Few books argue as passionately that the present is directly shaped by the past as Michael Goldfield's The Southern Key does. The South, Goldfield contends, has constituted a “reactionary drag on national politics” for decades (5). Many southern whites are “birthers, reject evolution, and deny the existence of global warming,” are “disproportionately racist,” and are hostile to immigrants (4, 10). The reason is not to be found in the realm of culture, Fox News, right-wing evangelical Christianity, or a demagogic Republican party. Rather, low levels of unionization are responsible for “so much ignorance and superstition” (4) with a “lack of working-class organization” leading to “atomization, individualism, and an increased receptivity to manipulation by dominant economic interests” (4). Goldfield argues that it did not have to be this way. Successful interracial union organizing in the 1930s and 1940s “had the potential to radically transform the South” and the nation (2). Its...

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