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Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship is Poisoning the U.S. House of Representatives (Hoover Studies in Politics, Economics, and Society)

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ISBN-13: 978-0742551190
ISBN-10: 0742551199
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Editorial Reviews


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; 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. (The Instrumentalist)

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)

About the Author

Juliet Eilperin has been a Washington Post reporter since 1998. She was a contributor to Deadlock: The Inside Story of America's Closest Election (2001) about the 2000 presidential election. She lives in Washington, D.C., where she was born and raised.


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Product Details

  • Series: Hoover Studies in Politics, Economics, and Society
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (March 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742551199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742551190
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,757,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joshua P. OConner VINE VOICE on May 30, 2010
The politic situation is somewhat disparaging. There is often little good coming from it and it creates a certain amount of contempt that echoes throughout all levels of governance. The entire political arena seems centered around the blame game. Fight Club Politics explores the political environment of the U.S. House of Representatives and looks at how it has become so divided as a political body. Rather than joining the blame game and backing a single side, the book explores how the two-party system has split the country and how it affects the people of the United States.

Prior to reading Fight Club Politics, I was aware of the riff between the two parties, but I was not aware of how it originated and how it is perpetuated. Although Fight Club Politics is focused more around the political scene in 2006, it provides excellent insight into how we arrived at the conditions we see today. It also reveals the nature of some of the current and rising stars within the political arena and what they have done to get where they are. Author, Juliet Eilperin, uses a variety of quotes, events, and personal interviews to expose the nature of the two parties at war.

I found it disturbing that both parties would so blatantly disregard the desires of the American in order to maintain the misguided ideology of their parties. Very few people fit cleanly within the label of Republican or Democrat, but our officials pursue politics that remain neatly within defined party boundaries. Fight Club Politics details the demise awaiting those individuals that dare to step out as moderates and the willingness of the machine to replace them with functioning "cogs".

Fight Club Politics is eye opening and informative. Eilperin does an excellent job of documenting specific instances that back up her case. I also left the book with a better understanding of how American government is designed to work, and the manner that it is currently functioning in reality.
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"Fight Club Politics" is an exceptionally easy to read and easy to grasp account of the current partisanship and polarization that plagues the House of Representatives. Juliet Eilperin offers a unique perspective that is hard to find elsewhere on this topic. With numerous interviews from Congressional leaders, political scientists, etc. she is able to present a vivid picture of what the political climate is like in Washington on a personal level. While not littered with numerous graphs and tables of data to support her claims, this book is still thought-provoking and well substantiated. Countless other books are available with a plethora of data that can be used in addition to the arguments Eilperin makes

This book is surprisingly objective and avoids demonizing either party, but rather places the blame and responsibility on both to bring back civility to the House and make Congress a more representative body that disenfranchises less of the public. From describing stints like Congressman Richard A. Gephardt's "Braveheart" demonstration and Jim Nussle's paper bag display, Eilperin allows the reader a very smooth ride through a short and concise book that really gets to the heart of the matter. While more elaboration could have been included, the main tenants of this book do speak volumes for how different factors have shaped politics in the House of Representatives.

Eilperin describes the transition from a Democrat to a Republic House as one of a winner-takes-all fight that has driven each party further to the extremes. Particular incidents on the national level helped to illuminate the growing differences (Clinton's impeachment hearings for instance). Both internal and external factors play a significant role in the political climate today.
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Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship is Poisoning the U.S. House of Representatives (Hoover Studies in Politics, Economics, and Society)
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