Politics Lost: How American Democracy Was Trivialized By People Who Think You're Stupid

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People on the right are furious. People on the left are livid. And the center isn’t holding. There is only one thing on which almost everyone agrees: there is something very wrong in Washington. The country is being run by pollsters. Few politicians are able to win the voters’ trust. Blame abounds and personal responsibility is nowhere to be found. There is a cynicism in Washington that appalls those in every state, red or blue. The question is: Why? The more urgent question is: What can be done about it?
Few people are more qualified to deal with both questions than Joe Klein.
There are many loud and opinionated voices on the political scene, but no one sees or writes with the clarity that this respected observer brings to the table. He has spent a lifetime enmeshed in politics, studying its nuances, its quirks, and its decline. He is as angry and fed up as the rest of us, so he has decided to do something about it—in these pages, he vents, reconstructs, deconstructs, and reveals how and why our leaders are less interested in leading than they are in the “permanent campaign” that political life has become.
The book opens with a stirring anecdote from the night of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Klein re-creates the scene of Robert Kennedy’s appearance in a black neighborhood in Indianapolis, where he gave a gut-wrenching, poetic speech that showed respect for the audience, imparted dignity to all who listened, and quelled a potential riot. Appearing against the wishes of his security team, it was one of the last truly courageous and spontaneous acts by an American politician—and it is no accident that Klein connects courage to spontaneity. From there, Klein begins his analysis—campaign by campaign—of how things went wrong. From the McGovern campaign polling techniques to Roger Ailes’s combative strategy for Nixon; from Reagan’s reinvention of the Republican Party to Lee Atwater’s equally brilliant reinvention of behind-the-scenes strategizing; from Jimmy Carter to George H. W. Bush to Bill Clinton to George W.—as well as inside looks at the losing sides—we see how the Democrats become diffuse and frightened, how the system becomes unbalanced, and how politics becomes less and less about ideology and more and more about how to gain and keep power. By the end of one of the most dismal political runs in history—Kerry’s 2004 campaign for president—we understand how such traits as courage, spontaneity, and leadership have disappeared from our political landscape.
In a fascinating final chapter, the author refuses to give easy answers since the push for easy answers has long been part of the problem. But he does give thoughtful solutions that just may get us out of this mess—especially if any of the 2008 candidates happen to be paying attention.
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About the author

Joe Klein is a political columnist for Time magazine. He is the author of five previous books, including Primary Colors and The Natural.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Broadway Books
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Published on
Apr 18, 2006
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Pages
208
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ISBN
9780385517720
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / History & Theory
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Democracy
Political Science / Political Process / Campaigns & Elections
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Franklin Roosevelt was not only the first US president to be covered by public opinion polls, but his ratings have consistently exceeded those of all subsequent sitting presidents, save for John F. Kennedy. Moreover, Roosevelt also stands out with a popular appeal that is unsurpassed by any of his successors serving at least a full term. The key to his approval, as this book shows, was wartime leadership, not economic performance. It began with policies preparing the nation for war in the two years before formal entry. To use FDR's own coinage, it was making the United States the "arsenal of democracy" in the battle against tyranny. That pursuit, not the New Deal, earned him high marks with the American people and re-election to an unprecedented third term. World War II--and its heavy human toll--did nothing to diminish FDR's popularity. As such, the FDR experience defies major paradigms of presidential politics. Yet, Roosevelt has been relatively ignored by scholars of public opinion. What can FDR's experience teach us and his successors about rousing broad public support, particularly during wartime? What light does his success shed on the failures of Presidents Truman, Johnson, and George W. Bush in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq? On key issues, mainly with foreign policy, FDR had to contend with an American public that opposed his plans at the outset. Helmut Norpoth argues that Roosevelt had an unparalleled ability for leadership, especially through the fabled "fireside chats" and his appreciation of opinion polls, that enabled him to move the public to embrace his policies. In this book, Norpoth takes an in-depth look at how FDR's leadership swayed public opinion, comparing his experience to his successors to draw broad conclusions about what makes for successful presidential politics.
“Politics is stuck,” writes Bill Bradley, in this insightful, informative, and provocative book about America at a crossroads, but “idealism isn’t dead. It can be reawakened.”

What will it take to make America a better, stronger, truer country? asks the bestselling author, former Knicks star, and onetime presidential candidate. Bill Bradley believes that America is at a teachable moment when we are compelled to reevaluate our political system, our leadership, our agenda as a nation, and ourselves as citizens. With clarity and urgency, Bradley shows why the story we are being told now about who we are as a people is not true. He then offers a new story about our nation, based on America’s rich heritage and his belief in the character of the American people. Bradley explores what changes need to be made in our parties, in our politics, and in citizen activism to ensure America’s future. He asserts that the American people are ready for the truth and suggests that the party that chooses to embrace this new story will be in power for a generation.

Writing from his own experience in politics and drawing on his knowledge of history, Bradley shows how the Republican Party has built a solid pyramid structure since the 1970s, at the base of which are money, ideas, and media, whereas the Democratic Party’s structure is an inverted pyramid, with too much emphasis put on the need for a charismatic leader to hold the pyramid up. Each party, for different reasons, fails to deal with the real issues that now confront America.

This informed and inspiring call to action is addressed not only to the parties and elected leaders, but to citizens as well. Bradley proposes things every American can do to shape our nation’s future. He points out that if eighty percent of the electorate voted, instead of fifty percent, it would be the most important change in American politics since women got the vote. Now more than ever, he says, we need to embrace an “ethic of connectedness,” a combination of collective action and individual responsibility, to solve our nation’s most pressing problems, and he argues that the fate of all countries is bound together as never before. Writing today with the freedom of a private citizen, Bradley provides this transformative and eye-opening book about the danger and the promise of America’s choice at this crucial moment in the nation’s history.
This true story of two decorated combat veterans who find a new way to save their comrades and heal their country is “a great look at two of the best veteran organizations going and the incredible humans who make the effort work” (Jon Stewart).

In Charlie Mike, a true account that “reads like a novel” (Publishers Weekly) and “explodes like a thriller” (The Huffington Post), Klein tells the dramatic story of Eric Greitens and Jake Wood, larger-than-life war heroes who come home and use their military values to help others.

Wounded in Iraq, Navy SEAL Eric Greitens returns home to find that his fellow veterans all want the same thing: to continue to serve their country. He founds The Mission Continues to provide paid public service fellowships for wounded veterans. One of the first fellows is former Marine sergeant Jake Wood, a natural leader who begins Team Rubicon, organizing 9/11 veterans for dangerous disaster relief projects around the world. “We do chaos,” he says.

“A deep and compelling exploration of a group of young veterans determined to continue serving after leaving the military” (The Washington Post), this is a story that hasn’t been told before—a saga of lives saved, not wasted. The chaos these soldiers face isn’t only in the streets of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake or in New York City after Hurricane Sandy—it’s also in the lives of their fellow veterans. Charlie Mike shows how Greitens and Wood draw on the military virtues of discipline and selflessness to guide others towards inner peace and, ultimately, to help build a more vigorous nation.
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