Cover image for They don't represent us : reclaiming our democracy
They don't represent us : reclaiming our democracy
1st ed.
Physical Description:
xv, 334 pages ; 24 cm.
Introduction -- Flaws. The unrepresentative "them" ; The unrepresentive us -- Fixes. Fixing them ; Fixing us ; What "fixed" would get us -- Conclusion -- Appendix: Reformers.
In the vein of On Tyranny and How Democracies Die, the bestselling author of Republic, Lost argues that our democracy no longer represents us and shows that reform is both necessary and possible. --


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"This urgent book offers not only a clear-eyed explanation of the forces that broke our politics, but a thoughtful and, yes, patriotic vision of how we create a government that's truly by and for the people."--DAVID DALEY, bestselling author of Ratf**ked and Unrigged

In the vein of On Tyranny and How Democracies Die, the bestselling author of Republic, Lost argues with insight and urgency that our democracy no longer represents us and shows that reform is both necessary and possible.

America's democracy is in crisis. Along many dimensions, a single flaw--unrepresentativeness--has detached our government from the people. And as a people, our fractured partisanship and ignorance on critical issues drive our leaders to stake out ever more extreme positions.

In They Don't Represent Us, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig charts the way in which the fundamental institutions of our democracy, including our media, respond to narrow interests rather than to the needs and wishes of the nation's citizenry. But the blame does not only lie with "them"--Washington's politicians and power brokers, Lessig argues. The problem is also "us." "We the people" are increasingly uninformed about the issues, while ubiquitous political polling exacerbates the problem, reflecting and normalizing our ignorance and feeding it back into the system as representative of our will.

What we need, Lessig contends, is a series of reforms, from governmental institutions to the public itself, including:

A move immediately to public campaign funding, leading to more representative candidates A reformed Electoral College, that gives the President a reason to represent America as a whole A federal standard to end partisan gerrymandering in the states A radically reformed Senate A federal penalty on states that don't secure to their people an equal freedom to vote Institutions that empower the people to speak in an informed and deliberative way

A soul-searching and incisive examination of our failing political culture, this nonpartisan call to arms speaks to every citizen, offering a far-reaching platform for reform that could save our democracy and make it work for all of us.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this urgent and hard-hitting analysis, Harvard law professor Lessig (Fidelity & Constraint) dissects the causes, consequences, and possible remedies for the crisis of "unrepresentativeness" facing American democracy. The sources of government dysfunction, Lessig writes, include voter suppression laws; gerrymandering; the "fraught" design of the Senate, which gives outsize power to less populous states; the Electoral College; and "money in politics." The problems aren't just with "them" (politicians, power brokers), however; they're with "us" (American voters), too: technology- and market-driven changes in the media landscape, especially the advent of cable TV and the rise of the internet, have left the voting public "divided and ignorant" on policy and therefore "incapable as citizens," according to Lessig. In the book's second half, he proposes a series of fixes. Some, such as ranked-choice voting, seem sensible; others, including "democracy coupons," in which every citizen would be given a stipend to contribute to political candidates as they see fit, appear complicated and expensive to institute, especially in the current political climate. But Lessig's call for a "slow democracy movement" to create better informed voters resonates, and he lists many examples of citizen movements that have achieved their goals. This bracing report on the state of American politics offers valuable insights for the 2020 elections. (Nov.)

Kirkus Review

In our endangered democracy, the nation's citizens deserve to be heard.In his latest critique of American democracy, Lessig (Law and Leadership/Harvard Law School; Fidelity and Constraint: How the Supreme Court Has Read the American Constitution, 2019, etc.), host of the podcast Another Way and co-founder of Creative Commons, focuses on a crisis that he sees as "much more fundamental" than the current president: "unrepresentativeness." This lack of representation has several causes: the structure of the Senate, with two representatives from every state, no matter the population; the winner-take-all system in the Electoral College, which negates the choice of many voters and impels candidates to focus on swing states; campaign funding that gives wealthy contributors hefty influence; gerrymandering, which usually benefits extremists of both parties; and voters who lack a shared reality and "are divided and ignorant (at least about the other side) and driven to even more division and ignorance" by media that seek to make profits rather than to inform. "The consequence together is thus not a democracy that always bends to the rich," Lessig argues persuasively. "It is a democracy that cannot bend, or function." The author's many proposals to improve representation are less convincing than his analysis of problems. His suggestions range from giving every citizen "speech credits" or "democracy coupons" to fund political campaigns to paying voters to watch long, "wonderful and hilarious" political ads. Lessig deems the Senate "the hardest circle to square," admitting that some of his ideasreforming the filibuster and allocating votes for leadership based on populationare unlikely to happen. As far as the Electoral College, the author advocates that states' electors should reflect the national popular vote; or, if not, then Congress should allow electors to cast fractional votes. To engage the electorate, Lessig proposes "a congressional jury" made up of randomly chosen citizens to examine both sides of a public issue and make recommendations that, he asserts, a congressman would be morally bound to consider.An impassioned call to all Americans to fight for equal representation. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Distinguished Harvard law professor and author Lessig declares that our democracy is in crisis and that he understands that the challenges to rectify the situation can seem insurmountable. He traces the evolution of our democracy from the vision of the framers of the constitution to the enormous influence on Washington of money, lobbyists, polling, and the media, resulting in the erosion of genuine representation of ""We, the people."" Lessig offers a thoughtful, illuminating, nonpartisan, and pragmatic analysis of the changes needed to restore power to the public. He addresses the need to reform the electoral college, to end gerrymandering and voter repression, and to reform campaign financing. Lessig also addresses people's need to renew their civic commitment to be well informed and to vote. In this bold and compelling book, Lessig both scrutinizes the laws and forces that led us to this point and guides us towards visionary changes that can reset and restore our faith in our democracy. Given the complexities of the tasks at hand, this a must-read and a much-needed wake up call.--Elizabeth Joseph Copyright 2010 Booklist

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Introductionp. xi
Part I Flaws
Chapter 1 The Unrepresentative "Them"p. 3
Chapter 2 The Unrepresentative Usp. 67
Part II Fixes
Chapter 3 Fixing Themp. 139
Chapter 4 Fixing Usp. 171
Chapter 5 What "Fixed" Would Get Usp. 221
Conclusionp. 231
Acknowledgmentsp. 253
Appendix: Reformersp. 255
Notesp. 263
Indexp. 317