PARTIES: The Real Opportunity for Effective Citizen Politics by John S. III & Frederick Sontag Saloma

PARTIES: The Real Opportunity for Effective Citizen Politics

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Unlike many proponents of ""responsible party government,"" the authors are quite optimistic about the possibilities of reanimating the two-party system as the focus of mass participation and serious policymaking. The sine qua non will be volunteer citizen initiative, and this book anatomizes every level, node, nook and clubroom where the process can take hold in ""a kind of political Whole Earth Catalogue."" In particular they hope the consumer and ecology movements can be coordinated, if not absorbed, into political channels but they also point to the national committees (""potentially the most important representative party institutions in American politics""), the state organizations (""perhaps the most exciting potential""), and the top appointive positions (talent has to be deliberately developed) as major loci of popular transformation of the parties. Admitting that at present people do not look to them for change, the authors hope that national conventions, congressional caucuses, and ""clearinghouses"" for activists can start turning this situation around. The media currently offer ""too little systematic, comprehensive reporting. . . of political news."" As for the new computer technology, which the Republicans have best mastered, it could be used to advantage by grassroots workers; otherwise political consultants may expand into areas ignored by the parties. There is a brief but cogent review of ""alternative futures"" -- a revived, revised Democratic majority coalition; a Republican ascendancy; a multi-party system; the decline of parties altogether; technocratic authoritarianism. Saloma and Sontag make a plea for more, not less, political financing: big politics requires big spending. An ""action guide,"" cross-referenced for different sorts of party workers and would-be citizen participants, is appended. Partly because the American system leaves party discipline extremely loose, the book bypasses the content of policy and program. A serious and interesting summons which should win the attention of a broad range of political and para-political readers.

Pub Date: June 16th, 1972
Publisher: Knopf