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X-POST FROM: H-POL Date: Tue, 9 May 2000 15:28:54 -0500 From: Brian Vargus <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: An H-Pol Preview: Frantzich on Frantzich, _Citizen Democracy_ Stephen Frantzich. _Citizen Democracy: Political Activists in a Cynical Age_. Rowman and Littlefield, 1999. $18.95 (paper), ISBN 0-8476-9151-9. In an era of increasing cynicism and subsequent decline in many forms of political participation, cynicism sells in the classroom. It is almost impossible not to get a laugh with throw-away lines like "the best Congress money can buy." While there is much to criticize about contemporary politics, it remains true that democracy is not a spectator sport. Educators and journalists who only feed their students and audiences on cynicism become part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Those who begin to believe that "you can't fight city hall," don't try, vacating the playing field to those who do. Opting out of politics increases the likelihood that those with political preferences antagonistic to your own, but who continue to participate, will prevail. Emergent citizens need to develop a realistic picture of the opportunities and potential impediments to affecting the political process falling between demobilizing cynicism and pollyannaish optimism. One road to intelligent skepticism lies in telling the real world stories of average citizens who affected the course of national public policy. Through the use of vignettes, this book profiles over twenty activists who used a wide variety of strategies to affect national policies considered by a wide variety of institutions. Ranging from the relatively well-known (Rosa Parks, Jack Kevorkian, Candy Lightner, etc.) to the almost unknown (a college student credited with securing ratification of the 27th amendment, the successful proponents of the AIDS and breast cancer stamps, the doctor who publicized the danger of "drive-by" mastectomies, etc.) the vignettes reveal the motivations and strategies of both the proponents and opponents of change. Each vignette attempts not only to tell a fascinating story, but also to compare the results with many of the most basic generalizations of political science. Many stories have interesting twists. Students will be surprised to find what Candy Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is now doing, or how a thief helped bring the tobacco companies to their knees. Intentionally written in a highly accessible format, the vignettes serve as an antidote to blanket cynicism and a call for citizens to retake their government through smart and diligent action. Stephen E. Frantzich Department of Political Science U.S. Naval Academy 589 McNair Road Annapolis, MD 21402-5030 ------------------------------