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The Two Americas: Our Current Political Deadlock and How to Break It Hardcover – January 8, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Having spent a career closely watching the numbers, veteran Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who advised Bill Clinton in his 1992 victory, sees a nation entrenched into two opposing ideological camps, neither side getting much done. And so he presents solutions, of course to Democrats but also Republicans if they care to read the book, on how to break the gridlock and solidify power. Greenberg offers a history lesson, showing how for the last 50 years, neither party has had a solid grip on power and, as a result, lacked the mandate to lead. Instead, both fire up their base of supporters and scrap for small electoral groups in order to give them a tiny majority among national office holders. Armed with history and voluminous statistical data, Greenberg identifies the core constituencies of each party and assigns them catchy names in order to make his analysis more entertaining and easier to follow. The Republicans' base includes such groups as the "F-You Old Men," white blue-collar seniors with no college education, while over on the left side, the Democrats are anchored by groups like the "Secular Warriors," people who rarely attend church and don't own guns. Extensive polling took place in three communities that are battlegrounds on the electoral map and all three receive catchy nicknames as well: "Tampa Blue" (working class Florida), "The Heartland" (Iowa farm country), and "Eastside Tech" (the white-collar tech-heavy suburbs east of Seattle). After reading the pulse of these representative voters, Greenberg recommends the GOP offer up a second-generation Reagan campaign, emphasizing hope, independence, and industriousness. For the Democrats, his suggestions include taking classic Democratic themes of opportunity and equality and updating to encompass modern issues like environmental and health care concerns. This book was released in the early stages of the 2004 Democratic primaries and in the early going, the successful candidates seemed to be embracing Greenberg's notions, hoping to unseat a President Bush a second time. --John Moe

From Publishers Weekly

Pollster Greenberg (Middle Class Dreams), who was part of Bill Clinton's victorious "war room" team during the 1992 presidential campaign, is dissatisfied with the country's political split down the middle and has ideas for how to break the Democratic/Republican impasse. He considers the last, embattled presidential election "just the current moment in an era of political deadlock" stretching back to the Eisenhower administration, a half-century in which the two parties have traded power back and forth unable to form a lasting dynasty. The 2004 election, he says, promises to be just as competitive. Analyzing each party's potential, Greenberg breaks down their loyalists into identifiable factions, like "F-You Boys" (Deep Southern white male blue-collar workers who "think President George W. Bush is their guy") and "Super-Educated Women" (Democratic loyalists though their husbands, "Privileged Men," are Republicans), Then Greenberg closely examines three regional blocs that may be up for grabs: he calls them Tampa Blue, Seattle's Eastside Tech and Heartland Iowa. In the second half of the book, he imagines how party leaders might plan to keep or retake the White House. His analysis of the GOP's strategy to present Bush as the carefully scrubbed "Reagan's Son" seems dead-on. Several possible strategies are described for Democrats, but his clear preference is for putting a 21st-century spin on the values and agenda of the Kennedy-Johnson era, with such talking points as universal health care and education, tax reform, even a new "Apollo project" to tackle energy security and global warming. Intricate strategic analysis and close attention to a wavering electorate make this political handbook stand out from the pack.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1 edition (January 8, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312318383
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312318383
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,686,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Anyone who picks up a book on the current state of party politics in the U.S.A. is compelled to take note first of the author's political stance. Stanley B. Greenberg, author of THE TWO AMERICAS, was a pollster for Bill Clinton and Al Gore and a key member of Clinton's campaign team. He is married to a Democratic congresswoman from Connecticut.
The same full-disclosure mandate surely applies to reviewers of such books as well. OK, this reviewer is a registered Democrat, a senior citizen/retiree, middle-class, Catholic New Englander resident for many years in the Middle West.
Those preliminaries out of the way, perhaps we can get down to reviewing the book.
Greenberg starts with the obvious: the electorate is evenly divided between the two parties, a situation he regards as "ugly" and unhealthy. Each party sees the possibility of breaking the deadlock to its own advantage, but neither seems able to pull the trick off. Using the pollster's standard tools of interviews, focus groups and projections, he slices and dices both parties into interest groups according to age, education level, income, religious feelings and geographical distribution. His text is full of bar charts and "thermometers" that register the feelings of each sub-group on all sorts of questions. He traces the history of America's shifting political allegiances, in particular those of the past 50 years, a period when neither party was able to achieve any lasting dominance (or, to use his favorite word, "hegemony").
Seeking out middle ground between the parties, he devotes special attention to three typical geographical areas where neither party dominates --- the suburbs east of Seattle, the farm country of central Iowa and suburbs around Tampa.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the book "du jour" about how to win Presidential election, and how our nation is now almost perfectly split between Republicans and Democrats. Each party accounts for about 46% of the voters. So, to win the White House you need to attract independents and swing voters.
Our most recent two-term Presidents understood the importance of appealing to such voters. Reagan appealed to the "Reagan Democrats" in the eighties. While in the nineties, Clinton the ultimate new Democrat centrist, balanced the Budget, generated economic and job growth, and thus preempted Republican economic platforms.
Nowadays, appealing to the 8% independents is very difficult because their value system does not fit within the two party system. Their values range from the classic socially liberal/fiscally conservative to the iconoclastic socially conservative/fiscally liberal, and anything in between.
Greenberg's framework is really helpful in getting a Presidential candidate to earn a majority of the independents and swing voters. His information is extremely detailed, and emanates from cluster analysis. This is a statistical method that is increasingly popular in Presidential campaign strategy. You aggregate the general population in numerous clusters or groups sharing similar behaviors, voting patterns, value systems, education, income, and what have you. Greenberg illustrates several different examples of such clusters within cities such as Tampa or Seattle, or state as Iowa. Each cluster is given a different colorful name such as Tampa Blue, Seattle Eastside Tech, and Heartland Iowa. Each cluster can have subclusters reflecting more specific demographics such as the Super-Educated Women (Democrat loyalist) or Privileged Men (Republicans).
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Format: Hardcover
Stanley Greenberg has written a deeply researched, extensively footnoted, highly readable indictment of our current political state, and we should be humbly grateful for it.

From the preface, where he observes the press "...prefers the politics of character...." to reporting anything of substance, to the afterword, in which he presents the two scenarios he developed in the previous 300 pages to his focus groups, Greenberg holds very few cows sacred and presents a relatively even-handed treatment of the current political deadlock.

However, I give you fair warning: If you, the reader, are not of the liberal persuasion, this book may irritate the starch out of you. Remember, I said "relatively even-handed." Also remember, I'm a liberal.

Greenberg starts out with a short review of the last 200 years of political history, showing us that one-party domination is the rule rather than the exception. He devotes much attention to the last fifty years, in which no party has dominated, and even greater attention to the last 25, from the Reagan Revolution in 1980 to the bitterly contested and still controversial 2000 brouhaha, and on to the beginnings of the 2004 campaign. (Incidentally, I was reading the section on President Reagan when he died and for the first few days of our national mourning period. I was struck by irony: the facts in Greenberg's work versus the hyperbole issuing from every talking head on television.) Greenberg's liberal bias is highly evident in this section: he is far too easy on President Clinton. I laughed out loud at "...[he] advanced his proposals for gays to serve in the military, thus dramatically illustrating the breadth of the principle for America's ever-expanding rights." Oh, puh-leeze.
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