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These closing weeks of summer has us absorbed with political conventions, rhetorical excesses and looking for that extra effort in behalf of our favorite candidates. Many of us will choose to register and canvass voters, and help overcome the obstacles placed in front of voters participating in this election. We want a genuine democratic election and have to worry that the self-styled voter fraud laws put a democratic election at a real risk.
Once the election is over, hopefully fairly and cleanly resolved, we have to make decisions, deal with urgent public problems and reach majority decisions in our legislative bodies, especially within the U.S. Congress.
During this this politically active period, three books help put us on the road to get things done with accountability. These books have energized me for future efforts to do our public work by being engaged citizens. So I suggest you read It's Even Worse Than It Looks, by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein (Basic Books, $24.99); The Party Is Over, by Mike Lofgren (Viking, $25.95); and The Politics of Voter Suppression, by Tova Andrea Wang (Cornell Univ., $24.99).
Each of these books is accessible, crisply written and filled with practical steps to change our political and policy systems so that those systems are not captured by political extremism. Mann and Ornstein (Brookings and AEI) show us the way to restore majority
rule in the Senate and no longer have serious issues buried under the table by the harmful filibuster. They suggest ways of changing our political culture by attacking distortions, tribalism and fostering the give and take of public discussion.
Mike Lofgren, a Republican senior analyst for the House and Senate Budget Committees, knows the system from the inside. Lofgren's strength is that he has not been captured by the culture that allows extremism and mindlessness to dominate. Good examples for Republican Lofgren are the GOP presidential candidates' budget plans that are "math-challenged." Lofgren then shows how a majority the members of the House and Senate defense committees have been captured by the special interests.
Tova Andrea Wang shows why voter suppression, rooted in our history, is illegitimate. Yet we have a countering tradition that increases participation. Wang weaves the historic with the contemporary, the harmful and the positive. What I love about Wang's contribution is that she recognizes the value of citizens organizing to help people get registered and participate. Through organizing, and helping others, we navigate and overcome the barriers.
- David Cohen