If you accept Tip O'Neil's maxim that all politics is local, then a new book on reform efforts in five Midwestern states is must-reading. Democratic Renewal: A Call to Action from America's Heartland outlines how reformers in very different political cultures are trying to address threats to democracy.
Edited by UIS Professor of Political Studies and Public Policy Kent Redfield, Democratic Renewal looks at how political cultures diverge within the Midwest and how those cultures affect efforts to enhance voters' role in the political process.
Reformers are at work in a range of areas, including campaign finance, redistricting, judicial elections, ethics and corruption, broadcast coverage of politics and elections, and election administration, and Democratic Renewal localizes each of these efforts in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
The Illinois story not only recounts the state’s recent history of political corruption, but also addresses weak lobbying laws, uncompetitive elections, restrictive ballot access and the concentration of power in the hands of legislative leadership. Despite the many problems Illinois faces, the book also highlights recent victories in the cause of reform, including adoption of the 1998 Gift Ban Act and the 2003 State Ethics law.
The book is released under the aegis of the Midwest Democracy Network., an alliance of reform groups in all five states, including ICPR. Copies of the book are available through MDN.