1972 election). Brown tells the story of McGovern watching two women in a South Dakota grocery store paying for their groceries with food stamps and proclaiming that they wouldn't vote for McGovern in the next election because he supported too many "give away" programs. While the narratives about the senators are quite interesting, this book is very, very political. Brown not only takes the time at the end of every chapter to outline his own ideas and the programs that he has fought for, but he never passes up an opportunity to criticize, in often very stark terms, the opposition party. And because of that, I don't see this book having a very long "shelf life," unless Senator Brown somehow winds up in the White House.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lamadia

    I did not expect to like this book this much. I've only lived in Ohio for five years, but I have gotten to vote for Sherrod Brown once. I learned so much about these eight ex-senators and the progressive movement throughout the twentieth century. I pay attention to politics and consider myself an informed liberal, but there was so much I didn't know and should have. While I had voted for Brown, I only now consider myself a fan! You will only like this if you like progressive politics to begin I did not expect to like this book this much. I've only lived in Ohio for five years, but I have gotten to vote for Sherrod Brown once. I learned so much about these eight ex-senators and the progressive movement throughout the twentieth century. I pay attention to politics and consider myself an informed liberal, but there was so much I didn't know and should have. While I had voted for Brown, I only now consider myself a fan! You will only like this if you like progressive politics to begin with, and it will also make you incredibly angry at those thwarting progressive legislation. And if you are a progressive, you should immediately make time to read this book. I listened to the audio book, and while there is an excellent narrator for the biographical sections about the different senators, Brown narrates the sections in between that are his own thoughts from the desk. I get why they didn't have him narrate the whole thing, but I like listening to Brown's distinctive gravelly voice for the in between sections.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Susanna Natti

    I got a greater understanding of what progressive politics is about in reading Sherrod Brown's book about some of the occupants of his desk in the Senate, Desk 88. Some of the senators he chooses to profile are ones well known to most, and some not so familiar at all. All of them are imperfect, and Sherrod doesn't shrink from pointing out failings, but he also makes the compelling case that the overall impact of what these men did (no women at this desk, yet....) has had immense impact on our I got a greater understanding of what progressive politics is about in reading Sherrod Brown's book about some of the occupants of his desk in the Senate, Desk 88. Some of the senators he chooses to profile are ones well known to most, and some not so familiar at all. All of them are imperfect, and Sherrod doesn't shrink from pointing out failings, but he also makes the compelling case that the overall impact of what these men did (no women at this desk, yet....) has had immense impact on our daily lives. I found reading about the historical cycles of progressive movement forward was enlightening, and a balm for our troubled times. I also came to admire greatly not only what an impassioned defense, vision and hard work can do to improve equity and justice for all, and my faith in the capacity of government to be an overall force for good was shored up. I definitely recommend this.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    The tradition of Senators carving their names into their desks gave rise to history of eight from Desk 88. Chronologically, Brown begins with Hugo Black, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who joined Congress in 1927 and became one of the most ardent supporters of FDR’s New Deal. He goes on to (most famously) Bill Proxmire, Al Gore Sr., Bobby Kennedy, and George McGovern. Brown is careful not to idealize his subjects, but does look for the transformative moment for each. Each profile is The tradition of Senators carving their names into their desks gave rise to history of eight from Desk 88. Chronologically, Brown begins with Hugo Black, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who joined Congress in 1927 and became one of the most ardent supporters of FDR’s New Deal. He goes on to (most famously) Bill Proxmire, Al Gore Sr., Bobby Kennedy, and George McGovern. Brown is careful not to idealize his subjects, but does look for the transformative moment for each. Each profile is followed by Brown’s “Thoughts from Desk 88,” in which he offers a stout defense of such progressive policies. If you are interested in political biography and the history of legislation and the Senate, this is a great read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    I loved this book! I was already a huge fan of Sherrod Brown, which is what prompted me to read it in the first place. But Senator Brown is really a narrator here, telling the reader about 8 progressives who occupied desk 88, his current desk. It is both inspiring and frustrating to see how slowly, and with what battles, our country creeps forward. Tiny steps ahead and, too often, huge steps back. I enjoyed learning more about senators I was already familiar with but found the lesser-known ones I loved this book! I was already a huge fan of Sherrod Brown, which is what prompted me to read it in the first place. But Senator Brown is really a narrator here, telling the reader about 8 progressives who occupied desk 88, his current desk. It is both inspiring and frustrating to see how slowly, and with what battles, our country creeps forward. Tiny steps ahead and, too often, huge steps back. I enjoyed learning more about senators I was already familiar with but found the lesser-known ones even more interesting. I have great admiration for politicians who have worked-- and those who continue to work--so hard for our country!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I didn't finish this because it was due back at the library. I enjoyed the clear-cut prose and the perspective it gave me about progressive changes in America. I especially found it valuable that Brown makes it clear that the history of the progressive movement happens in short periods of fast, vital change, followed by decades of defending that change and not moving forward. I guess it gives me hope that progressive change can still happen. So thanks, Senator Brown!! I am proud that you I didn't finish this because it was due back at the library. I enjoyed the clear-cut prose and the perspective it gave me about progressive changes in America. I especially found it valuable that Brown makes it clear that the history of the progressive movement happens in short periods of fast, vital change, followed by decades of defending that change and not moving forward. I guess it gives me hope that progressive change can still happen. So thanks, Senator Brown!! I am proud that you represent me.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy

    Sherrod Brown’s desk in the United States Senate chamber becomes a time machine offering the reader a unique vantage point into other tumultuous socio-political moments in American history. I was reminded of the ebb and flow of progress, and that each of the senators profiled in Desk 88 had to weather storms the likes of which I see about us now. Each endured, however, pushing for policies that served the marginalized, hungry, and disenfranchised.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Birch

    We!I researched and reassuring Well researched biographical sketches of famous and purpose oriented progressive senators who have occupied seat 88. They have battled for the working class and financially hurting instead of the big honchos. Not always popular but politicallyvery significant

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ali Mahdi

    Phenomenal book, which i read on vacation. Broken up into standalone chapters which makes it a great book to read while busy. In itself, it gives great 20 page summaries of various people’s lives and Senator Brown’s own synopsis of issues, in addition to a great reflection of his own beliefs. I highly recommend it for people with even a little interest in American politics.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Brown brings a credible and eloquent voice of progressive public service to this compilation of biographies of senators who preceded him sitting at his desk on the Senate Floor. This is a great read for liberals, and one such readers might give to their Fox-watching uncles before next Thanksgiving dinner.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sharron

    Crazy amount of detailed research on past progressive senators! The overlap is annoying in the reading. Also, after each person is a section where Brown relates it to something he has done while in the Senate, but there is some of that in the historical sections too. Tiny spoilerish comment...... I wish he found a way to fix Al Gore Jr. signing it too.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ayelet

    I'm not into politics but I love Connie Schultz and I've voted for Sherrod Brown multiple times, so I figured it was worth reading. My favorite parts were when he talked about his own personal experiences.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    I really wish Sherrod Brown had chosen to run for president this year; his interstitial essays about the importance of using the power of government to help citizens instead of enriching the already obscenely wealthy show the focus that Democrats sorely need.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeimy

    The book was interesting, but my rating is affected by the fact that I wish Brown was a better raconteur. One thing is clear, the author not only respects his predecessors at Desk 88, but also his position and his constituents.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    I LIKE THIS BOOK GOT TO START SOME WHERE. .

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Highly recommend this well written book about several icons (though not all well known) who've contributed greatly to our society.

  23. 5 out of 5

    MCZ Reads

    I’m not sure why this is a different edition, but the copy I checked out from the library is a hardcover copy of Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    Well written narrative nonfiction book on the 8 senators who used Senate desk 88 before the author

  25. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Really interesting.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joe Di Giacomo

  27. 4 out of 5

    John Torres

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Max Seifert

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brian

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