WHERE HAVE ALL THE VOTERS GONE? by

WHERE HAVE ALL THE VOTERS GONE?

By
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Although the coy title suggests a study of non-voters, the main focus of this work is identified in the subtitle; voter apathy, though not necessarily voter abstention, is treated rather as a symptom. Ladd (Political Science, Univ. of Conn.) has been over some of this before--in Transformations of the American Party System (1975) with Charles D. Hadley--and he summarizes and extends his analysis here. Referring to the ""one-and-a-half party system"" now in effect, Ladd, like British journalist Henry Fairlie (The Parties), emphasizes that the Republicans have lost their traditional following and are unable to find a new one, while the Democrats have become a virtual ruling party, in control of the Congress, federal bureaucracy, and state governments. What the Democrats do not control, however, is the White House, and Ladd invokes an ingenious explanation to account for this anomaly. Arguing that a broad consensus has developed on the aims of New Deal liberalism--which explains Democratic predominance--he distinguishes between this ""old"" liberalism associated with the lower classes, and a ""new"" liberalism which is an expression of a ""new class"" of professionals, managers, etc. The new liberalism is oriented toward personal and moral freedoms, such as abortion and gay rights, and tends to alienate those brought up on the older social-welfare liberalism. By adopting ""open"" presidential nominating procedures (i.e., multiple primaries, no bloc voting, etc.), the parties have made it possible for this ""new class""--disproportionally active as party workers--to overly influence the selection of presidential candidates and their platforms, distancing the parties from the general electorate. Ladd suggests a roll-back of reforms, allowing party-bosses--presumably more responsive to the electorate--more power in making nominations. Though ingenious, the argument is tendentious; it only accounts easily for McGovern--the Goldwater and Reagan campaigns, though relying on party activists, hardly tapped the ""new liberalism."" Provocative, but ultimately unsatisfactory.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1978
Publisher: Norton