The longest continuous majority in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives came to a dramatic close with the 1994 midterm elections. The Democratic Party had controlled the House for forty years—two and a half times as long as any previous majority. In Cheap Seats, James E. Campbell considers the reasons why the Democrats dominated House elections for four decades and why they ultimately lost that control.
Examining the structural advantages that helped congressional Democrats, Campbell finds that their unprecedented success in the House was due in no small measure to a favorable election system, an advantage in the way in which votes are translated into House seats. His straightforward analysis indicates that Democrats consistently win most of the very-low-turnout districts, or “cheap seats.” In fact, because of the party's continued hold on such districts, the new Democratic minority is considerably larger than it would otherwise have been.
Cheap Seats is a thorough and innovative investigation into the electoral system's impact on partisan politics and representation in Congress. Campbell presents an impressive array of evidence, including both quantitative analysis of election returns from 1936 to 1994 and in-depth studies of several cheap-seat districts. He also explores the important theoretical issues of representation that cheap seats raise and offers several proposals to reform the system. This well-written and provocative volume is accessible to anyone interested in American politics, in addition to scholars especially interested in the areas of Congress, elections, electoral systems, and political parties.
A brilliant and timely reflection on irony in contemporary American culture
“This book is a powerful and persuasive defense of sophisticated irony and subtle humor that contributes to the possibility of a genuine civic trust and democratic life. R. Jay Magill deserves our congratulations for a superb job!”
—Cornel West, University Professor, Princeton University
“A well-written, well-argued assessment of the importance of irony in contemporary American social life, along with the nature of recent misguided attacks and, happily, a deep conviction that irony is too important in our lives to succumb. The book reflects wide reading, varied experience, and real analytical prowess.”
—Peter Stearns, Provost, George Mason University
“Somehow, Americans—a pragmatic and colloquial lot, for the most part—are now supposed to speak the Word, without ironic embellishment, in order to rebuild the civic culture. So irony’s critics decide it has become ‘worthy of moral condemnation.’ Magill pushes back against this new conventional wisdom, eloquently defending a much livelier American sensibility than the many apologists for a somber ‘civic culture’ could ever acknowledge."
—William Chaloupka, Chair and Professor, Department of Political Science, Colorado State University
The events of 9/11 had many pundits on the left and right scrambling to declare an end to the Age of Irony. But six years on, we're as ironic as ever. From The Simpsons and Borat to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, the ironic worldview measures out a certain cosmopolitan distance, keeping hypocrisy and threats to personal integrity at bay.
Chic Ironic Bitterness is a defense of this detachment, an attitude that helps us preserve values such as authenticity, sincerity, and seriousness that might otherwise be lost in a world filled with spin, marketing, and jargon. And it is an effective counterweight to the prevailing conservative view that irony is the first step toward cynicism and the breakdown of Western culture.
R. Jay Magill, Jr., is a writer and illustrator whose work has appeared in American Prospect, American Interest, Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Policy, International Herald Tribune, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Print, amongother periodicals and books. A former Harvard Teaching Fellow and Executive Editor of DoubleTake, he holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Hamburg in Germany. This is his first book.
The fall of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 marked, in one famous formulation, the "end of history." In his apocalyptic novel Coming from an Off-Key Time, Bogdan Suceavă satirizes the events in his native Romania since the violent end of the Ceauşescu regime that fateful year.
Suceavă uses three interrelated narratives to illustrate the destructive power of Romanian society’s most powerful mythologies. He depicts madness of all kinds but especially religious beliefs and their perversion by all manner of outrageous sects. Here horror and humor reside impossibly in the same time and place, and readers experience the vertiginous feeling of living in the middle of a violent historical upheaval.
Even as Coming from an Off-Key Time suggests the influence of such writers as Mikhail Bulgakov, the fantastic satirist of the early Soviet Union, Suceavă engages the complexities of a quickly changing country in search of its bearings and suspicious of its past. Bogdan Suceavă is an associate professor of mathematics at California State University, Fullerton. One of Romanian literature’s most promising and original young writers, he is the author of four novels, two books of short stories, and several collections of poems.
Alistair Ian Blyth’s previous translations include Filip Florian, Little Fingers (2009); Lucian Dan Teodorovici, Our Circus Presents (2009); and Catalin Avramescu’s An Intellectual History of Cannibalism (2009).
Ever since the Warren Commission concluded that a lone gunman assassinated President John F. Kennedy, people who doubt that finding have been widely dismissed as conspiracy theorists, despite credible evidence that right-wing elements in the CIA, FBI, and Secret Service—and possibly even senior government officials—were also involved. Why has suspicion of criminal wrongdoing at the highest levels of government been rejected out-of-hand as paranoid thinking akin to superstition?
Conspiracy Theory in America investigates how the Founders’ hard-nosed realism about the likelihood of elite political misconduct—articulated in the Declaration of Independence—has been replaced by today’s blanket condemnation of conspiracy beliefs as ludicrous by definition. Lance deHaven-Smith reveals that the term “conspiracy theory” entered the American lexicon of political speech to deflect criticism of the Warren Commission and traces it back to a CIA propaganda campaign to discredit doubters of the commission’s report. He asks tough questions and connects the dots among five decades’ worth of suspicious events, including the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, the attempted assassinations of George Wallace and Ronald Reagan, the crimes of Watergate, the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages deal, the disputed presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, the major defense failure of 9/11, and the subsequent anthrax letter attacks.
Sure to spark intense debate about the truthfulness and trustworthiness of our government, Conspiracy Theory in America offers a powerful reminder that a suspicious, even radically suspicious, attitude toward government is crucial to maintaining our democracy.
Contributors. Geoff Eley, Konrad Jarausch, Herbert Kitschelt, Christiane Lemke, Andrei Markovits, Gary Marks, Wolfgang Merkel, Norman Naimark, Iván and Szonja Szelénya, Sharon Wolchik
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