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.
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.