Monday, October 30, 2006

Pg. 69: "Does American Democracy Still Work?"

Alan Wolfe is professor of political science and director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. His most recent book is Does American Democracy Still Work?

I asked him to apply the "page 69 test" to his book. Here is what he reported:
Prompted by my colleagues at The New Republic, I rose to the challenge and looked at what I had written on p. 69 of my recent book, Does American Democracy Still Work? Hey, I liked what I found there -- no surprise, I guess, since I wrote it. The sixty-ninth page of my book lands the reader smack dab in a discussion of accountability, and at the present moment -- just days before an accountability election -- the subject could not be more important. So great is the gap between people and their political system, I argue, that we have lost even the most minimal conceptions of holding America's leaders accountable for their actions. Indeed, non-accountability seems to be contagious: the president does not fire his Defense Secretary, college football teams fight and are barely punished, and even America's most famous recent felon, Ken Lay, died and had his guilty plea overturned. So what will Americans do in 2006? I hope they decide to prove me wrong in what I wrote on p. 69 and hold the party in power accountable for what it has done.
Thanks to Alan for the input.

Click here to read Chapter One from Does American Democracy Still Work? Click here for the table of contents and here to peruse the index.

To read only a few of the many excellent reviews Does American Democracy Still Work? has received, click here.

Matthew Dallek reviewed the book for the Washington Post:
Wolfe's thesis that our civic life has been degraded by cultural warriors armed with populist bazookas is provocative and fresh. By weaving together the findings of political scientists with journalistic observations about the Iraq War and other developments, he shows that the franchise is not the only gauge of democracy's performance and captures the ways in which conservative Republicans have fostered an opaque, unjust, unrepresentative political system in recent years.... In the end, Wolfe's argument that a toxic brew of right-wing populism and moralistic politics has riven the nation and made it more difficult for American leaders to address public problems is convincing.
To listen to a conversation with Alan Wolfe on where we're headed, as a democracy, and what to do about it, click here.

Last month Alan asked:
Did it finally happen here? I've always been a skeptic of Sinclair Lewis's sloppily written novel of 1935--and equally skeptical of all those left-wingers who predict, sometimes with barely repressed glee, a fascist takeover of the United States. But there is no doubting that something finally happened this week. It is not just that Congress is about to give the president the authority to collect anyone, including an American citizen, off the street to be indefinitely imprisoned as an enemy combatant.... [read more here]
Recently, Wolfe asked (and answered): "Should We Shut Up About Diversity?"

"Tempting Faith is the story of how David Kuo, an unassuming if ambitious young man, discovered the wonder-filled joy flowing from devotion to a force more powerful than himself," opens Wolfe's most recent book review. "I don't mean that he found God, ... the object of his reverence lived not in Nazareth, but in Austin."

Previous "page 69 tests":
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue