Democratic Delusions: The Initiative Process in America

Democratic Delusions: The Initiative Process in America

by Richard J. Ellis
     
 

"Offers the sharp wit, strong writing, great stories, and attention to detail that we've come to expect from Ellis's impressive body of work."—Edward L. Lascher, author of The Politics of Automobile Insurance Reform

"Democratic Delusions is a rare accomplishment: first class civic education that is a pleasure to read. Ellis has a lot to offer

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Overview

"Offers the sharp wit, strong writing, great stories, and attention to detail that we've come to expect from Ellis's impressive body of work."—Edward L. Lascher, author of The Politics of Automobile Insurance Reform

"Democratic Delusions is a rare accomplishment: first class civic education that is a pleasure to read. Ellis has a lot to offer American voters everywhere—especially those who wonder exactly what the initiatives on their ballots will actually accomplish."—Nelson W. Polsby, author of Political Innovation in America: The Politics of Policy Initiation

"Highly readable and often provocative, Democratic Delusions boldly challenges the belief that the initiative process gives 'power to the people.'"—Daniel A. Smith, author of Tax Crusaders and the Politics of Direct Democracy

Author Biography: Richard J. Ellis is Mark O. Hatfield Professor of Politics at Willamette University. His other books include The Dark Side of the Left: Illiberal Egalitarianism in America and Presidential Lightning Rods: The Politics of Blame Avoidance, both from Kansas, and, most recently, Founding the American Presidency.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Is the ballot initiative the truest form of democracy, as its supporters claim? No, according to political scientist Ellis (Founding the American Presidency) in this devastating analysis of how the initiative game is played. Only rarely and accidentally, he contends, is the public interest served by the initiative process. In the 1990s, for instance, initiative activists in Oregon, Washington and Colorado gained tremendous visibility and power without any accountability to "the people" they claimed to represent. On one hand, such initiatives are still political, with money and well-organized special interests enjoying powerful advantages; on the other hand, "the people" themselves usually have conflicting interests that legislatures try to balance, but initiatives can ignore. The ballot initiative's first, Populist era American backers saw it as a panacea for confronting entrenched corporate power. Progressive era backers 100 years ago saw it more modestly, as a "gun behind the door," seldom used but always handy to force legislative action. Both groups were misguided, however, says Ellis. Most Progressive reforms passed without the initiative, while at other times, initiatives clogged the ballot (in Oregon in 1912 there were 28 initiatives). Indeed, Ellis shows, the initiative can be counterproductive: the vote for women was significantly delayed by it, he argues politicians were far more supportive of woman suffrage than were voters. Historically revealing, and distressingly up-to-date (he includes examples from the 2000 elections), Ellis masterfully uses vivid cases to illustrate broad underlying problems. This is a book to crystallize simmering discontent. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780700611553
Publisher:
University Press of Kansas
Publication date:
02/28/2002
Series:
Studies in Government and Public Policy
Pages:
264
Product dimensions:
6.32(w) x 9.38(h) x 0.99(d)

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