Monday, June 30, 2008

Pg. 99: Rick Shenkman's "Just How Stupid Are We?"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Rick Shenkman's Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter.

About the book, from the publisher:
Levees break in New Orleans. Iraq descends into chaos. The housing market teeters on the brink of collapse. Americans of all political stripes are heading into the 2008 election with the sense that something has gone terribly wrong with American politics. But what exactly? Democrats blame Republicans and Republicans blame Democrats. Greedy corporate executives, rogue journalists, faulty voting machines, irresponsible defense contractors-we blame them, too. The only thing everyone seems to agree on, in fact, is that the American people are entirely blameless. In Just How Stupid Are We?, best-selling historian and renowned myth-buster Rick Shenkman takes aim at our great national piety: the wisdom of the American people. The hard truth is that American democracy is more direct than ever-but voters are misusing, abusing, and abdicating their political power. Americans are paying less and less attention to politics at a time when they need to pay much more: Television has dumbed politics down to the basest possible level, while the real workings of politics have become vastly more complicated. Shenkman offers concrete proposals for reforming our institutions-the government, the media, civic organizations, political parties-to make them work better for the American people. But first, Shenkman argues, we must reform ourselves.
Among the praise for Just How Stupid Are We?:
"A smart, stylish, and witty wrestling match with the most difficult problem a democracy can face."
--Rick Perlstein

"The bad news is that Americans are ignorant, shortsighted, and swayed by meaningless phrases; the good news is that things could get better -- if we start speaking honestly about the problem. Rick Shenkman's book is a crucial starting point in that process."
--John Wiener

"At a moment when Americans are choosing leaders, Rick Shenkman’s brisk, provocative and vigorously argued book implores us to rethink our roles as citizens and improve our political environment. There could not be a better time for this important message."
--Michael Beschloss

"With wit, passion and devastating evidence, Shenkman compels us, the praised and petted "American people," to look in the mirror for an explanation of why our elections are travesties of informed, intelligent debate. Lively and crucial, the book reminds us, however we vote, that there's no such animal as "democracy for dummies."
--Bernard Weisberger
Watch a video and read more about the book and author at the Just How Stupid Are We? blog.

Rick Shenkman is the editor and founder of George Mason University's History News Network.

The Page 99 Test: Just How Stupid Are We?.

--Marshal Zeringue