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No Place for Amateurs: How Political Consultants are Reshaping American Democracy Paperback – January 31, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0415928366 ISBN-10: 0415928362

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (January 31, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415928362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415928366
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,190,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For anybody considering a career in politics, No Place for Amateurs is a thorough description of what goes on behind the scenes. "While candidates are ultimately responsible for their campaigns, there is no way they can compete, let alone win, without professional help," writes Dennis W. Johnson. He ought to know: in addition to working as a campaign consultant himself, Johnson is the associate dean at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. On these pages, he describes everything that goes into a campaign, from fundraising to opposition research to handling the media. And he doesn't shy away from details. In a chapter on polling and public opinion, for instance, he describes how "a well-financed statewide campaign" would want to begin with a "benchmark survey" a year before the election, followed by focus groups to "explore in greater depth the responses given in the benchmark survey." Four or five months later would come "trend surveys" to see what impact the campaigns have had on public opinion. Ideas for commercials then would undergo "dial meter analysis" to test their effectiveness. Finally, tracking polls in the final weeks would try to gauge "late trends and movements of public preferences."

Taken as a whole, No Place for Amateurs reads like a how-to guide for campaigns. It never really delivers what it promises in the subtitle--an analysis of how political professionals have come to have such a great role in modern politics--but that's OK, because it does acknowledge their presence and describe what they do. There may, in fact, be a greater need for the book Johnson actually has written, and it must be required reading at his school. It's full of anecdotes, too, which provide real-world examples of how campaigns work. Less effective are Johnson's descriptions of fictional races, although they may help him make key points more sharply than if they were based on real experiences. Political pros often say the best way to learn about campaigns is to work on one. That's probably true, but it might also be a good idea to read this book before taking even that first step. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

"[T]he race for office has become a race for money"Ain large part because of political consultants, says Johnson. He should know: he's a former top political consultant and now associate dean of George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. Johnson offers an insider's view of what political consultants do and what the repercussions are for the American democratic system. The consultant's role during a campaign is to leave as little as possible to chance. Consultants monitor public opinion via focus groups and tracking polls and spend hours digging up dirt on the opponent. In this new digital age, real-time campaigning is achievable with cutting-edge rapid-response advertising that can be prepared in advance and ready at a moment's notice to steal the spotlight from the competition. Johnson takes the reader through all the processes of spin doctoring by professional consultantsAat times in overwhelming detailAbut his main message is that the professionalization of campaigning has removed the average citizen from the electoral process. Johnson suggests such alienation is not inevitable, however, and he notes, albeit briefly, ways in which voters might once again be drawn into the process. He concludes that we can ameliorate the influence of professional political consultants, but his bottom line is that high-cost, high-powered political consultants are here to stay. (Feb.) Forecast: There is much historical narrative here that should interest the general reader. But overall, the degree of specificity in the discussion makes this title most apt for academic rather than general readers.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Ellis on November 12, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As of late, political consultants have become convenient boogeymen. It seems whenever the American people decide they'd rather be apathetic than devote a few minutes out of their day to voting or whenever a politician is caught breaking the law, it somehow turns out to be the ultimate fault of political consultants. And so, every few months or so, we get a lot of people demanding a lot of new laws and vague terms like "campaign finance" get tossed around by commentators who obviously haven't got a clue as to what they're actually talking about. Yet somehow, nobody ever seems to really bother with, say, investigating what campaign consultants actually do. Luckily, veteran consultant Dennis W. Johnson has written "No Place For Amateurs," an inside look at campaign consultants that manges to avoid the anti-consultant hysteria of most recent insider books while at the same time never embracing the shallow arrogance of the "how-to" books of consultants like Dick Morris (who is featured in the opening chapters of Johnson's books and -- no great shock -- comes across as an egotistical cad). Chapter-by-chapter, Johnson explains, in detail, what pollsters, direct mail consultants, and advertising gurus actually do. He also explains how political consultants came to be so powerful in American politics and shows that the situation isn't quite as bad as we might think. At the same time, Johnson doesn't allow himself to be a shill for his fellow consultants. He does highlight some trouble spots and the reforms he suggests manage to be both effective and fair without resorting to the hysterical fearmongering of so many other reformers. As well, Johnson's book is also full of several entertaining anecdotes from previous campaigns and it should be a lot of fun for people with a taste for political trivia.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Richard Turner on July 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a great read - especially for news and politics junkies. Johnson writes with authority, candor and humor about real people involved with real campaigns and facing real ethical issues. Not only does the book describe the tools and techniques of modern campaigns, but it provides real insight into their strengths and weaknesses when used in varying situations.
I have to admit, though, the best part of the book is the anecdotes. You get a sense of the decision making speed required in the chaos that surrounds candidates and staffs. In fact, you may actually gain some sympathy for the people who choose (or are driven) to enter the political arena.
If you liked The War Room or Primary Colors, you'll love this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sarah on June 11, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm interning on my second state-wide campaign and this book has helped fill in the details of steps that happen before I have joined campaigns. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in politics or campaigning.
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