The House of Representatives—the "people's House"—is supposed to be the body of government closest to ordinary citizens, reflecting their needs and desires. But it has drifted from its roots in recent years, as lawmakers have become deaf to voters and fixated on maintaining their power inside the Beltway. Just over a decade ago Republicans wrested control of the chamber from Democrats, who had ruled uninterrupted for four decades. They promised to make the House more open and responsive to voters, and these GOP revolutionaries instituted several reforms that did make the House less corrupt. But over time they have lost this heady spirit of reform, as they’ve punished members who buck the party line and relegated Democrats to the legislative sidelines. Even as Republicans were revamping the House in Washington, party operatives across the country were changing it by redrawing the political maps that decide who gets elected to Congress and who doesn’t. Redistricting - the traditional decennial rite in which the country divvies up citizens into voting blocs and maps out new congressional seats in all 50 states - is an inside game that gets little attention outside academia and a tight circle of political pundits. But it is key in understanding why men and women on the far right and far left now control the levers of power in Washington. House members now hail from overwhelmingly Democratic or Republican districts, which means that they spend most of their time catering to their party’s base. And once they win their first race they are virtually assured of reelection for as long as they wish, giving them little incentive to focus on what their constituents want, or need. We are now facing a national divide, in which lawmakers are less accountable to the public and more beholden to party leaders. Fight Club Politics will show how our current political system has silenced the average American voter, and how ordinary citizens can reclaim the institution that claims to represent them. Published in coo
In her years reporting on the House, Eilperin discovered many of [Congress's] dysfunctions, maladies that she describes accurately and admirably.
It would be difficult to be more fair and balanced than Eilperin has been. . . . While she finds both Republicans and Democrats at fault for the current state of affairs, her journalistic analysis of the 'dysfunctional' House hold Republicans responsible, in particular, for failing to honor their promises.
- Jonathan E. Kaplan
Eilperin adds to our understanding of Congress, and as a short history of the House Fight Club Politics should be required reading for political-science students, news editors and reporters, as well as [political] junkies.
Partisanship and incivility are hardly novel phenomena in American politics. The new ingredient seems to be ideological polarization. Among politicans, there are fewer and fewer conservative Democrats or liberal Republicans, and "centrists" are a disappearing breed. In Fight Club Politics, Juliet Eilperin investigates the relationship between polarization, partisanship, and incivility in contemporary politics and explores its consequences for the day to day workings of the House of Representatives. Neither Democrats nor Republicans will agree with everything she says on controversial questions such as redistricting, but anyone who reads the book carefully will find in it important insights as well as provocative suggestions for restoring civility in "the people's House."
David S. Broder
Today's House of Representatives is a more brittle, rigid and combative institution than anything earlier generations could have imagined—or the Founding Fathers desired. Juliet Eilperin, who knows the place well, tells what has transformed it—and what the costs and consequences have been. You'll understand the House much better when you see it through her eyes.
If you hate the left-right rancor of American politics, this book compellingly tells you how it came about—and what it will take to recreate a civil House of Representatives dedicated to solving America's problems.
Nelson W. Polsby
The Washington Post embedded Juliet Eilperin on Capitol Hill for the embattled first years of the on-going Republican so-called revolution. Fight Club Politics is a distillation of her dispatches from the trenches of the House of Representatives, giving many gruesome details about who did what to whom. Readers can learn here why Congressional politics these days is not for sissies, and only occasionally for the minimally civil.
Fight Club Politics is a nice complement to much of the academic work in recent years on the causes of declining electoral competition and increasing party polarization and the effects of these changes on the U.S. House. The book is a kind of ethnography of the transformations in the House over recent years, with accounts from many insiders and viewed through the lens of a journalist who has covered the House for many years. I happily recommend it.
... a terrific book. I have not seen a more cogent explanation of the current problems facing the so-called Peoples' Branch.
- John J. Pitney Jr
...a skillfully concise treatment of House politics since the early 1990s.
Juliet Eilperin has been a Washington Post reporter since 1998. She was a contributor to Deadlock: The Inside Story of America's Closest Election (2001) about the 2000 presidential election. She lives in Washington, D.C., where she was born and raised.
Chapter 1 Introduction: Revolution and Redistricting Chapter 2 1. Revamping the House of Representatives Chapter 3 2. Tearing Washington's Social Fabric Apart Chapter 4 3. Legislating without a Partnership Chapter 5 4. House Centrists Disappear Chapter 6 5. Reshaping America's Political Map Chapter 7 6. The Road to Redistricting Reform Chapter 8 7. How to Restore Civility to the House Chapter 9 Appendix A: Key Congressional Players Chapter 10 Appendix B: Congressional Speeches