The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy
The Republicans who run American government today have defied the normal laws of political gravity. They have ruled with the slimmest of majorities and yet have transformed the nation’s governing priorities. They have strayed dramatically from the moderate middle of public opinion and yet have faced little public backlash. Again and again, they have sided with the affluent and ideologically extreme while paying little heed to the broad majority of Americans. And much more often than not, they have come out on top. This book shows why—and why this troubling state of affairs can and must be changed.Written in a highly accessible style by two professional political scientists, Off Center tells the story of a deliberative process restricted and distorted by party chieftains, of unresponsive power brokers subverting the popular will, and of legislation written by and for powerful interests and deliberately designed to mute popular discontent. In the best tradition of engaged social science, Off Center is a powerful and informed critique that points the way toward a stronger foundation for American democracy.
One of the mysteries of contemporary American politics is how, in the wake of triangulating Democrats, a small base of conservative Republicans has steered the country so far to the right. In this book, two political science professors from Yale and Berkeley examine ascendant far-right Republicans and offer a sobering analysis of their strategies, many of which, the authors argue, have weakened the ordinary voter's power to "ensure that American politics remains on center." Closely-argued and very readable, the book never sinks under the weight of its details; the authors use an ironic list of rules like "Don't Just Do Something, Stand There" to give chapter and verse on how the ultra-right "hide their radicalism in a thicket of policy detail" and use poll-driven language to sex-up initiatives lacking popular support. There are excellent passages on the "fiscal chicanery" of recent tax cuts and several damning vignettes of the maneuvers behind corporate energy subsidies, Medicare privatization and the Bush administration's complicity in relaxing environmental and work safety regulations. The authors compare "The New Power Brokers" who guide this revolution (Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Grover Norquist and Tom DeLay) to the Medici, but they emerge from these pages like little Machiavellis: ignoring dissent, threatening to fund the conservative rivals of moderate Republicans and quietly undermining alternative power bases. The authors believe this deep-pocketed elite will control the Republican party for some time to come. If that is true, this book should become required reading for anyone interested in the triumph of the neocons or worried about where they are leading America.