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Values Matter Most: How Republicans, or Democrats, or a Third Party Can Win and Renew the American Way of Life Hardcover – November 8, 1995

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Printing edition (November 8, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 002933795X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029337950
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,257,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Looking for some good empirical data on the meaning of values in leadership led me to "Values matter most." This is an excellent analysis of what is "right" about America, and follows on Wattenberg's very good earlier work, "The good news is that the bad news is wrong." That earlier title is self-explanatory and sets the stage for "Values".
Wattenberg, a Johnson staffer turned Reagan Democrat, hosts a PBS show, often geared to this basic theme. And his premise is this: Look beneath the conventional wisdom, the punditry, and the media hype and find that America works pretty well if not very well. While many people think that America is declining in status, prosperity, or value, the underlying conditions, trends and facts are much more positive. Yes, some social behaviors and standards are declining, but these are areas where "values matter most" and attention to values first, money or politics second, can drive a positive agenda for any political party. Key aspects of America's welfare -- education, crime, health, family and income support -- require attention, but not necessarily (significant) infusions of cash. "Family" values -- stable marriage, a working parent, supervised and loved children, parental support of education, safe streets, and some sense of discipline and duty -- are an integral part of the analysis. Attend to and enhance the social fabric.
Wattenberg blends a smooth, witty style with substantial and substantive data to make his point, without being preachy, even if he does at times come across as a bit "grandfatherly". Grant him that and check out this book.
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Format: Paperback
Values has the dominant role in public debate in the way that government management of the economy once did. While the debate over national planning has largely been settled (less is more), the debate over national values is in many ways just beginning. It is here that Mr. Wattenberg takes a fresh an intriguing perspective. For many years, the Democrats have been popularly potrayed by their critics as the party that condones immoral behavior, whether that be Hollywood violence or single moms or open homosexuality. This doesn't appeal to most Americans but what has kept them politically vialable has been their second image as the party that's on the side of working class dads and soccer moms; the party that in the words of Al Gore "fights for them." The Republicans, it would seem, would have an opening on the values front since most Americans like their stance on such issues as crime, welfare, and affirmative action. But their popularity on these issues is tempered by a deep suspicion front most swing voters. They see the GOP as either a trojan horse for race-baiting and wrath-of-God conservatives or a money machine for selfish businessmen. In this sense, the party of Lincoln suffers a severe credibility gap. Wattenberg understands what each party is doing wrong in the values debate and offers practical solutions to getting the debate on the side of the American electorate. The 2000 election will offer a clue to which party can win the first round of the values fight.
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Format: Hardcover
Wattenberg - a proud conservative Democrat and often independent centrist - believes that his party must "come home" to the responsibility era. I agree with him on this issue, but on some, he is dead wrong. He overstates the size of the "welfare state" we have - in fact, it is rather small when compared to those of other nations. He bashes Affirmative Action a little too much. He often sides with the GOP in some of the "culture wars" over immigrants and other issues.
Yet, to his credit, the author sounds the tone of the conservative Reagan Democrats rather well.
Wattenberg did a good job here in that area, despite the fact that I may disagree with him on some issues, as a die hard New Deal Democrat. Yet, regardless, this book is a great read for anyone.
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