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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2000
Former Massachusetts state legislator John McDonough takes readers from the theory to reality of practical politics in a surprisingly unegotistical fashion. He uses various theories about why and why political actors do what they do as they go about their business to introduce his own experiences.
The obligatory academics (the book is a valuable text book as well as a good read) are clear and easy to get through. The political stories are particularly informative and of great interest to people who want to know some of the 15,000 ways and by-ways that bills can travel to become law.
Experiencing Politics is instructive and should be required reading for zealots who'd rather make a point than make a difference. Of particular interest to all the victims of Narcissistic Advocates Personality Disorder (the Nader types, the zealots, the self righteous as only the Boston/Cambridge axis can breed) are McDonough's experiences and observations as an advocate for housing and as one who tried to ameliorate the impact of the loss of rent control.
Massachusetts political junkies and students of legislative process should love this book. McDonough doesn't describe his role as that of savior or saint, but as an interested student and practitioner of practical progressive politics who wants to be a player in his legislature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2005
"Experiencing Politics" is a look at legislative politics as observed by a state legislator, John McDonough, who served in the Massachusetts legislature. It is interesting reading one legislator's account and descriptions of how the legislative process works. Political theory and reality are compared. For instance, the author notes that it was Machiavelli who noted that strong societies channel their political conflicts and social frictions into a democratic process. These democratic battles actually strengthen society. It is governments that suppress conflict that become unstable. He notes this appears to be true, as no democratic government has even gone to war against another democratic government.

The author observes that political mobilization is dominated by wealthier political interests. This is especially noticed in political fights over Massachusetts's health care system, which is a focus of this book. This fight is particular fierce for one wealthy side's gain would come at the expense of another wealthy side. This clash of political titans creates a major schism in attempting to make any changes to the current health care system.

While wealthier interests may have advantages, this does not mean that parties with lesser influence are forgotten. The author observes that while political leaders from both parties had favored landlords in revising landlord-tenant law, neither side wished to be publicly identified with landlords. Thus, the legislation was revised in a manner than favored tenants, even though tenants appeared to have less influence over the legislature.

The author urges parties in a political dispute to learn the real and personal interests of the parties involved in the dispute. Knowing these interests and how they would be affected by each step helps in guiding parties as to the risks and rewards of taking alternative steps.

Some political scientists state that political change tends to occur incrementally. While the author concludes this is the usual process, he does argue that comprehensive changes are also possible and should not be overlooked. Comprehensive changes can occur when those with political power perceive that a problem is serious enough that comprehensive changes are required and the political elements are aligned for comprehensive changes to be approved.

It is good to see state legislators writing about their legislative experiences. From notations such as John McDonough's observation that legendary Massachusetts Senate President William Bulger was not as harsh as his reputation to more general observations about the political process in theory, this book is very useful to people who wish to learn more about state legislatures and politics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2014
"Experiencing Politics" is a look at legislative politics as observed by a state legislator, John McDonough, who served in the Massachusetts legislature. It is interesting reading one legislator's account and descriptions of how the legislative process works. Political theory and reality are compared. For instance, the author notes that it was Machiavelli who noted that strong societies channel their political conflicts and social frictions into a democratic process. These democratic battles actually strengthen society. It is governments that suppress conflict that become unstable. He notes this appears to be true, as no democratic government has even gone to war against another democratic government.

The author observes that political mobilization is dominated by wealthier political interests. This is especially noticed in political fights over Massachusetts's health care system, which is a focus of this book. This fight is particular fierce for one wealthy side's gain would come at the expense of another wealthy side. This clash of political titans creates a major schism in attempting to make any changes to the current health care system.

While wealthier interests may have advantages, this does not mean that parties with lesser influence are forgotten. The author observes that while political leaders from both parties had favored landlords in revising landlord-tenant law, neither side wished to be publicly identified with landlords. Thus, the legislation was revised in a manner than favored tenants, even though tenants appeared to have less influence over the legislature.

The author urges parties in a political dispute to learn the real and personal interests of the parties involved in the dispute. Knowing these interests and how they would be affected by each step helps in guiding parties as to the risks and rewards of taking alternative steps.

Some political scientists state that political change tends to occur incrementally. While the author concludes this is the usual process, he does argue that comprehensive changes are also possible and should not be overlooked. Comprehensive changes can occur when those with political power perceive that a problem is serious enough that comprehensive changes are required and the political elements are aligned for comprehensive changes to be approved.

It is good to see state legislators writing about their legislative experiences. From notations such as John McDonough's observation that legendary Massachusetts Senate President William Bulger was not as harsh as his reputation to more general observations about the political process in theory, this book is very useful to people who wish to learn more about state legislatures and politics.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2000
John McDonough makes political theories come to life by blending them with war stories from time spent in the tumultous world of Massachusetts politics. The acount of how he changed from a often confused (and confusing) radical young state representative to an effective player on the side of good government provides useful guidance to anyone interested in using the political process to effect change or who would just like a better understanding of who gets what, why, and how.
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on August 26, 2006
This is a wonderfully written book, very readable and clear, about the nitty gritty of legislative politics. The examples from the author's 13 years as a state legislator are illuminating and helpful. For anyone turned off to politics and politicians, this book will help you understand the important work these citizen representatives do to serve the rest of us.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2000
A truly brilliant look at the world of politics my view will never be the same.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2001
but John McDonough was in the Massachusetts Legislatorship and all the other states are different as to thier laws and the ways they perform public policy, so you would have to live in Massachusetts in order for anything within the book to be of any consequence to you personally. So how can we call ourselves The United States when we have so many divisions amongst us, even within our state of California. The laws change across state lines and there were over 40 Million new laws passed just last year for the average citizen to follow, therefore there are way too many laws on the books for anyone to comprehend.
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