Left Adrift

Left Adrift
What Happened to Liberal Politics

A rivalry that remade the political world as we know it today

Politics today doesn’t look much like it did fifty years ago. Electorates that were once divided by economics—with blue-collar workers supporting leftwing parties while the wealthy trended right—are now more likely to split along cultural lines. Campaigns have gone high-tech, hoping to use big data and sophisticated mathematical models to turn electioneering into a science. Meanwhile, a permanent class of political consultants has emerged, replacing the ward-heeling party hacks of yesteryear with teams of pollsters, message gurus, and field operatives. Taken together, all this amounts to a silent revolution that has transformed politics across much of the globe.

Left Adrift provides a new perspective on this transformation by following the lives of two political strategists who watched it unfold firsthand. Stan Greenberg and Doug Schoen were Zeligs of the international center-left, with an eerie talent for showing up at just the right moment to see history being made. But they could not stand each other. The mutual disdain was, partly, a result of professional jealousy, of decades spent nursing private grievances while competing for the same clients. But it grew out of a deeper conflict, a clash of political visions that raised fundamental questions about democracy itself. Left Adrift is about that battle—and the world it made.

Read CGR Director Nicholas Lemann’s Letter to the Reader

Left Adrift
  • ISBN: 9798987053669
  • Price: $18.00
  • E-book ISBN: 9798987053676
  • On Sale: October 8, 2024
  • Pages: 264 pages


“If the Trump Era were a television series like Game of Thrones, Left Adrift would be the fascinating prequel. Timothy Shenk has written a riveting portrait of the moment when the subterranean plates of American politics began to shift. By focusing on two of the key players in the internal struggles of the Democratic Party, he brings a vividness and emotion that makes Left Adrift much more than a political science treatise. I’d urge anyone who finds the politics of today perplexing—and don’t we all?—to read Left Adrift. No one else has told this story and it’s compelling, entertaining and important.”
—Stuart Stevens, political consultant and author of It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump

Left Adrift may be the wisest, most original book to explain the dilemmas of class and culture that bedevil the electoral left in the U.S. and its counterparts around the world. It’s also a delight to read. In zestfully narrating the parallel careers of two master consultants who despise one another, Timothy Shenk reveals how liberals got into this mess and what they must do to escape it.” —Michael Kazin, author of What It Took to Win: A History of the Democratic Party

“Fans of Timothy Shenk know him as a penetrating thinker and deft writer. And, gosh, he really is. Left Adrift is a clear-eyed account of how the left lost its political footing, written with insight, erudition, and a dash of hope.” —Daniel Immerwahr, author of How to Hide an Empire

About the author

Timothy Shenk
© Renu Regunathan-Shenk

Timothy Shenk is an assistant professor of history at George Washington University. A senior editor at Dissent magazine, he has written for the New York Times, the Nation, the New Republic, and Jacobin, among other publications. He has been a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at Washington University in St. Louis and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the New America Foundation.  @Tim_Shenk

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