Books by Benjamin D. Black

Released: May 2, 1994

An incomplete, if sometimes stimulating, analysis of discontent in the electorate and the prospects for a new centrist political party. The authors, both political pollsters (one of Gordon Black's 1992 clients was independent presidential candidate H. Ross Perot), argue persuasively that growing frustration with democracy is rooted in declining political competition for seats in Congress and state legialatures as a result of our system's structuring to support incumbents. Among the examples the authors offer of such anticompetitive elements are gerrymandering, PAC funding, and incumbents' abuse of franking privileges. The authors go on to describe how legislators ignore the general good in favor of special interest groups. Unconvincingly rebutting arguments that the two-party gridlock could be broken by proportional representation, which awards seats to any number of parties based on the percentage of the vote each group wins, they note that Great Britain, with a ``winner takes all'' system similar to ours, supports three parties. They fail to note, however, that Great Britain is the exception rather than the rule; the trend in western democracies is toward proportional representation. The authors draw on polling data, illustrated by numerous charts, to contend that centrist Perot supporters were more committed than his rivals' backers to reform of political institutions and of programs like education and welfare. A new centrist party, they say, could adopt dissidents' calls for term limits, fiscal responsibility, and modified tax increases. The authors themselves split on whether Perot will turn his organization, United We Stand, America, into such a political party. The authors' pragmatism, driven by polls rather than ideas, makes their efforts to address welfare and education reform rather vague. Some Perot supporters and other centrist dissidents may find this book useful, but it is hardly a convincing argument that a three-party system is the solution to our electoral problems. Read full book review >