99% Invisible: The Power Broker #03: David Sims
March 17, 2024 1:57 PM - Subscribe

"This is the third official episode, breaking down the 1974 Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Power Broker by our hero Robert Caro. Blank Check podcast co-host and The Atlantic movie critic David Sims is our book club guest.On today's show, Elliott Kalan, Roman Mars, and David Sims will cover the first section of Part 4 of the book (Chapters 11 through the end of Chapter 15), discussing the major story beats and themes."
posted by The corpse in the library (3 comments total)
oh no it has happened, I am so far behind
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:57 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

Still in there, being paced by the podcast. This Moses character is starting to act pretty shady….

On the flip side you wonder if he or anyone else could ever have come close to accomplishing what he did if they played everything above board and ethical in that multi-jurisdictional swamp of corruption. But there’s no excuse for what an asshole he was to those without the ability to fight him.
posted by cardboard at 5:27 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]

Still here, reading 5 pages / day, so slightly farther along than the podcasts. I have to say, that it's become an exercise in reading endurance more than enjoyment, as the ratio of interesting insights to pages is not super high...

[possible spoilers ahead, but this is a nonfiction book, so we all know, what happens, right?]
One of the things I've been wondering about is whether a book about RM would be very different if written today. In particular, I suspect, that if such a book were written today, his Jewishness would have been more front and center, and his successes and failures would be attributed in a larger measure to his religion (whether he practiced it or not.) For example, the fact that he didn't get to replace Al Smith as governor when Smith went to campaign for president. Despite Caro admitting, that Moses was "the most important person in NY, second only to Al Smith", he glosses over Moses being omitted for this post ("oh, his temperament probably"). I suspect that in the modern retelling more space would have been given to "can a Jew represent the great state of New York!?" considerations. IF these existed, of course. It's possible that they didn't, and it's only in the current interpretations of history that we tend to give so much credence to people's race, ethnicity, gender, etc. that it colors our view of events, and no one cared in the 1930s. (ha!).
However, as evidenced by the slur incident (p. 317, sorry!), the antisemitism was always there ready to bubble up! AND - Caro writes about the perpetrator "among his closest friends were Jewish social workers...". Which is EXACTLY the "some of my closest friends are gay, so I cannot be homophobic" narratives we heard in the aughts, so it's hard to take this seriously.
Presumably, once Moses accumulated enough power, it didn't matter as much, but I think it mattered more than Caro wants to admit on the road to there.

btw, TCITL - you might want to edit the tag a bit - it's missing the "b" in "broker".
posted by Dotty at 6:58 AM on March 28

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