- Hardcover: 232 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; 1St Edition edition (August 27, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300184565
- ISBN-13: 978-0300184563
- Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 69 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#833,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #372 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > United States > Legislative Branch
- #658 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Elections & Political Process > Political Parties
- #1339 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Ideologies & Doctrines > Democracy
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans Hardcover – August 27, 2012
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
"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)
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.
Top customer reviews
Having said all that, there are times I wonder if I'm wrong and he's wrong. Very often in life progress does not come from rational calm compromise, but from hard, sometimes vicious fights where one side wins completely, and then, once feeling safer, either relents or there is a slow painful crawl towards better government or more freedom. Our whole history is filled with examples. To give just one, consider England's march towards religious freedom. England's government provided it after the Glorious Revolution - but not for Catholics. In fact, Catholicism was greatly diminished at that time in England. Nevertheless, in a few decades, religious freedom was given to Catholics too by the majority Protestants. A second example - strong unity throughout this country was formed in time only after the South was soundly defeated in our own Civil War. You can argue that at the end, there has to be a spirit of compromise at some point and I don't disagree. But, you note in these examples, it did not develop in a collegial way. Certainly that is possible for humans and sometimes happen, but, very often, it is not the way we humans work.
I've heard him speak (which is how I was turned onto this book) and I don't think he is delusional about the possibilities of there being improvement anytime soon. But, you have to start somewhere and he did.
Edwards lays out a very objective analysis of our current political system and its failings. The closed system of primaries panders only to party loyalists and extremists rather than forcing candidates to moderate their positions. The parties control who is on the primary ballot and small partisan group of party identified voters determine who will represent them in the general election. "Sore Loser" statutes eliminate second place finishers in primary parties who may garner more votes than even the first place finishers in the opposition party's primaries. Congressmen and Senators are fearful of compromise lest they wind up facing primary challenges that could unseat them or leave them vulnerable in the general election. Congressional districts are determined by political parties who divvy them up into as many "safe" districts for their own parties as possible. Money flows freely into Senate and House races from people outside those districts and states who clearly do not share the same interests of citizens who live there. Congressmen and Senators have to adhere to the party line if they want to get committee assignments and failure to get the right committee assignment could be the kiss of death when election time rolls around. House and Senate chambers are even set up to re-enforce this sense of separation with separate lecterns, cloak rooms, seating arrangements, office buildings, and the list goes on and on. The consequence of all this is our current polarized political system that is unwilling to compromise to solve the most serious and vexing problems we are facing. This neo-tribalism is not only counterproductive to developing compromise legislation, but is also leading to a polarization of supporters of both parties and the widespread alienation and disaffection of many average citizens.
Unlike the aforementioned It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism Edwards comes up with solid recommendations that would correct the problems with our current electoral system. Eliminating voter's party affiliation in primaries and elections surely would not be popular, but it would open up the system to unaffiliated and independent voters and force politicians to moderate their positions so as to appeal to a broader electorate rather than pandering to their party's bases. Ending "Sore Loser" statutes would open up the process to those candidates who genuinely receive the most votes regardless of party affiliation. Forcing all candidates regardless of party affiliation to run in one primary would further force politicians to moderate their positions and open up opportunities for third party candidates to get into the final election. Taking the top two winners in a primary certainly could mean two Republicans or two Democrats squaring off in the general election, but if they are less polarized isn't that a good thing? Taking Congressional redistricting out of the hands of politicians and having it handled by non-partisan groups would also eliminate "safe" districts that are Gerrymandered to the point where there's no real sense of community of shared values. I can speak to that as the Congressional District I live in stretches from the very high income upscale Buckhead district of Atlanta up into the very rural corners of Cherokee County. What on earth would an attorney living in Buckhead making six figures have in common with a working class Joe living out in the country? The needs of both locations would be night and day. Eliminating "safe" seats would force politicians to moderate their positions as more voters of the opposing party are drawn into their district and races will become more competitive as a result. Looking at my own Congressional district there have been times where no Democrat has opposed our Republican congressman in the general election: how is that healthy for a pluralistic and competitive democracy? The short answer is, it isn't. And this is how we've wound up with Congress's approval rating sinking so low. Ending the divisions in both the House and Senate, whether literal like the separate lecterns, offices, cloak rooms, or other facilities, or larger spoils like committee assignments would also go a great ways towards more competition of ideas rather than a pack of vultures fighting over the spoils.
Edwards is clearly a populist and is putting America ahead of party affiliation although he remains a Republican at heart. "The Parties Versus the People" is a warning shot across the bow to both parties and politicians notifying them they had better become the agents of change or the people will start to take matters into their own hands. And indeed that very change is starting to happen as witnessed in California and Washington where voter initiatives created open primaries. As Edwards points out, 24 states have petition initiatives to create just these sorts of changes and if politicians don't take the lead then citizens will have to get involved. So much of what Edwards writes here reflects my own opinions and he sums up the best of our 9/11 world; everyone regardless of party should sit together, we are all Americans and should be focused on doing what's best for our country and not their party. It should be one congress, one country. Everything Edwards puts forward is doable...I only hope that people read this, regardless of party affiliation, take it to heart and start pressing for action. I know I will!
A two term republican congressman from Texas exposes the problems and offers solutions.
Mickey Edwards has written a very readable book from someone who was "inside the system".
I have purchased many copies of this book and given them to both Democrats & Republicans.
Buy it for yourself and then give it to a friend!