An incisive, intellectually thorough analysis of one of the country’s most pressing political problems.

DEAD CENTER

HOW POLITICAL POLARIZATION DIVIDED AMERICA AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT

A former Democratic congressman reflects on the nation’s pernicious partisanship and offers some remedies.

There’s been no shortage of ink spilled on the deep ideological rift that seems to split the country into warring halves. But debut author Altmire, who served three terms in the House of Representatives, contends that the problem of political polarization isn’t chiefly the result of an increasingly partisan electorate. In fact, he avers, the average American is far more moderate than those who typically represent her. Rather, there are systemic reasons why the extreme, most ideologically monolithic voters dominate both the elections and public discourse. Political campaigns pinpoint the most energetic voters—who are also generally the most doctrinaire—and campaign finance laws exacerbate the situation by promoting the outsized influence of Super PACS that operate in the shadows. Closed primaries also disenfranchise political centrists and elevate the status of fringe voters. To make matters worse, studies indicate the profound power of widespread confirmation bias, or the psychological tendency to selectively curate only the information that flatters one’s unshakeable convictions, a predilection reinforced by the news and social media. The author discusses his own experiences with partisan dysfunction, regarding both fundraising and governing, and his participation in the historic vote on The Affordable Care Act is one of the highlights of the book. Altmire suggests several practical solutions to toxic tendentiousness that include limits on senatorial filibusters and congressional gerrymandering as well as requirements for schools to offer more civics courses. He also places a priority on reversing the trend toward low voter turnout, which only enhances the clout of reliably voting ideologues, and the incentive for demagogues to aim their messages at them. Altmire earned a reputation for being a centrist politician, and his philosophical temperance is impressive; it’s fitting that a book extoling the virtues of bipartisanship is itself an exemplar of it. And while many of the author’s proposals cover familiar ground, others are bold and even provocatively counterintuitive, like removing the limits on financial contributions to parties as a means of reducing the influence of partisan donors and increasing transparency. The entire work is written in an unpretentiously accessible style and represents precisely the kind of open-minded public discourse to which citizens should all aspire.

An incisive, intellectually thorough analysis of one of the country’s most pressing political problems.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62006-754-3

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Sunbury Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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