1st Edition

Why Vote? Essential Questions About the Future of Elections in America

By Daniel M. Shea Copyright 2019
    268 Pages
    by Routledge

    268 Pages
    by Routledge

    For nearly 200 years, Americans have pinned the democratic character of their system on elections. In many ways, we have become an election-crazed nation, ever-hoping that the next grand contest or the next great candidate will save the day. But tectonic shifts abound – changes that are distorting the nature of the process. From the rise of fear-centered partisanship, new limits on voter access to the polls, the omnipotence of social media, declining standards of objectivity, Russian interference, the reemergence of the partisan press, the growing weight of elites and more, elections – our "grand democratic feasts" – are transforming before our eyes. We’ve reached a precarious intersection, and it is no stretch to say the future of the republic is at stake.

    Written by one of the nation’s leading parties and elections scholars, Why Vote? Essential Questions About the Future of Elections in America explores a range of topics. Each chapter is set by a guiding question, and concludes with a novel, often surprising argument. Who or what is to blame for the rise of rabid, hate-centered polarization? Can a third party really save our system? Should we even try to limit money in campaigns? Do elections stifle other, more potent forms of engagement? Who’s to blame for the growing number of voter access restrictions? Might attitudes toward immigration and race form a "unified theory" of voter coalitions?

    This lively, accessible book is sure to inspire robust discussion and debate. The election process in the United States is coming apart at the seams, and Why Vote? tees up a new way of thinking about the future. This book will be of particular interest to students and scholars of US politics and elections, and to general interest readers.

    Chapter 1: The 2016 Election and Aftermath: Did Donald Trump Break the Mold?

    Chapter 2: Voting and Elections in Theory: Do We Consent to a System that Limits Our Say in Government?

    Chapter 3: Give Us the Ballot: Why Has the Right to Vote Been So Contentious?

    Chapter 4: Turning Out to Vote ... Or Not: Is the Youth Apathy Rap Justified?

    Chapter 5: Partisanship, 21st-Century Style: Can We Break from the Shelter of Our Tribe?

    Chapter 6: Realignment Redux: Is There a "Unifying Theory" for Today's Electoral Alignment?

    Chapter 7: The Nomination Process: Are Party Nomination Contests Too Democratic?

    Chapter 8: Minor Parties in the United States: Can a Third Party Save our Democracy?

    Chapter 9: Campaign Finance: Is Too Much Money Really the Problem?

    Chapter 10: New Media and Russian Interference: Are Objective Assessments Possible in the 21st Century? (With Carlo Macomber)

    Conclusion: Are There Pathways for Renewal?


    Daniel M. Shea is Professor of Government at Colby College. He received a MA in Campaign Management from the University of West Florida in 1988, and a doctorate from the University at Albany, State University of New York in 1993.

    "Why Vote? is an impressive book, thoughtfully delivering on its promise to address essential questions about the future of elections in America – as well as to cover the present and past of American elections comprehensively. It is well written and lively; both students and their teachers will find it appealing."

    Paul A. Beck, Academy Professor of Political Science, The Ohio State University

    "Shea provides a provocative look at elections and whether they can be reformed to sustain democracy for future generations of American citizens. Offering no quick fix, he encourages students to face current challenges to the electoral process head on as they seek their own solutions."

    J. Cherie Strachan, Central Michigan University

    "Shea has assembled a rich, thoughtful and accessible volume that uses both historical and social science perspectives to evaluate recent developments in the US electoral arena. The book is eye-opening and thought-provoking."

    Costas Panagopoulos, Professor, Department of Political Science; Director, Big Data and Quantitative Methods Initiatives, Northeastern University

    "In this book, Dan Shea provides a critical and lively assessment of many challenges facing electoral democracy in the United States."

    David Kimball, University of Missouri–St. Louis

    "Shea reads like a hybrid between a popular nonfiction book for political junkies and a political science textbook. It takes a conversational tone, approaching the politics and history of elections and voting from a variety of angles, including realignments and critical elections, campaign finance, and low youth participation. Peppered with historical tidbits, such as the corrupt bargain of 1824 and the Pizzagate conspiracy, the book is engaging and thought provoking. It is sure to spark debate, as it raises more questions than answers. Can Americans "overcome our increasingly deep-seated partisanship and visceral fear of the other side?" Should Election Day be a national holiday? Should the US pursue tighter reporting and disclosure requirements in hopes of "ridding the system of ‘dark money’?". . . . Overall, Shea clearly takes a position in favor of voting even while raising questions about the meaning and efficacy of elections that will interest a broad audience.