The United States is hailed by the rest of the world as its most successful democracy. Yes, we are guaranteed great freedoms and we are the most diverse superpower. But, according to iNK author, Elizabeth Rusch, we have a long way to go to become "a more perfect union." Her new book, You Call This Democracy? How to fix our government and deliver power to the people, is an eye-popping exposé of all the ways the wealthy oligarchs have gained overarching power and what can be done by young people to fix it.
The premise of democracy is one person, one vote, majority rules. Simple, no? That is true for all elections in the United States save the one for president and vice president, which is determined by electoral representatives. But there's more, Rusch reminds us: Four times, in our history, popular vote winners lost the presidency. Then she explains not only why but how this can be corrected, not by doing the impossible and adding another amendment to the constitution, but by another method entirely called the "National Popular Vote" interstate compact. In her highly readable book she says:
"The compact will take effect once states representing a total of 270 electoral
votes--the number needed to win the presidency--have signed on. The endeavor
is two-thirds of the way there, with just seventy-four more electoral votes needed.
Efforts are afoot in a dozen or so states, which could get the tally to the magic 270."
Wow! I learned something new. And I continued to learn, in subsequent chapters, about specific problems stymieing many voters from making their vote count. These include: geographically redistributing party votes (gerrymandering), under-representation of populous states in the Senate, dark money influencers (lobbyists and legal contribution loopholes), lying with impunity for politicians, voter suppression, votes denied to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, where Americans are stateless, and more.
But this book is not just a litany of woes. As Rusch says in her introduction:
"I admit, working on this book often made me angry--even outraged--when
I saw clearly how some aspects of our democracy hurt fellow citizens. But my
research has made me hopeful, too. Countless people, young and old, are
already working to form a more perfect union......this book is, ultimately,
a book of solutions."
Elizabeth Rusch, whose work I know from her many accurate and accessible science-related children's book, (sometimes on the same subjects that I, too, have explored) is extremely qualified to give me a civics lesson. (What ever history and civics I know has come to me independently of my formal education.) She first became interested in politics from an eighth-grade trip to the U.S. Senate. She has a master's in public policy from U. C. Berkeley and has served as a Jacob K. Javits Fellow in the U.S. Senate. In keeping with her target audience of young adult readers, she has also established an interactive website: https://www.youcallthis.com/ where they can find actionable items in their own states.
You Call this Democracy? is a how-to book for saving what is valuable in our country and a practical, actionable guide to young people who are tasked with creating a brighter future out of the immense challenges we now face in the wake of this pandemic.
It is a timely and very valuable addition to home libraries of teen-agers and their parents.