Alec Mento’s Penny Rants III: The People Strike Back is a collection of political posts from the author’s blog, “Thieves in the Temple,” from 2017 to 2018. They chronicle a perspective of liberal resistance at the dawn of the Trump presidency.
Mento’s writing is insightful, if acid-tongued, offering assessments of asserted corruption in the Trump Administration, cozy corporate relations within both parties, malignant fascism, and the ineffectiveness of centrist Democrats in countering right-wing policies. He implores the left to abandon passivity and meet critics head-on: “Too many liberals think shaming is something only conservatives do, but it’s not – shaming is something civilized people do.” His posts take on current events; as such, they may feel dated or hyper-specific, but they remind us of how much happened in the political landscape during one momentous year.
Obviously, Mento is a liberal, but he stands apart from the mainstream in his views of politicians, ascribing moderate or right-of-center status to popular Democrats and even going so far as to caution liberals against supporting Democrats at all. He warns those on the left against hyperbolic language accusing Trump of treason or offering armchair diagnoses of his mental faculties.
Mento rails against bipartisanship and Obama’s “art of the possible” philosophy. This wariness of compromise energizes much progressive politics as it has long energized the right, but liberal readers concerned about fractures on the left might believe Mento’s views threaten the unity required for political victory. He also seems to believe his leftist views are reflected by a large number of Americans, offering supporting evidence in specific instances (e.g., universal health care), but readers might feel he’s overestimating the size of this group.
Penny Rants III is a niche book, an idiosyncratic diary for armchair pundits, already dated just a year removed from its subjects. But as an artifact of the state of the American left in the wake of Trump’s 2016 victory, it holds appeal for like-minded readers.