An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of a Renegade Democrat [or how I Became the Most Hated Hispanic in America]

Overview

When President George W. Bush nominated Linda Chavez to be Secretary of Labor in January 2001, most political observers saw it as a nod to the right. Chavez had made her reputation taking on the civil rights establishment, the feminist movement, and the multiculturalists. What few people knew was that this hard-nosed conservative began her career among socialists and labor-union officials, teaching in college affirmative-action programs and writing political propaganda for the Democratic National Committee.In An ...

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Overview

When President George W. Bush nominated Linda Chavez to be Secretary of Labor in January 2001, most political observers saw it as a nod to the right. Chavez had made her reputation taking on the civil rights establishment, the feminist movement, and the multiculturalists. What few people knew was that this hard-nosed conservative began her career among socialists and labor-union officials, teaching in college affirmative-action programs and writing political propaganda for the Democratic National Committee.In An Unlikely Conservative, Chavez recounts her political journey from the Young People's Socialist League to the Reagan wing of the Republican Party-and the sometimes shocking personal experiences that shaped her views. From excrement-smeared car seats to threats of attacks with bombs and switchblades, she learned quickly that opposing racial quotas and ethnic studies carried a high personal cost. But at its core, hers is the story of a working-class Hispanic girl who overcomes a difficult and painful childhood to become one of America's most prominent political conservatives.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Nearly two years after losing her chance to be President Bush's secretary of labor, Chavez offers up a memoir cum apologia steeped in defensiveness. Although she recognizes that her failure to be candid with Bush's advisers about the illegal alien she housed for an extended period in the early 1990s cost her the cabinet position, she doesn't hesitate to pass the blame around. She lashes out at the media's coverage of her downfall and at the neighbor she asked for advice before talking to the FBI, who turned out to be the sister of ABC's White House correspondent. Her self-righteousness shapes the bulk of the narrative: all her professional setbacks, for example, were inevitably the fault of white administrators who didn't expect her kind of talent from an affirmative action minority. Then there's the constant rejection from Hispanic peers, who "viewed me not just as an opponent but as a heretic, a traitor." The story of her transition from college liberalism and union activism to various appointments in the Reagan administration has several interesting sections, like her combative experiences as a grad student teaching UCLA's first "Chicano literature" class. But many will find it hard to feel sympathy for someone who takes such glee in the opportunity, now that she apparently has nothing left to lose politically, to settle old scores. Agent, Eric Simonoff. (Oct. 1) Forecast: Chavez has visibility with a syndicated newspaper column and appearances on Fox News Channel. A seven-city author tour and 20-city radio satellite tour will also help this reach readers of Ann Coulter's Slander and J.C. Watts's forthcoming What Color Is a Conservative (HarperCollins, Sept.). Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Why Chavez (Out of the Barrio, not reviewed) claims a liberal past is a mystery, when her memoir clearly shows she had conservative views—on affirmative action, language, education, immigrant assimilation—from the start.

Chavez is a blunt writer—and public figure, which made her an easy target—and she has held true to her basic instincts and opinions from the days she taught affirmative action students in California on through her stints with at the Democratic National Committee, the American Federation of Teachers, the Commission of Civil Rights, and the Reagan White House, all the way to her crash-landing during the Bush transition, when she was considered for Secretary of Labor. She believes in the strict interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits any discrimination, a view that puts her at odds with the preferential treatment afforded through affirmative action: "My own experience suggested that double standards cast a pall on the qualifications of all minorities and women," that they "rewarded ignorance" and indoctrinated minorities "with the notion that they were society’s victims." As for politically active feminists, "it wasn’t just what I perceived as the elitism of the feminist movement that turned me off; it was the antagonism toward men and the disdain of motherhood." Chavez is a staunch believer in assimilation and so championed the drive to make English the official language. She held these opinions when she was a Democrat, and she holds them as a Republican. She never pretended to exquisite sensitivity on any issue, though readers will find startling some of her naïve quips, as when she says she became a free-market enthusiast when she learned that theprice of color TVs was going down, or that the value of diamonds, of all things, is a good example of natural supply and demand.

The sub-subtitle isn’t a joke. But it’s not much of an epitaph either. (Photographs)

Author tour

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465089031
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 10/2/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Prologue: On Top of the World 1
1 Skeletons in the Closet 23
2 From Teenage Bride to Campus Activist 43
3 Affirmative Action Nightmare 69
4 Watergate, Nixon, and Me 87
5 The Evolution of a Neoconservative 113
6 Battling the Civil Rights Establishment 137
7 A Woman's Place in the Reagan White House 169
8 On the Campaign Trail 187
9 How I Became the Most Hated Hispanic in America 197
10 Caught in the Media Crosshairs 219
Epilogue: Thorn in Their Side 243
Notes 246
Index 255
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2002

    Superb Autobiography

    Linda¿s open and telling autobiography tells an inspirational story of one who rose through the political arena despite many of the struggles life threw her direction. A great read ¿ I recommend it to anyone.

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