Most helpful critical review
The Gilded Age, Part Two
on January 2, 2002
Benjamin Ginsberg and Martin Shefter have written a thorough recounting of the last thirty years in American political life. The authors' views are interesting as well as provocative. Most notably, their thesis that the United States has entered a postelectoral era where the importance of elections is eclipsed by instruments of political combat. And the practitioners of this combat while perfecting these weapons have failed to mobilize voters, which has had a deleterious effect on party organizations, and has lead to deadlock in government.
There are points that the authors could pursue that would strengthen this work. It would be worthwhile to note that low voter turnout, particularly in the case of primary elections, works to create nominees of the more extreme wings of the parties. If more voters than just the party faithful were to show up perhaps deadlock and institutional combat would be precluded. But the authors seem to blame the failure of voter mobilization on the leaders rather than on the disinterested electorate.
Another notion that could be suggested is that the United States has entered another "Gilded Age" where there are no over-arching issues around which consensus can be reached. Isn't it possible that this combat may be a result of the end of the Cold War? Didn't a new power structure need to be created in that vacuum?
Additionally, the authors write of the media and its rise to power but fail to fully explore the increased capacity, or presence, of the current wall-to-wall coverage.