Town Square Discussion on Partisanship and Book Signing by Ray LaHood

The only elected Republican selected for President Obama’s Cabinet, former U.S. transportation secretary and congressman Ray LaHood sought to bridge the partisan divide between the new Democratic administration and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

In 2015, LaHood, along with coauthor Dr. Frank H. Mackaman of The Dirksen Congressional Center, released their book Seeking Bipartisanship: My Life in Politics, which has been highly praised by both Democrats and Republicans.

On Sunday, August 13, 2017, LaHood will discuss partisanship in politics. The discussion will be moderated by Rick Pearson, the Chicago Tribune chief political reporter, and is part of Aurora University’s Town Square Series. LaHood will be signing copies of his book after the event. The book can be purchased on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For more information on the event and to register, click here.

Ray LaHood

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74% Want GOP Lawmakers to Try Seeking Bipartisanship

A Fox News Poll taken Sunday through Tuesday finds that “74 percent want GOP lawmakers to reach out to Democrats and try to find a compromise.  That includes 86 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans.”

Can the Republicans engage in seeking bipartisanship? One has already done so. The only elected Republican selected for President Obama’s Cabinet, Ray LaHood noted:

“I came to believe, and I still do, that government can be helpful, that government can solve problems, that Democrats and Republicans can work together. This seemed like common sense at the time; only later did I discover how unpopular that view would prove to be.”

For an insider’s account of what it is like to try to reach across the aisles, read LaHood’s book Seeking Bipartisanship: My Life in Politics coauthored with Frank H. Mackaman.

Ray LaHood

Cambria Press Book Highlight: Seeking Bipartisanship

As budget debates continue in Washington, will President Donald Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan be realized or will it fall through? The infrastructure issue is one which President Obama’s administration attempted to address too.

Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was just interviewed on the National Journal about this and he also discussed the problem in his book, Seeking Bipartisanship:

When the new president [Obama] took office, most everyone accepted the need for action on transportation. They knew where the bad roads were. They knew about bad bridges that needed to be fixed. They knew we suffered with outdated transit systems. But we could never figure out a way to pay for the fixes. The administration would not lobby for an increase in the gas tax when it had the votes. Republicans in the House would have blocked the increase once they regained control of the House. The infrastructure bank never gained traction, although it could have supplemented the Highway Trust Fund. We never figured out how to pay for a transportation bill that matched the president’s rhetoric.

Politico has predicted that President Trump’s “hopes for a ‘very bipartisan’ bill are running into the same kinds of political forces that torpedoed the Obamacare repeal.”

Why is bipartisanship so elusive? Secretary LaHood’s book provides a rare inside account of how politics work in Washington. Order Seeking Bipartisanship on Amazon today for this fascinating read into the everyday life of Washington politics.

Ray LaHood

Title: Seeking Bipartisanship: My Life in Politics
Editors: Ray LaHood with Frank H. Mackaman
Publisher: Cambria Press
ISBN: 9781604979053
360 pp.  |   2015   |  Paperback & E-book
Book Webpage:

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Jockeying for the American Presidency

#2016Election #APSA2015 Cambria Press publication author review

#APSA2015 Lara Brown will be chairing PRESIDENTS IN CONTEXT: POLITICAL TIME AND POLARIZATION on Saturday at 8 a.m. (Hilton, Powell Room) and is the discussant for PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION IN A POLARIZED AGE (Hilton, Franciscan D) at 4:15 p.m.

Cambria Press publication

Jockeying for the American Presidency
(Chapter Excerpts)

Chapter 1: Presidential Selection and Aspirant Opportunism

“…to say that all presidents are opportunists does not mean that they are all the same. As previously mentioned, the opportunism of the presidents most probably varies across the individuals who have held the office. Aside from innate character differences and aptitudes, each president acquired his opportunistic abilities from a unique set of professional and political experiences (e.g., legal practice, military service, partisan campaign activity, and other elected or appointed office), which includes their presidential campaign. Through trial and error as well as observation and imitation, they discovered which behaviors and attitudes—personal style—worked best for them in the political arena. Through the instruction of others, they also learned the more general strategies known to turn political opportunities to one’s advantage (e.g., “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”). Each president also tends to possess a “trick” or two that they rely on to make the most of the situations they find themselves in. Further, each president is likely to exploit opportunities in the ways that are most suitable to his time. Thus, although opportunism is a common trait among the presidents, it does not always show itself in a similar manner.”

Chapter 2: Parties, Aspirants, and Opportunities in History

“The major-party nominees are typically equally and highly qualified (experienced, opportunistic, etc.), and as such, the outcome of the general election does not necessarily turn on the aspirant (unless that aspirant is an incumbent president or their opponent possesses a substantially low level of aspirant opportunism), but instead on exogenous factors (e.g., the economy) and political conditions (e.g., each party’s prior electoral success). Still, the estimates reveal that these personal characteristics (breadth of experience, opportunism, etc.) help presidential aspirants win. That said, the presidential selection method does not appear to be working as it had in the past—in terms of favoring experienced aspirants—and this may be a cause for concern.”

Chapter 3: Presidential Winners from the Early Party Era

“The presidential aspirants in the Early Party Era guided the establishment of the two major political parties in America. The institutions they created, although they continuously changed, persisted because each presidential aspirant developed structures, procedures, and networks to help him win. The structures that they built to communicate a persuasive message and move people to the polls became more sophisticated over time as more people were included in the political process. The challenge these aspirants created for future aspirants was how to control these inherited structures and how to ensure that one’s party continues to serve the aspirant’s ambition, rather than the other way around.”

Chapter 4: Presidential Winners from the Strong Party Era

“Unlike the previous aspirants who rose to power by balancing partisanship and republican statesmanship, the aspirants from the Strong Party Era were successful because they balanced partisanship with the democratic demands for political reform.”

Chapter 5: Presidential Winners from the Modern Party Era

“This chapter considers some of the recent changes in the presidential selection process and presents case studies of Ronald Reagan, William J. Clinton, and George W. Bush. These stories reveal that whereas these modern aspirants exhibited opportunistic behaviors (resilience, tenacity, flexibility, etc.) similar to their predecessors, they were more dependent on the strategies crafted by political professionals than the aspirants from previous eras.”

Chapter 6: Presidential Losers from Each Era

“[…] losers, like winners, structure the context within which winners win. This chapter investigates three high-profile presidential losers (one from each of the three political eras): Henry Clay, Thomas Dewey, and John Kerry. These cases were chosen because they involved experienced, credible aspirants who lost elections that were competitive and closely decided. In short, they could have won, but they did not. Further, these contests seem to have turned on the losers’ missteps rather than the winners’ achievements. Hence, these losers appear to have created opportunities for the winners to win.”

Chapter 7: An Abundance of Opportunism: The 2008 Presidential Election

“On reflection, a few features about the 2008 election stand out. First, aspirant opportunism abounded. Throughout the nomination contests, the front-runners were looking for ways to game the rules, crafting their rhetoric to appeal to subsets of voters they were targeting, and adapting, imitating, and improvising their strategies on the fly. Although Obama’s team was the most successful in terms of executing the plan they originally designed, they also found themselves having to reposition and outmaneuver their opponents’ successful strategies. Second, along the way in the multiple competitions that take place during a campaign, the losses of the winners as well as the legacies left by the losers—both intentional and unplanned—structured the field as much as the winners’ achievements.. Third, until the economic collapse, the boosts of momentum that the different candidates enjoyed, particularly during the nomination contests, were surprisingly moderate. They were more ephemeral than in campaigns past, suggesting perhaps how successful many of these aspirants were in prodding their supporters to challenge the national media memes on the Internet and to engage in local activities—whether they were meet-ups, rallies, or town halls—and thus alter the state of the race.”

Conclusion: Opportunistic Aspirants and the Methods of Selection

“It should be understood that presidents are politicians whose behaviors are structured by the Electoral College and the path they pursued to earn their party’s nomination. Although their constituency is all of America, their electoral success is achieved through partisan and federal structures. Lastly, while eliminating the Electoral College may satisfy the aims of some reformers, it may also prove detrimental to not only the quality of the aspirants fielded and the presidents selected, but also to the security of the nation and the stability of its constitutional design. Thus, as the Framers understood, a presidential selection process is inextricably connected to executive power— altering the method changes the authority—and to neglect this in the study of the presidency is imprudent and may even be foolhardy.”

About the author: Lara M. Brown, Ph.D., is an associate professor and the program director of the Political Management Program in the Graduate School of Political Management at The George Washington University. Follow her on Twitter: @LaraMBrownPHD.

This book is part of the Politics, Institutions, and Public Policy in America (PIPPA) book series  (Editors: Scott Frisch and Sean Kelly). See more well-reviewed books in the Cambria Press PIPPA Series.

Order the hardcover by October 13 (1st Democratic Presidential Debate)
and get 30% off + Free Shipping!
Use coupon code APSA2015.
Libraries can use this code. Valid only for publisher-direct sales.

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Can the American Elections be Saved?

#2016Election POTUS #APSA2015 Cambria Press Publication review academic publisher

#2016Election #MUSTREAD

Cambria Press publication:

Saving American Elections
(Chapter Excerpts)

From Section I: Diagnosis

Chapter 1: Symptoms

Although Americans have many opportunities to vote, large proportions of the citizenry (majorities in most cases) often do not exercise their right to do so (figure 1.9 summarizes typical levels of participation for various types of elections in the United States). These low levels of voting represent the most visible symptom that something is wrong with U.S. elections. And if we expect elections to be the principal means for the governed to control their governments, such low levels of voter participation are harmful to democracy. The bulk of the evidence of political science research shows that low voter turnout is relevant: when fewer people vote, the voting public ceases to reflect the needs and desires of the public as a whole (in terms of social class, age, etc.), and the governments chosen by such voters become less representative of the majority—and consequently, less democratic.

Chapter 2: The Disease

U.S. elections are suffering from an illness characterized by an absence of competitive elections, by lack of political equality, by failing supportive institutions, and by a fatigued electorate. These are the ailments that produce the symptoms, more visible than their causes, of low voter turnout, political cynicism, and a poorly informed public.

Chapter 3: The Causes

If a person’s environment causes a great deal of stress, for example, or causes breathing difficulties, he or she becomes more likely to fall ill. The same is true of elections. The “disease” that is making U.S. elections ill must be considered separately from the unhealthy behaviors and the environment, factors that increase elections’ susceptibility to dysfunction and make the system less likely to recover quickly. In this chapter, I identify several leading contributors to the poor health of U.S. elections: (1) the current legal environment surrounding elections, particularly campaign-finance law, redistricting, and election administration; (2) the structure of U.S. elections; (3) the nature of the mass media in the United States; and (4) the behavior and choices of the candidates and the public.

Section II: Prescription

Chapter 4: The News Media

Elections in the United States depend heavily on the mass media to inform the electorate of their choices on the ballot and to act as referees of the campaign discourse. By almost any account, the media have failed to provide that support, thus contributing to the poor health of U.S. elections. The key reason is that the mass media in the United States are owned by private businesses whose main motivation is profit. That basic fact is unlikely to change, thus prescriptions for improving the health of U.S. elections through changes in the mass media must, as those suggested here do, work around that circumstance. The proposals offered here would probably help the system if they were implemented apart from any other changes, but the impact they might have on the health of elections would be greatly enhanced if they were adopted in conjunction with the reforms discussed in the following chapters.

Chapter 5: Electoral Structure and Institutional Changes

The basic structure of elections, in terms of who is elected, when, and by what means plays an important role in the way elections operate. Poorly structured elections make it difficult for citizens to use elections as a means of popular control of government and give some citizens a more important role than others. Thus any attempt at restoring U.S. elections to health must address the problems generated by the way elections are structured.

Chapter 6: Political Parties and Politicians

Although the American political parties have become involved in the practice of some activities that are detrimental to U.S. elections, healthy elections are unimaginable without strong, competitive political parties. In order to encourage the use of political parties as a means of structuring the choice in elections around philosophies of governance, one thing that needs to change is the rhetoric of the Democratic and Republican Parties and their candidates. If the rhetoric of partisans were more substantive, if it focused on the real nature of the choice that the parties offer voters (and not on irrelevant matters designed to distract voters or divert them from voting according to their overall interests), then members of the public could better understand what their electoral choices truly mean. … Campaign finance laws need to be altered to ensure that the bulk of the money in the campaign system flows through the political parties, and some adjustments are also needed in the way that parties use money on behalf of their candidates—adjustments to make elections more broadly competitive.

Chapter 7: Election Law and Administration

Electoral competition is the lifeblood of elections; without it voters’ chance to hold elected officials responsible or to effect desired changes in their government is limited. As I document in this chapter, laws that govern campaign finance and redistricting play a key role in determining the levels of competition in legislative contests. The laws as they exist today do more to diminish competition than to encourage it. So an important part of the plan to restore health to U.S. elections involves changing these laws in the manner prescribed in order to encourage greater interparty competition. The way the United States manages the act of voting could also be improved in order to ensure equal treatment of voters and to avoid crises in the legitimacy of elections when contests are close.

Chapter 8: The Public

the public must shoulder its share of the responsibility for the poor health of elections. Having people take responsibility for the state of elections and democracy, I might also point out, is the ideologically conservative solution for electoral problems. … Therefore part of nursing U.S. elections back to health requires that the American public break away from these bad habits. Democracy in the United States needs citizens (1) to see elections for what they are, namely, instruments of power for aggregations of like-minded people; (2) as a logical consequence of that more realistic view of elections, to vote based on the party, not the person; (3) to replace some of the time they spend watching television with reading about government and politics, and in the process support good journalism; (4) to become more involved their communities; and (5) to become thoughtful skeptics rather than reactionary cynics.

Saving American Elections: A Diagnosis and Prescription for a Healthier Democracy by Anthony Gierzynski has earned rave reviews from journals and experts. The book is a must read for the 2016 election.

Saving American Elections is part of the Politics, Institutions, and Public Policy in America (PIPPA) book series  (Editors: Scott Frisch and Sean Kelly). See more well-reviewed books in the Cambria Press PIPPA Series.

About the author: Anthony Gierzynski is Professor of Political Science at the University of Vermont and the Director of the James M. Jeffords Center’s Vermont Legislative Research Service.

Order the hardcover by October 13 (1st Democratic Presidential Debate)
and get 30% off + Free Shipping!
Use coupon code APSA2015.
Libraries can use this code. Valid only for publisher-direct sales.

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Election Day: “Vote the PARTY, not the person” – Anthony Gierzynski, Saving American Elections


American Elections Vote

If you think the American elections are in a sorry state, this is the book to read–Saving American Elections by Anthony Gierzynski

Political scientist Anthony Gierzynski (University of Vermont) fully recognizes that “the petty, superficial, and distorted nature of partisan debate leaves voters without a sense of what the candidates and their parties represent.” (Saving American Elections, p. 83) and that “elections require that voters pay attention, gather enough information to make an informed choice, register to vote, and vote” (p.87).

With voter fatigue already setting in, this much-needed book prescribes the following so that American voters can do their part in saving American elections:

• Think about elections not as acts of individual expression but in terms of how the actions of aggregations of like-minded people facilitate the exercise of power by choosing similarly like-minded governments
• Vote the party, not the person;
• Gain an awareness of the shortcomings of television’s way of knowing about politics, replace thirty minutes of television time with reading good journalism about politics and government, and join a group
• Be skeptics, not cynics

Saving American Elections has been praised not only by noted political scientists but also by CHOICE, the premier book reviews journal for academic libraries, which recommends the book for all readership levels because “presenting the material in a simple, logical manner … Gierzynski is clear to identify the symptoms by scouring the very rich literature on voting and elections … [and] reviews the many reform ideas presented in previous research … One of the more interesting prescriptions involves a new civic curriculum to teach the public to think of elections as a way to participate in community decisions and less as an individual expression of opinion.”

Browse this book now using the Free Preview tool and recommend it to your library.

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