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Politics Is for Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change

Politics Is for Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change

by Eitan Hersh


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A brilliant condemnation of political hobbyism—treating politics like entertainment—and a call to arms for well-meaning, well-informed citizens who consume political news, but do not take political action.

Who is to blame for our broken politics? The uncomfortable answer to this question starts with ordinary citizens with good intentions. We vote (sometimes) and occasionally sign a petition or attend a rally. But we mainly “engage” by consuming politics as if it’s a sport or a hobby. We soak in daily political gossip and eat up statistics about who’s up and who’s down. We tweet and post and share. We crave outrage. The hours we spend on politics are used mainly as pastime.

Instead, we should be spending the same number of hours building political organizations, implementing a long-term vision for our city or town, and getting to know our neighbors, whose votes will be needed for solving hard problems. We could be accumulating power so that when there are opportunities to make a difference—to lobby, to advocate, to mobilize—we will be ready. But most of us who are spending time on politics today are focused inward, choosing roles and activities designed for our short-term pleasure. We are repelled by the slow-and-steady activities that characterize service to the common good.

In Politics Is for Power, pioneering and brilliant data analyst Eitan Hersh shows us a way toward more effective political participation. Aided by political theory, history, cutting-edge social science, as well as remarkable stories of ordinary citizens who got off their couches and took political power seriously, this book shows us how to channel our energy away from political hobbyism and toward empowering our values.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781982116781
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 01/14/2020
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 602,046
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Eitan Hersh received a PhD from Harvard University in 2011. He served for six years on the faculty of Yale University as assistant professor of political science and resident fellow of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies before becoming a tenured associate professor of political science at Tufts University. His peer-reviewed articles have been published in the major political science journals. Hersh is the author of Hacking the Electorate and Politics Is for Power.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part I

1 Refresh the Feed 15

2 Staten Island, Staten Island, Take Me In 20

3 Rooting for the Team 29

4 Precinct 206 37

5 Voting, or Not 46

6 Voice of Westmoreland 51

7 Like, Share, Click 59

8 The Russians of Brighton 64

9 Selfish Donor, Seine Donor 74

Part II

10 Political Leisure 87

11 Whose Hobby? 94

12 Politically Spiritual, but Not Religious 101

Part III

13 Hobbyist Provocateur 109

14 Outrage and Compromise 117

15 Bringing Out the Worst in Us 127

16 Gateway Slacktivism 134

Part IV

17 The Dukakis Buffet 147

18 Rage Against the Machine 160

19 The Verbalist Elite 170

20 Fear and Fate 182

Part V

21 Learning to Want Power 199

22 To-Do Lists 210

Acknowledgments 219

Notes 223

Bibliography 251

Index 265

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