Doorstep Democracy: Face-to-Face Politics in the Heartland by James H. Read

By James H. Read

The well-known Tip O’Neill axiom “all politics is neighborhood” comes alive during this chronicle of Democrat James H. Read’s hard-fought yet unsuccessful—by ninety eight votes—bid for country legislature within the socially conservative groups of Stearns and Morrison Counties, Minnesota. learn door-knocked 7,500 families in the course of his crusade, traveling with electorate and fascinating in real discussion on doorsteps from St. Anthony to St. Joseph. instantaneously a memoir of a hard-fought contest and a meditation at the kingdom of yankee democracy, Read’s paintings contrasts the fashionable media-driven political crusade, the place applicants glean their wisdom of electorate from pollsters and conversation merely flows a technique, with the type of actual figuring out of ingredients and concerns which may in simple terms develop from person encounters. Face-to-face doorstep conversations, he claims, provide a candidate (or volunteer) and voter a chance to actually convince and examine from each other. In a district the place the pro-life stream ruled politics, Read’s invitation to truthfully speak about abortion and reject single-issue politics resonated with many citizens. Refusing the “red country” as opposed to “blue kingdom” view of yankee electorate, Doorstep Democracy indicates the facility and significance of kitchen-table politics—people sitting down jointly to take on the problems that impact us—and proves that electorate and applicants will be confident to alter their minds. learn finally demonstrates how conversations among voters enthusiastic about their groups can get us past the tv advertisements, mass mailings, and sound bites to rejuvenate American democracy.

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This would require an enormous commitment of time on top of my teaching duties. I was still untenured, and I would need to demonstrate excellence as a teacher; the time and energy cost of a legislative campaign could interfere with this. I was willing to do my duty as party chair, a timedemanding job in itself, and work to recruit credible candidates, but I felt that was the limit of my obligation. Everyone else on the search committee also explained why he or she was unwilling to be a candidate.

In many cases their advice was something like this: “Just say whatever you need to say to win. ” What lay behind such advice was, first, the assumption that rural Stearns County was so locked in the antiabortion camp that there was nothing to be gained by heroic gestures; and second, the condescending assumption that I could say the opposite of what I really thought and none of the locals would suspect it. It was unlikely that I could fool the pro-lifers into voting for me by mistake. I decided instead to attempt some morally coherent middle position on the abortion issue.

I held my first fund-raiser that day with Dee Long, the speaker of the Minnesota House, as special guest. I began door-knocking in St. Joseph on April 30. How I Got into This ( 19 On May 2 the incumbent I was challenging, Bernie Omann, was endorsed by his party to run for the seventh congressional district seat against Democrat Collin Peterson. My luck had turned. I was now running for an open seat. It would still be an uphill battle, given the character of the district and my status as an outsider, but my odds had improved.

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