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The Swing Vote: The Untapped Power of Independents [Kindle Edition]

Linda Killian
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $7.59
Sold by: Macmillan

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Book Description

As our country’s politicians engage in bitter partisan battles, focused on protecting their own jobs but not on doing the nation’s business, and political pundits shout louder and shriller to improve their ratings, it’s no wonder that Americans have little faith in their government. But is America as divided as the politicians and talking heads would have us  believe? Do half of Americans stand on the right and the other half on the left with a no-man’s-land between them?

Hardly. Forty percent of all American voters are Independents who occupy the ample political and ideological space in the center. These Americans are anything but divided, and they’re being ignored. These Independents make up the largest voting bloc in the nation and have determined the outcome of every election since World War II. Every year their numbers grow, as does the unconscionable disconnect between them and the officials who are supposed to represent them.

The Swing Vote: The Untapped Power of Independents tells the story of how our polarized political system is not only misrepresenting America but failing it. Linda Killian looks beyond the polls and the headlines and talks with the frustrated citizens who are raising the alarm about the acute bi-polarity, special interest-influence, and gridlock in Congress, asking why Obama’s postpartisan presidency is anything but, and demanding realism, honest negotiation, and a sense of responsibility from their elected officials.

Killian paints a vivid portrait of the swing voters around the country and presents a new model that reveals who they are and what they want from their government and elected officials. She also offers a way forward, including solutions for fixing our broken political system. This is not only a timely shot across the bows of both parties but an impassioned call to Independents to bring America back into balance.

Editorial Reviews


Praise for The Swing Vote:

The Swing Vote has useful observations…. [Linda Killian] traveled around the country interviewing hundreds of voters who are disaffected. There are lessons to be learned from her reporting.”
--The New York Review of Books

A useful look at the current makeup and mood of America’s voters.”
--Kirkus Reviews on The Swing Vote

“Linda Killian helps us understand who the swing voters who decide elections are and what they are looking for. Killian's analysis provides a valuable guide on harnessing their collective energy into a new way of thinking about politics.”
---Eleanor Clift, contributor Newsweek and Daily Beast

“Linda Killian has written a lively and insightful book about the current state of American politics, melding the best skills of a journalist, a social scientist, a pollster, and a passionate citizen.…With Congress’s disapproval rating at an all-time high, and a ‘plague on both houses’ sentiment exploding in the country, it is hard to imagine a more timely book.”
---Norman J. Ornstein, author of The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track

“Linda Killian does a great job of not only examining the importance and historic role of those Independent and moderate swing voters who live between the partisan and ideological forty-yard lines, but she examines their mind-sets as well. What makes swing voters tick, what swings them and why?  An understanding of swing voters leads to an understanding of the volatility and the turbulence that drove the 2006, 2008, and 2010 elections and will likely drive 2012 as well.”
---Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report and political analyst for NBC News

Praise for The Freshmen: What Happened to the Republican Revolution?

“Linda Killian’s new and terrific book…is a strong, well-researched, and well-credited document on the failure of the seventy-three Republican freshmen in the class of ’94.”
---USA Today

“Killian’s prodigious research is evident on every information-packed page.”
---The Washington Post

About the Author

Linda Killian is a journalist and senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She has been a columnist for Politico, U.S. News & World, and Politics Daily. She has also written for The Washington Post, The New Republic, and The Weekly Standard, among other national publications. Her previous book was The Freshmen: What Happened to the Republican Revolution? She lives in Washington, D.C.

Product Details

  • File Size: 495 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (January 17, 2012)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005QNH50O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #863,913 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Other Voters March 4, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"The Swing Vote" has aided me in understanding American political history since the mid-90's. Full of detail on the upper echelons of our debatably democratic society, this book tries to show a middle way between our polarized political process. Despite the author's initial contentions on what an independent believes, there is much information the casual reader would find useful. The analysis is right on target about the dysfunction that has hit our legislative branches, and the resultant deadlock in our government. Several states are featured in their problems with the democratic process, using quotes by important personages distributed throughout the book. A good coverage of today's politics for an open mind-- the only 'out' group by the author is the extreme right-- while she attempts to synthesize a solution to America's stall. As a long-term independent and perceived "moderate" my entire perspective isn't represented here, but it's an attempt to profile the growing electorate that thinks our democratic system has failed. Informative. [Add. note: I was drawn to read the book by the author's appearance on the 'Wilson Forum'. She seemed knowledgable on the subject of D.C politics and politicians in general. Though I disagree with her opinions gleaned from focus groups as a representive sample, her definition of the problem is solid.]
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reminding us of the power in the political center April 9, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you follow any contact sport--football, basketball, or ice hockey, for example--you'll know that the key to success is holding the center. On offense, the center opens up scoring opportunities; on defense it prevents the other side from reaching its goals. Even a decidedly non-contact sport like chess emphasizes controlling the middle, the center, the place from which strategy develops and victory comes.

Politics seems like a full-on contact sport these days, and, as Linda Killian points out in her excellent new book, The Swing Vote: The Untapped Power of Independents, the center is where all the action is. Yet somehow the center--the 40% of the body politic that claims to be moderate and/or independent--has been manipulated out of its political power, it's political voice. Through carefully crafted two-party machinations that have compounded over many years, many centrists are relegated to the sidelines when it comes to the important process of selecting party candidates or--as importantly--mounting opposition to the two-party status quo.

"If a minority group were getting shut out of full participation in the political process," Killian writes, "there would be a huge outcry. But Independent voters are far from a minority group. There are more of them that either Democrats or Republicans."

Beginning with a taxonomy of sorts, Killian takes us through the personal journeys of several moderates and independents in four parts of the country: New Hampshire, where live the NPR Republicans; Colorado, home of the Facebook Generation; Virginia, residence for the Starbucks Moms and Dads; and Ohio, home of the America First Democrats.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ignorant of American poliical climate March 13, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
stopped reading the book 1/3 through, then donated the book to Goodwill, and I usually LOVE political science books. ( My major in college) Killian is part of the "can't we all just get along?" school of modern jouralistic thinking, of which she is typical: knows little about American political history and attempts to be "neutral" to the point of delivering pap instead of reality. Unlike Killian, reputable political scientists would point out that :
1. on guns, taxes, abortion, the environment, unions, race and voter rights, the country has shifted dramatically RIGHT over the last 30 years.

2. The independent voter is largely a MYTH. Several FACTS have been ascertained by political scientists about "independent" voters over the last 30 years:
a. most of them are actually "closet" partisans, who love to maintain their Marlboro Man image, but actually vote very consistently for one party or the other.
b. the closer one gets to a true "scatter gun" voter who votes back and forth, the more one finds an uneducated, " fact challenged" voter, not the highly moral, brilliant voter the media has portrayed.

3. Like I said, the author needs to take a political science course. The remarkably intransigent and openly obstructionist strategy of the Republicans in Washington since Obama's election has been described as "asymetrical polarization", a term she has apparenty never heard, but should have. There is no "gridlock" in Washington: there is a Democratic party that has moved very very much to the middle, and a Republican party that has gone off the edge of the earth to the right.

In short, Killian is a dilettante.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars New Approach, Not New Conclusions May 27, 2012
Killian has conducted an impressive number of interviews and focus groups in writing this book, but the results of those discussions are identical and bland: our politics is polarizing and therefore not good. Killian has done what she set out to do, convince the reader that there is a large group of voters who feel underrepresented by the two dominant political parties, but the book unfortunately does not do much else. There is no discussion of how the political parties capture these voters and no discussion of how the parties might adjust in the future to seize "the untapped power of independents." In sum, despite being well researched and well written, the book feels incomplete and devoid of nuance. The concluding chapter presents a few recommendations on how voters can change the direction of American politics, but the proposed solutions (e.g. open primaries, less gerrymandering, joining independent political groups) have been repeated elsewhere numerous times. The brief rants against the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachman may be a bit tiresome for some readers.

Despite the books shortcomings, it is still a good read. The text is accessible to her target audience of independent voters. The new demographics she discusses, for example NPR Republicans and Starbucks Moms, are helpful in understanding the overlooked independent voters. She devotes a chapter each to swing voters in New Hampshire, Virginia, Colorado, and Ohio; and having lived in two of those states, I can confirm that her analysis is largely accurate and convincing. It also supports her central point that we live in a country of diverse viewpoints, and increasingly few of those viewpoints are being heard by elected representatives.
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More About the Author

Linda Killian is a Washington journalist and a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

You can visit her website to see info about upcoming events and media appearances at

Her new book, "THE SWING VOTE: The Untapped Power of Independents", will be published in January 2012 by St. Martin's Press. Linda Killian talked with hundreds of citizens, activists and public officials around the country and paints a vivid portrait of the swing voters. She focuses on four key swing demographic groups and states - Colorado, Ohio, New Hampshire and Virginia - that will be critical in the 2012 election. Killian presents a new model of the swing voters and reveals who they are and what they want from their government. She describes the intense disappointment and frustration these voters have with the political system and the two parties. She also examines the heightened polarization of Democratic and Republican elected officials and their inability to deal with our nation's most important problems.

In "THE SWING VOTE" Killian offers solutions for fixing our broken political system and ways for the Independent voters to make their voices heard. This is not only a timely shot across the bows of both parties but an impassioned call to Independents to bring America back into balance.

Linda Killian has been a columnist and national political writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, Politics Daily, U.S. News & World and Politico and is also the author of "The Freshmen: What Happened to the Republican Revolution?" praised by The New York Review of Books and other reviewers as a colorful, well-written and insightful analysis of what happened to the congressional Republicans of 1994. Killian spent two years of extensive reporting and conducted hundreds of interviews to write "The Freshmen" which reveals the maneuvering and intrigues, the successes and failures of the Republican Congress.

She has also written for "The Washington Post", "The Los Angeles Times", "The New Republic", "The Weekly Standard", "The American Spectator", "The Christian Science Monitor", "The Boston Globe", "Redbook", "Washingtonian" and "People" magazines.

Her television appearances include CNN, "Hardball with Chris Matthews", C-SPAN, MSNBC and the Fox News Channel.

She is the creator and former director of the Boston University Washington Journalism Center and a former Boston University professor of journalism.

She was also the senior editor of National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" where she was responsible for the editorial content of NPR's national evening news program. Prior to that, she was a reporter at Forbes magazine in New York and for several major daily newspapers including The Oregonian and for United Press International.

She has a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.


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