Books: A Rage for Justice: The Passion and Politics of Phillip Burton

Book review:
A Rage for Justice: The Passion and Politics of Phillip Burton
by John Jacobs

Phil Burton dominated San Francisco politics for over two decades. First as a member of the California Assembly and then as its Congressman (the seat that Nancy Pelosi now holds). The Burton machine still controls much of SF today.

Burton defined liberal activism — though his win-at-all costs turned off many influential people.

A Rage for Justice details the life of Phil Burton and also the lives of his allies including John Burton (his brother and now California Senate Majority Leader), Willie Brown (former Speaker of the California Assembly and now outgoing Mayor of San Francisco), Congressmen Berman and Waxman, and many others.

The author goes a long way to deconstructing Burton. Though for all of Burton’s good intentions, you cannot help hating this rude and obnoxious guy after reading the book. But whether you are liberal or conservative, the good-government reforms that Burton proposed (and almost enacted) where terrifically well thought out and good for the country. Unfortunately for Burton, his personality never let him enact these reforms. Ironically, it wouldn’t be until 1995, when the Burton reforms (featured prominently in the Contract with America) were shoved through the Congress by Newt Gingrich.

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