called "the most useful of these books;" "Hill's
recommendations...invariably hit the mark;" "Hill's book is a no-brainer--there's simply nothing in it to disagree with."
Please pass this along to your own lists, and if you feel inclined, buy a copy of The Nation off the newsstand. And buy a copy of "10 Steps to Repair
American Democracy" as well, at $11 publisher's price, that's only $1.10 per step!
New America Foundation
Eight Books on American Democracy: The Work Cut Out for Us Excerpts from book review by George Scialabba
The Nation posted January 11, 2007 (January 29, 2007 issue)
...We now have a bit of breathing space, thanks to the midterms. It's time to consider how the right got away with it and how to prevent it from happening again. The most useful of these books (along with Sirota's splendidly hard-hitting and extraordinarily well-documented Hostile Takeover) is Steven Hill's 10 Steps to Repair American Democracy. "To ponder the shortcomings of our political system is to court despondency," Hendrik Hertzberg observes in his foreword. The Electoral College, the Senate, the
disenfranchisement of the District of Columbia, the two-party duopoly, the winner-take-all principle, partisan redistricting, 95 percent incumbent
re-election rates, media concentration, Buckley v. Valeo, the K Street Project, voter turnout below 50 percent, shortages of voting machines and poll workers--this is a functioning democracy? If these travesties of logic and fairness promoted majority rule rather than prevented it, they would doubtless have been abolished long ago. Hill's recommendations, beginning with proportional representation and instant-runoff voting, invariably hit the mark, and each of them is accompanied by links to groups already on the case. Perhaps his most radical notion--as he says, it goes "to the very heart of our political system"--is that representation should no longer be based on geography. Because of partisan residential patterns, more and more election districts are noncompetitive even without gerrymandering. Tens of millions of votes in American elections don't really count; and, perhaps as
a consequence, millions more are never cast. Making representation correspond to what voters think rather than where they live is now perfectly feasible, as Hill makes clear. When (if) the Democrats regain the
electorate's trust, they should consider proposing that, procedurally speaking, the United States join the modern world.
Hill's book is a no-brainer--there's simply nothing in it to disagree with.
... But in a democracy, if a large enough majority of citizens want economic populism plus cultural conservatism, isn't that what there ought to be? And
if that's not what there is, then it's not much of a democracy, is it? What these truisms imply is that perhaps the right thing for progressives to do
is not hire ever cleverer triangulators but, instead, first make sure American democracy works (for which, see "10 Steps to Repair American Democracy") and then get most Americans to agree with us.