What Works: Common Sense Solutions for A Stronger America, by Cal Thomas
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan Press in exchange for an honest review.]
While I am not familiar with Cal Thomas as an author or as a columnist (he is apparently a particularly popular one), this book is a rhetorically sound book of modest length (a little over 200 pages) that features humorous commentary from a conservative populist worldview. It is the combination of these two qualities that appears to account for the author’s popularity among newspaper readers as well as the fact that he is a particularly common “token” conservative for such efforts as NPR’s “All Things Considered” and other related efforts. His populism makes it clear that he is looking out for the best interests of the commonfolk and his conservatism comes from a respect for the tried and true as opposed to the novel and the untried. This combination of approaches generally agrees with my own, and I found his work to be refreshingly honest in looking at practical solutions to the problems that plague contemporary American society.
This book has some scathing things to say about our contemporary political elite, both on the right and on the left. Among its most scathing comments about our Congressmen is this gem, from page 17, “According to opinion polls, Congress has an approval rating lower than cockroaches and colonoscopies and only slightly above pedophiles.” Ouch! Comments like this should please those readers, of which there are likely to be many, who will relish such ferocious barbs directed at incompetent government leaders and who relish the application of common sense solutions to the problems of our contemporary society in a way that shows an indifference to who gets credit and a desire to make things work. This is a quintessentially American approach, highly pragmatic in nature, mistrustful of too much ivory tower theorizing, and particularly skeptical about the nature of our government working. It should be noted, in the questions of fairness, that despite his conservatism, he is much less harsh about the government of Nordic countries, for the most part, because their government works and ours does not. Rather than being a doctrinaire libertarian, in other words, he is practical in his approach and focused on workable solutions that make life better for ordinary people. This is an appealing viewpoint, and gives him a place to both critique our contemporary press as well as discuss some fairly basic and obvious workable solutions to major problems. Frequent references to one of my favorite movies  as well as a critical attitude to the excesses of the social gospel  definitely help matters.
To give a brief discussion of this book’s contents, it is divided into four sections, the first two of which (“Consult The Past And Use Common Sense” and “Concentrate On People, Not Politics”) set the author as both conservative (in the first section) and populist (in the second). The other two sections, which are much shorter, focus on optimism (“We Can Solve Our Problems” and “What Will Work”) as being key to solving our problems. The chapters include discussions of progress, overcoming, worldviews, the two kingdoms, sex, the economy, government, care versus cure, state initiatives, the family, crime and violence, hate mail (a particularly amusing chapter that I could relate to well), the continuing validity of historical solutions, optimism, global power and the position of the USA, and what solutions are imminent already in the United States. Those who read this book who are looking for biting social commentary and pragmatic solutions will likely find what they are looking for, and find a lot to amuse them and encourage them to set a good example of practical godliness in their own lives, while not expecting too much from either politics or politicians.
 See, for example: