Cover image for Chasing the red, white, and blue : a journey in Tocqueville's footsteps through contemporary America
Chasing the red, white, and blue : a journey in Tocqueville's footsteps through contemporary America
Cohen, David.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Picador USA, 2001.
Physical Description:
xvi, 312 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E169.04 .C646 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville his journey to America, traveling from New York to the frontier city of Flint, Michigan, down the Ohio River Valley and into Mississippi, then turning east through the Old South and concluding in Washington, D.C. His journey spawned the classicDemocracy in America, the book that defined "equality of opportunity" as the wellspring national character. At the end of the twentieth century, journalist David Cohen made that same journey, with one new destination--the frontier of Silicon Valley in California.Chasing the Red, White, and Blueis his account: a thought-provoking inquiry into the lives of Americans today. Talking with people at every level of society--from Manhattan real estate brokers and Washington lobbyists to supermarket clerks and illegal aliens--Cohen finds equality elusive and the poor increasingly adrift from American society. But he also finds hope alive in the most unexpected of places. Just asDemocracy in Americatook the measure of our young republic,Chasing the Red, White, and Blueportrays a much-changed America on the cusp of a new millennium: still united by our passion for democracy, yet divided by our prejudices.

Author Notes

David Cohen is an Awardwinning British and South African journalist who has written for The Independent, The Guardian, The Financial Times, and British GQ, as well as for The New York Times. He was born in Birmingham, England, grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and returned to England in the late eighties to attend Oxford University, where he studied politics, philosophy, and economics. He came to the United States in 1997 on a Harkness Fellowship and was hosted by Columbia University for three years. He lives in London with his wife and two daughters

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

British journalist Cohen narrates here his trip to several cities, including Flint, Memphis, and Mobile, that the oft-quoted de Tocqueville stopped by on his famous 1831 tour of America. De Tocqueville attributed America's uniqueness to its "equality of conditions," and although the Frenchman's book left out any references to blacks and Native Americans, Cohen was interested in whether that description has held up over time. Cohen does not venture sweeping conclusions here, but he expresses, through the individuals he interviews, his anger about the standard of living for service workers, who often live from paycheck to paycheck. For contrast, he also interviews the rich, such as a millionaire dot-commer in Flint who avoids the city's black neighborhoods. On religion, which de Tocqueville felt characterized America as much as democracy, Cohen finds the country still imbued by faith, albeit in segregated fashion as the Baptist denominations attest. Travelogue as social commentary, Cohen's account will appeal to readers dissatisfied with contemporary America. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville's famed 1831 trek and resulting book, Democracy in America, is closely shadowed by South African journalist Cohen's own journey. Both explorers went from the contrasting wealth and poverty of New York, to Detroit, and through the Southern states. Importantly, Cohen adds California's Silicon Valley to his itinerary in order to assess the evolution of Tocqueville's America. The dramatically different backgrounds of these two foreign explorers offer an intriguing starting point. But Cohen sticks uncomfortably close to task, spending much of his time establishing corollaries between Tocqueville's journey and his own. He predicates his assessment of the ongoing fate of America solely on the haves and have-nots, those oft-mentioned neighbors clustered in the narrow valley of socioeconomic determinism. Fixated on this general disparity, Cohen's thesis undertakes an unsettling conflation of cold demographic data and raison d'?tre statements from the working poor and the independently wealthy. In Louisville, Ky., he talks with numerous loyal fans of the actual Colonel Sanders, who died in 1980. He meets with the Holiday Inn founder, who began in 1951 and 20 years later was opening a new hotel every three days. He semi-successfully draws from census data and Tocqueville's writings to support his own observations. Despite the author's wit, ambition, admirable prose and obvious empathy for the lower classes, the comparison between Cohen and his predecessor is not sufficiently strong or compelling to provide the defining (and timely) view of Democracy in America. (Nov. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Cohen's proposal to test Tocqueville's famous outsider insights on America 170 years later earned this British-South African journalist his chance to travel through the United States more or less according to the original itinerary. Tocqueville, as Cohen and innumerable readers of Democracy in America have recognized, sampled America less than exhaustively and failed utterly to note that the optimistic ethos of self-interest shooting through the (as yet unnamed) America Dream rested on racism and a then-emerging antipathy to new immigrants. Cohen's big departure from Tocqueville's path is a trip to California, which he visits at the height of the dot-com bubble. His reports on the smug suburban anxieties of Silicon Valley are all the more powerful for their abrupt obsolescence. But Cohen's apt and disturbing read on the persistence of poverty in America slants toward the obsessive and obscures dimensions of contemporary culture adequately explained by neither economic privilege nor systemic disadvantage. Cohen's book nevertheless updates Richard Reeves's out-of-print American Journey: Traveling with Tocqueville in Search of Democracy in America. Recommended for academic and public libraries but not essential. Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
1 New York, New York: A City of Two Talesp. 1
2 The Rust Belt: The American Dream in Retreatp. 52
3 The Ohio River Valley: Hard Work and the American Dreamp. 81
4 The Mississippi Delta: "Luck Available One Mile"p. 131
5 On Through the Deep South: The Battle for the Soul of Americap. 163
6 California: The America Tocqueville Never Knewp. 218
7 Washington, D.C.: The Sum of the Partsp. 266
Notesp. 293
Acknowledgmentsp. 309