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The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans Hardcover – August 27, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"Overcoming tribalism and knee-jerk partisanship is the central challenge of our time. Mickey Edwards shows why and how in this fascinating book filled with sensible suggestions."—Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs
(Walter Isaacson)

“A spirited, well-constructed argument for reform that does not shy away from comprehensive solutions.”—Kirkus Reviews
(Kirkus Reviews)

"Frustration with bipartisan politics is given lucid voice and direction in former congressman Edwards’s latest: an examination of how the nation can move past party affiliation in order to move forward...The book provides compelling hope for reform."—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly)

“Many Americans, whether Democrats, Republicans, independent or otherwise, would welcome a few more like (Edwards) in office."—The Boston Globe
(The Boston Globe)

“In ‘The Parties Versus the People’, Mr. Edwards gets to the heart of what most troubles Americans about our government today. Nothing gets done, our elected representatives play the blame game, and the operative word is gridlock. . . . a well-written, thoughtful and timely book.”—The Washington Times
(The Washington Times)

"Always thought provoking, in The Parties Versus the People, Mickey Edwards has laid out a challenge to the American people to address the polarization that is so damaging to our political process.  Rather than just identifying problems, the author outlines steps that can help right the ship of state. It remains to the voters to accept the challenge he has laid out."—Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey Governor and EPA Administrator

(Christine Todd Whitman)

"A lucid, important, powerful set of reforms and recommendations for improving the political process."—Marvin Kalb, co-author of Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama
(Marvin Kalb)

"Mickey Edwards has made a clear headed and timely contribution to helping America lead itself out of a polarized political swamp. He anchors his book with the political reality that democratic self-governance comes from mutual respect, the energy of ideas and ultimately consensus. Democracies cannot work any other way. Our citizens, not just our leaders, would greatly benefit from reading Edwards’ important book."—Chuck Hagel, U.S. Senator (1997 – 2009); Distinguished Professor, Georgetown University
(Chuck Hagel)

"America faces great challenges in a rapidly changing, increasingly competitive world.  Regrettably, hyper-partisanship and polarization have created gridlock, threatening this generation's legacy and imperiling our children's' future. Mickey Edwards performs a great public service by identifying not only the problem but also proposing possible solutions.  Let us hope that our fellow citizens heed his call and begin once more to define ourselves principally not as Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, but as Americans with a common heritage and a common destiny."—Evan Bayh, U.S. Senator (1999-2011)
(Evan Bayh)

“Mickey Edwards is a national treasure. As a former member of Congress, a student of government, and a patriot, he cannot sit by and watch the deep dysfunction, indeed the destruction, of our democracy. This book is a credo and a call to arms for all those who believe that politics is about problem-solving rather than partisanship.”—Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University
(Anne-Marie Slaughter)

“Edwards’ prescriptions to rescue our democracy loom large . . . short of the structural changes Edwards embraces, dysfunction and stalemate seem the more likely scenarios regardless of who wins the Obama-Romney prize fight.”—Small “r” Republican
(Small “r” Republican)

“Mr. Edwards writes persuasively that the two political parties have overtaken our electoral system, leading to the current era of partisan demagoguery (and) lays out a better system that is worth a serious look.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

“Edwards proposes serious, fundamental, specific reforms to turn our political system upside down and put power back in the hands of the American people”—The Recovering Politician
(The Recovering Politician)

“. . . a compelling . . . case that much of the gridlock, intransigence, incivility and dysfunction plaguing government can be traced directly to the domineering, partisan control over both the political process – how we elect our leaders – and the governmental process – how they govern. . . (Edwards) proposes thought-provoking, controversial, and intellectually sound solutions that deserve a full public airing in every corner of the public square . . . “—

“Edwards’ solutions – specific, practical, fair, and original – show the way to break the stranglehold of the political party system.”—Stone Hearth News
(Stone Hearth News)

"An urgent and engaging look at how American politics have become the founding fathers’ worst nightmare. Not content to simply criticize, Edwards also proposes solutions to the hyperpartisanship currently corroding civil discourse and resulting in the paralysis of Congress, a serious threat to the American experiment in self-governance... An important—and I believe, enduring—addition to the growing literature of nonpartisan political reform."—John Avlon, Daily Beast
(John Avlon Daily Beast)

From the Author

A conversation with Mickey Edwards

Q: Why this book?

A: Americans have become all too familiar with a government that seems perpetually deadlocked over partisan differences. Democracy depends on competition between alternative visions and energetic debate over proposed policies, but in the end, the sides have to be able to make the compromises that will enable the government to meet its constitutional responsibilities. Instead we have a constant battle between private clubs for advantage in the next election.

After sixteen years as a member of Congress and twenty years of studying government from the outside, I came to realize that we've been wrong about the root of the problem: it's not that we elect the wrong people, we expect them to govern, in a political system that rewards intransigence and considers compromise a sellout. The problem is systemic—closed primaries that narrow voter choices, partisan redistricting, and a Congress of competing teams—and there's no way to fix it except by changing the system itself.

Q: What can we do about it?

A: Ultimately, the people decide. Large numbers of voters no longer feel loyalty to a political party. They have it in their hands to force change through referenda and citizen initiatives, and through direct confrontation with elected officials. We can demand that our government officials serve us not primarily as Republicans or Democrats but as Americans.

Q: Is that realistic?

A: Absolutely: Washington State and California have already changed their systems. Hundreds of thousands of citizens support reform organizations that are working to break down partisan control. More than four in ten voters have rejected the party system. The revolution is already under way.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1St Edition edition (August 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300184565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300184563
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Todd Bartholomew VINE VOICE on August 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
There have been a slew of books lately speaking to the problems of our political system and how to reform them, but most only tinker at the margins rather than suggesting more profound and necessary changes. While I certainly enjoyed It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism by Mann and Ornstein and Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives by Draper amongst many others I found their recommended reforms to be timid half steps, particularly in the face of the crises we face and the general lack of confidence in politicians. Edwards is no stranger to politics, as a multi-term Congressman he's been inside the belly of the beast, knows its deficiencies and weaknesses, and is all too willing to speak plainly about how to fix them. Undoubtedly reader's political leanings will come into play with Democrats refusing to listen because he's a Republican and Republicans denouncing him as a sellout. Yet Edwards isn't interested in assessing blame and indeed feels both parties are guilty of the same practices and bad behavior. The fact that Edwards is catching so much hell from both parties tells me that he must be striking a nerve and more importantly, is on the right track! What Edwards is proposing is pretty radical stuff, but reading over it you'll come to see how necessary it is and how hard it will be to make it happen.Read more ›
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Judie Amsel on August 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Imagine a place where there are two groups of people. They sit on opposite sides of the room, divided by a wide aisle. When they want to address the group, they walk up to a podium in the front of the room but there are separate podiums, one for each group. If they want to leave for awhile, there are two separate doors, each leading to a separate room on opposite sides of the main room. If someone from one group should go into the other group's room, they are looked upon suspiciously. You might think this room is in an Orthodox Jewish synagogue or in a deeply segregated community, but it isn't. The room is in Washington DC and is the home of the US Congress, in the case of the podium, the House of Representatives.
Former Congressman Mickey Edwards describes this scene in chapter eight of his new book, THE PARTIES VERSUS THE PEOPLE: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans. In it, he points out several reasons that the political situation today is so divisive and suggests ways for it to change for everyone's benefit. His main point is it's the system that's broken and until it's repaired, there won't be change because the current method rewards the extremists while doing nothing to encourage cooperation. Imagine just seating people in order of seniority regardless of their political label. They would have a chance to get to know each other as people and talk about issues not as enemies on the other side of a battle zone.
He writes of how our Founding Fathers warned against political parties.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By SLR on August 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Currently approximately 90 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress functions (or doesn't function). This dysfunctionality is largely due to the polarization of the political parties and their elected members. Mickey Edwards was a member of the House of Representatives for 16 years and was a member of the senior leadership of the Republican Party. As such he is in a unique position to analyze the causes and effects of the current dysfunction. In this book he recommends realistic steps to reverse the polarization and to return politics to a more civil atmosphere where members of both parties are more willing to compromise and act in the interest of the American people. I would highly recommend this book to all Americans who disapprove of the way the political process is currently operating and are looking for a realistic means to reverse the present political process.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By D. Smith on October 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As Edwards correctly observes, American voters are angry at and have a low opinion of Congress; they know the system is broken in that it serves the interests of wealthy campaign contributors rather than the electorate, and yet year after year, the people return most of these worthies (or ones like them) to Washington to perpetuate what is unquestionably a travesty of democracy. The answer to the seeming paradox of the majority of the electorate voting against its own interests is simple: voters are given no other choice. Big Money selects the candidates to be presented to the people at election time, backs their campaigns, and as a consequence, installs the best politicians money can buy who will reliably enact legislation favorable to the moneyed interests who installed them. Republicans and Democrats, alas, are opposite wings of the same bird, beholden to the moneyed interests comprising its head.

The fatal flaw in Edwards' well-intentioned but ultimately inadequate bundle of remedies is that it fails to sever the umbilical cord between Big Money and the electoral process, thereby continuing to limit the available choices of candidates to those selected by and in the service of a wealthy elite. No amount of symbolic rearranging of podiums and cloakrooms, no attempt at finding "non-partisan" redistricting boards, etc., will change the reality of the democratic political system serving the interests of those who empower it; and presently, those providing "the mother's milk of politics," -- money -- are the ones doing the empowering.

The knee-jerk solution offered by those aware of these basic truths is public financing of political campaigns.
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