At the risk of using an ironic religious reference, Proud to Be Liberal—a collection of essays by pundits, comedians, and bloggers—is a whole lot of preaching to the choir. The sermon: People on the left end of the political spectrum need to stop making excuses and proudly reclaim the word "liberal." In order to get there, the editors—Elizabeth Clementson and Robert Lasner—allow the writers free reign, resulting in something of a conceptual and stylistic grab bag.
For instance, Portland talk show host Thom Hartmann's scholarly take on the history of liberal economic policies (versus the disastrous "trickle down" economics of Reaganite Republicans) is only a few pages away from Neal Pollack's rambling story about taking over a neighborhood watch group in his crime-ridden neighborhood. (The inclusion of Pollack's piece, "Mr. Pollack's Neighborhood," is a real head scratcher. Not only is it stylistically dissimilar from anything else in the collection, but it also fails to make any clear point about liberal pride.)
With a few exceptions, each of the essays is concise, mostly numbering under 10 pages. Unfortunately, at least a handful of essays suffer from their brevity. Like Bob Harris' "Proud to be a Liberal After Katrina," in which he briefly touches on the connection between "small government" policies that defund vital services and their disastrous results—i.e., the government's bungling of the post-hurricane flooding. Instead of the damning and detailed indictment of economic policies that Harris' essay should have been, the reader is given only three pages of "wouldn't everything be better if we were all liberals?"
The most entertaining essay—and most effective cheerleading—comes from comedian Will Durst's "I'm a Big Fat Liberal," in which he humorously defines his beliefs and tells the rich to stop whining. Like most of the collection, it's a definition and support of liberal ideals at their most basic.