From Library Journal
PBS talk show host and syndicated columnist Wattenberg challenges the notion that it is economic concerns that drive people most in electing presidents and members of Congress. Rather, what concerns voters are social values that they believe can be changed through the political process: crime, welfare, education, and affirmative action. Wattenberg backs up his claims with a plethora of statistics gathered from surveys and polls that indicate support for his viewpoint. His experience in publishing this type of statistical information is well known in the field; many of the claims that he makes here mirror the same concerns that he has raised in other books, particularly The Real America (LJ 12/1/74). Wattenberg is also known for his "feel good" journalistic approach to statistics, with his basic opinion being that things are not so bad. The problem with this kind of analysis is that Wattenberg spends less than a paragraph on the federal budget deficit and provides no numbers to indicate that it is not such a bad problem. He also believes that politicians should just stand up and vote for the changes he advocates (longer prison sentences, cutting off welfare benefits to single mothers, ending racial quotas), because his survey and poll results show that most Americans feel this way. Unfortunately, most Americans are not Washington lobbyists, so it may not be as easy as Wattenberg thinks. Still, he offers some interesting ideas and gives a cogent explanation of what happened in the 1994 Congressional elections. Recommended for public library collections.?Patricia Hatch, Emmanuel Coll., Boston
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Wattenberg, pundit of the radical middle, argues in his eighth book (and a forthcoming PBS special) that values issues--not "the economy, stupid" --have increasingly dominated presidential politics for the past quarter century (since he and pollster Richard Scammon wrote The Real Majority
) and that the candidate and/or party adopting the correct position on these issues in 1996 will win and can perhaps "save the nation." Wattenberg distinguishes two kinds of values issues: social
issues, which are important, harmful (and widely agreed to be harmful) to society, and at least partly caused by (and therefore soluble by) government; and cultural
issues, on which there's little consensus and which have limited potential for government action. Thus Wattenberg counsels candidates to offer alternatives to what he calls--and candidate Clinton in 1992 called--" something for nothing" policies on four social
issues: crime, welfare, education, and "affirmative-action-as-now-practiced." The book includes charts and graphs to support Wattenberg's read on these issues and free advice for 1996 candidates of the major parties as well as Perot, Powell, and Jackson. An arguable but articulate statement of views that many Americans share. Mary Carroll