The Parties vs. The People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans

Book Group Update – Notes from last Book Club May 6, 2013
Carol Kuniholm

The League’s new book group met on May 6 to discuss The Parties vs. The People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans, by Mickey Edwards. Edwards highlights specific aspects of election law that have led to increasing partisan polarity, and suggests practical ways to reverse this.

The book discussion focused on aspects most pertinent to Pennsylvania: closed primaries that disenfranchise independent voters, and ballot access rules that make it difficult for independent or 3rd party candidates to appear on the ballot, redrawn districts that guarantee party control of most districts, and campaign finance laws that “permit political parties, and thus party leaders, to play significant, often decisive roles in congressional races, helping to create a Congress in which legislators not only feel a strong sense of obligation to party leaders but are aware that their future success may depend on not alienating these leaders.”

The group’s discussion focused on the first three of Edward’s recommendations:

Step One: Take Away the Right of the Parties to Control Access to the Ballot

Step Two: Take Away the Parties’ Control over Redistricting

Step Three: Reduce Spending, Increase Competition

PALWV has partnered with Common Cause PA on some of these issues, and has a strong statement on apportionment and redistricting. Pennsylvania is one of only 13 states with completely closed primary elections, and according to the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition, “No other state puts such a heavy burden on its independent and third party candidates.”

The next book group meeting will be on July 1, at 10:30 AM at the Second Reading II bookstore.

The book will be Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, by Cynthia Freeland, digital editor at Thomson Reuters. She has been a finance reporter for The Economist, The Washington Post, and the Financial Times. Plutocrats has been described as “the definitive examination of inequality in our time.


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