You Call This an Election?

America's Peculiar Democracy

Steven E. Schier

"Everyone agrees that the American electoral system is broken but Steven Schier is one of the few people who knows how to fix it. This book should be read by every citizen."
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Those who do not have their heads buried too deeply in partisan sands will know that there is something awry with the American form of electoral democracy. Florida's continuing ability to misplace votes recently and in the 2000 Presidential election is only part of the iceberg we have been made privy to-and Steven Schier takes a good, hard, evaluative look not only at what is there in plain sight, but that which lurks below the surface (and not only in Florida and not only with the electoral college). He further proposes practical improvements that will make our surprisingly peculiar democratic processes healthy, whole, and responsive again.

Identifying four essential evaluative criteria for a democracy that genuinely works, Schier asks us to examine the degree to which our system promotes political stability, the degree to which our elected officials are held accountable, what the problems are with voter turnout and how to improve it, and asks for a meaningful scrutiny of governmental policy.

No look at our peculiar democracy would be complete without an examination of other established democracies, nor a look at how special interests warp political parties and the concept of majority rule. The solution to many of our electoral problems, Schier argues, lies in enhancing the roles and influence of political parties. Schier proposes reforms that include broadening voter registration; giving parties large blocks of free TV time; adopting one-punch partisan ballots, making it easier for voters to cast a straight-party vote; abandoning initiatives which clutter up the ballot; and utilizing party-based financing to boost voter turnout. With these proposals, he encourages the creative consideration of election reform, and shows how the Florida 2000 race may have played out had these suggestions been in place.

Schier's book appeals to any and every citizen interested in our electoral system and its role in governmental politics. It is invaluable for professionals in political science and ideal for students in American government, political parties, elections, and political behavior courses, as well for political scientists. Any citizens concerned about the conduct of American elections will discover here a fresh and focused analysis of our problems at the ballot box.

Table of Contents



1. What an Electoral System Can Do

2. Compared to What?

3. Why Turnout Fell

4. Direct Democracy or Legislative Government?

5. Four Controversies

6. What Sort of Democracy?

Conclusion: Less Peculiar





"An analysis that is once rich and lucid. This book is a keeper, not only as a stimulus to sorting and ranking personal political values, but also as a useful reference work—it is chock full of information. The bibliography is extensive, the text provides easy source and page references, the organization is excellent, and the argument flows smoothly. [Schier's] students must love his classes."—Political Science Quarterly

"Everyone agrees that the American electoral system is broken but Steven Schier is one of the few people who knows how to fix it. This book should be read by every citizen."—Benjamin Ginsberg, Johns Hopkins University

"With clarity and erudition, Schier cuts to the heart of the peculiar form of democracy practiced in the United States. You Call This an Election? will appeal to the students of American democracy of all ages experiences, and perspectives."—John C. Green, director, Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, University of Akron

"Here's a guaranteed stimulant for lively class discussion in any Politics course, graduate or undergraduate. Professor Schier's accessible and creative look at American elections will cause every reader to reconsider the way we conduct the business of democracy."—Larry J. Sabato, director, Center for Politics, University of Virginia

"After the contested 2000 presidential election, many analysts focused on the inequities of the electoral college. In this well-written and perceptive book, You Call this an Election?, Steven E. Schier asks a much more important question: Just how democratic are we? The answers are not especially reassuring. Students will find this volume challenges their thinking and promotes a heightened level of political awareness."—John Kenneth White, The Catholic University of America


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Steven E. Schier is the Dorothy H. and Edward C. Congdon Professor of Political Science at Carleton College. He is the author of eight books and numerous scholarly articles. He recently completed a Fulbright senior lectureship at York University in Toronto and serves on the board of The Dirksen Center for Congressional Studies. Schier has contributed articles to the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. He has commented on politics for national network and cable television and is a political analyst for KSTP television in Minneapolis.

178 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-0-87840-895-5
Feb 2003

178 pp., 6 x 9

Feb 2003

178 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-485-5
Feb 2003

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