Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Books: "Unrigged" By David Daley

Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back To Save Democracy
By David Daley
Liveright; hardcover, 320 pages; $26.95

David Daley is a senior fellow at FairVote and the author of Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn't Count, which showed how a small cadre of Republican operatives rigged American elections. He is the former editor of Salon, and his work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and the Washington Post

Unrigged is Daley's new book, and it serves as a follow-up of sorts to Ratf**ked, as it follows a vibrant political movement that is rising in the wake of his and other reporters' revelations. There is a look at Pennsylvania's dramatic defeat of a gerrymander using the research of mathematicians and the Michigan millennial who launched a statewide redistricting revolution with a Facebook post.

Daley also tells the stories of activist groups who paved the way for 2018's blue wave in the midterm elections, and won crucial battles for voting rights in Florida, Maine, Utah, and nationwide. 

Daley writes of how people have responded since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, "At a time when American politics seemed weighed down by a profound sense of despair, when the news cycle fed never-ending exhaustion, when we picked up our phones every morning and wondered what fresh presidential hell was tweeted out during that morning's 'executive time,' it was rejuvenating to ride alongside those who turned off cable news, logged off Twitter and got to work. I spent several days in July 2018 riding across Idaho aboard the Medicaid Express - a rickety, kelly green RV that teetered dangerously when it approached the 80-mile-an-hour speed limit on the state's highways, but, as the mobile HQ for Idahos's Medicaid for All initiative, swiftly changed the state's politics nevertheless.
"These efforts were not led by politicians or parties. They began with regular people, and their stories and successes are as diverse as they are inspiring. While the political media occasionally ventured beyond their coastal bubbles by camping outside Midwestern diners in search of Trump voters and heartland white-male wisdom, a new political activism emerged elsewhere, concentrated around women, focused locally, nearly all of it operating well outside traditional structures. Nationwide, everyday citizens asked how they could contribute. They quickly found answers to some of our most troubling political riddles, right in their hometowns. In these pages, you'll meet the genius mathematician in Pittsburgh who realized his work might also apply to gerrymandering and become a crucial expert witness who convinced the state Supreme Court to invalidate a congressional map that locked in a 13-5 Republican advantage in this Democratic-leaning state. You'll come face to face with college students from New Hampshire, Texas, Florida and Iowa who noticed voting inequities designed to mute their voices and fought back in legislatures and the courts.
"Four self-described 'bad-ass grandmas' in North Dakots turned their weekly coffee-and-kvetch gatherings into a winning push for a statewide constitutional amendment that created a state ethics board, banned foreign money from campaigns and closed the revolving door of elected officials serving as lobbyists. In Maine, home to a rich tradition of independent candidates, citizens demanded a voting system that allowed them to rank all their choices and avoid a plurality winner whom many people opposed. Both parties obfuscated and stood in the way, so determined Mainers braved long winter petition drives not once but twice - and won."

Unrigged will provide you hope that the country can overcome this historic era of polarization. Daley offers an incisive portrait of a nation transformed by a new civic awakening, and creates a blueprint for what must be done to keep American democracy afloat.

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