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Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship is Poisoning the House of Representatives (Hoover Studies in Politics, Economics, and Society) Hardcover – April 15, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (April 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742551180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742551183
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,779,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this lucidly written and thoroughly researched first book, Washington Post reporter and D.C. native Eilperin posits that, beginning with Newt Gingrich's nomination as House Speaker in 1994, warlike tactics, manipulation and strategic takeovers have replaced compromise within the House of Representatives, consequently polarizing America's two major parties and leaving the views of its ordinary citizens underrepresented. Eilperin portrays Gingrich as an intimidating, conflicted and sometimes disturbing figure who consolidated Republican power early in his tenure, strong-arming committee chairmen and even soliciting political advice from friend Joe Paterno, the Penn State football coach. To maintain control, the Republican leadership uses loopholes in the system, such as introducing bills so late that representatives don't have time to review them before voting. And the Democrats are shown responding in kind, sticking with their own and ranting bitterly about the Republican House majority. Eilperin's years of experience as a House reporter show in her well-chosen and insightful quotations from lawmakers and commentators, her buoyant prose and the wide scope of her argument. Her portrayal of the fallen House is utterly convincing, but Eilperin ends hopefully, with a look toward what's necessary to restore balance. This exemplary volume is a good bet for anyone wanting an insider's view of America's corridors of power. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Eilperin adds to our understanding of Congress, and as a short history of the House Fight Club Politics should be required reading for political-science students, news editors and reporters, as well as [political] junkies. (Jonathan E. Kaplan The Hill)

Partisanship and incivility are hardly novel phenomena in American politics. The new ingredient seems to be ideological polarization. Among politicans, there are fewer and fewer conservative Democrats or liberal Republicans, and "centrists" are a disappearing breed. In Fight Club Politics, Juliet Eilperin investigates the relationship between polarization, partisanship, and incivility in contemporary politics and explores its consequences for the day to day workings of the House of Representatives. Neither Democrats nor Republicans will agree with everything she says on controversial questions such as redistricting, but anyone who reads the book carefully will find in it important insights as well as provocative suggestions for restoring civility in "the people's House." (Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton Un)

It would be difficult to be more fair and balanced than Eilperin has been. . . . While she finds both Republicans and Democrats at fault for the current state of affairs, her journalistic analysis of the 'dysfunctional' House hold Republicans responsible, in particular, for failing to honor their promises. (Findlaw)

Today's House of Representatives is a more brittle, rigid and combative institution than anything earlier generations could have imagined—or the Founding Fathers desired. Juliet Eilperin, who knows the place well, tells what has transformed it—and what the costs and consequences have been. You'll understand the House much better when you see it through her eyes. (David S. Broder, The Washington Post)

If you hate the left-right rancor of American politics, this book compellingly tells you how it came about—and what it will take torecreate a civil House of Representatives dedicated to solving America's problems. (Morton Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call newspaper and co-host of FOX's Beltway Boys)

The Washington Post embedded Juliet Eilperin on Capitol Hill for the embattled first years of the on-going Republican so-called revolution. Fight Club Politics is a distillation of her dispatches from the trenches of the House of Representatives, giving many gruesome details about who did what to whom. Readers can learn here why Congressional politics these days is not for sissies, and only occasionally for the minimally civil. (Nelson W. Polsby, Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley and author of How Congress Evolves)

In this lucidly written and thoroughly researched first book, Washington Post reporter and D.C. native Eilperin posits that, beginning with Newt Gingrich's nomination as House Speaker in 1994, war-like tactics, manipulation and strategic takeovers have replaced compromise within the House of Representatives, consequently polarizing America's two major parties and leaving the views of its ordinary citizens underrepresented. Eilperin portrays Gingrich as an intimidating, conflicted and sometimes disturbing figure who consolidated Republican power early in his tenure, strong-arming committee chairmen and even soliciting political advice from friend Joe Paterno, the Penn State football coach. To maintain control, the Republican leadership uses loopholes in the system, such as introducing bills so late that representatives don't have time to review them before voting. And the Democrats are shown responding in kind, sticking with their own and ranting bitterly about the Republican House majority. Eilperin's years of experience as a House reporter show in her well-chosen and insightful quotations from lawmakers and commentators, her buoyant prose and the wide scope of her argument. Her portrayal of the fallen House is utterly convincing, but Eilperin ends hopefully, with a look toward what's necessary to restore balance. This exemplary volume is a good bet for anyone wanting an insider's view of America's corridors of power. (Publishers Weekly)

In her years reporting on the House, Eilperin discovered many of [Congress's] dysfunctions, maladies that she describes accurately and admirably. (Washington Post Book World)

Fight Club Politics is a nice complement to much of the academic work in recent years on the causes of declining electoral competition and increasing party polarization and the effects of these changes on the U.S. House. The book is a kind of ethnography of the transformations in the House over recent years, with accounts from many insiders and viewed through the lens of a journalist who has covered the House for many years. I happily recommend it. (Richard Pildes, New York University School of Law)

... a terrific book. I have not seen a more cogent explanation of the current problems facing the so-called Peoples' Branch. (Ray Smock, President of the Associations of Centers for the Study of Congress and former historian to the U.S. House of Representatives)

...a skillfully concise treatment of House politics since the early 1990s. (John J. Pitney Jr, Claremont McKenna College National Review)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on June 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The creation of politically safe, more ideologically tilted congressional seats through redistricting has cemented the Republican hold on power and made the House of Representatives unrepresentative - so charges Eilperin in "Fight Club Politics." Republicans take about two-thirds of committee seats, even though they had only 52.9% of the vote in '94. Another "innovation" was having leadership PACs dole out money, instead of challengers, junior lawmakers, and possibly more independent lawmakers.

Thirty years ago new members were more likely to move their families to D.C., eager to become part of the social scene. Families often socialized with each other, regardless of party. This lifestyle disappeared in the late '80's and early '90s - especially after Armey and Gingrich warned the Class of '94 to keep their families away from the D.C. The intent was to focus on one's district, and members became "Tuesday to Thursday" legislators.

Rather than seeking a comfortable bipartisan majority for their initiatives, GOP leaders now focus on securing 218 votes on their side so they can craft bills as conservative as possible. Thus, the Democrats have become irrelevant. Given the Republicans' slight majority, floor amendments are banned 78% of the time. Sixty percent of all bills are exempted from the requirement of at least 48 hours to review bills, and nearly 40% come off the printer after 8 P.M. (Result: Democrats had one hour before the vote on a 3,000 page $1 trillion budget bill.)

House tradition dictated that the minority party got to send delegates of its choice to conference committees - no longer. Term-limiting committee chairs, and filling those positions via leadership decision (vs. seniority) has further augmented leadership power.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Earle on April 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is an uncommonly good book. It helps us understand -- from the inside -- why the House of Representatives is so much more partisan, mean-spirited, and intractable than in times past. Founders like James Madison fully intended the House to be rough-and-tumble compared to the Senate, but nothing like what has transpired since 1994. They planned for much higher turnover than today's members who are almost single-minded about preserving the perquisites of incumbancy and their own seats.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Karen F. on May 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is a pleasure to read, offering insightful and amusing anecdotes and quotes gathered personally by the author. For veterans of Capitol Hill, Fight Club offers fresh analysis of what ails Congress. For those less familiar with the inner workings of Congress, this book is a fun and educational read that helps explain why the two parties are unable to find common solutions to some of the country's most pressing issues.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alex P. G. Sittenfeld on April 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Wow! This book is a can't-miss for all political junkies - or for anyone else who just wants to understand how D.C. politics became so bitter. Eilperin also offers some thoughtful ideas about what can be done to remedy all the partisanship. The author narrates episodes of House incivility in an exciting way that makes the book a fast read - and it's a good thing because you'll probably want to read it again.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am writing this review about two weeks after the elections of 2006. Needless to add, the Democrats took control of both houses of Congress. Juliet Eilperin writes the following on page 49:

"...the House has always been a majoritarian institution, where the party in control imposes its vision on the chamber.

This strategy has encouraged Democrats to become even more partisan, however, because they have nothing invested in the measures Hastert brings to the House floor. It has also prompted GOP leaders to rush through legislation with little oversight, short-circuiting the public debate that often exposes a bill's potential flaws."

Let's be blunt: the Democrats can no longer claim to be a beleaguered minority. Will they behave better than their former alleged persecutors? Well, we will find out soon enough. The author argues convincingly that common courtesy and fairness are virtues often not practiced within the walls of the House of Representatives. Both parties have been guilty of pushing their weight around when they are in the driver's seat. This book should be required reading for every member of Congress. Eilperin not only cites numerous horror stories of past abuses---she offers suggestions on how to improve matters. Perhaps you might wish to consider purchasing a copy for your own representative? And yes, you also need to read it. It is ultimately the fault of the voters if matters do not improve. We are the ones with the real power. Our congressmen and women work for us!

David Thomson

Flares into Darkness
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