By Invitation Only examines the shift in the United States from mobilization (the partisan method of stimulating very high voter turnout in elections) to activation—the political variant of “niche marketing.” This more contemporary method that parties, interest groups, and candidates employ induces particular, finely targeted portions of the public to become active in elections, demonstrations, and lobbying. Traditional partisan mobilization was a crude tool, operating through personal and print communication. It involved broad appeals often carried through personal conversation with local party workers, or through America’s then highly partisan press. Political mobilization predominated during election campaigns of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period of peak party power. The shift from mobilization to activation allows organizers to mobilize strategic minorities while cloaking the effort in a misleading guise of popular rule. The vogue of participation is that all should get involved. In fact, as Schier illustrates, the process encourages only a strategically selected few to vote in elections or petition government for their interests. The result is a decline of majority rule in American politics. A must-read for anyone concerned with politics in America.
Years ago, voters were mobilized; today, they are activated. As Steven Schier makes resoundingly clear, this is a distinction with a difference—and what a difference! His learned, sensible, and sometimes alarming book does more than anything I've read in a long time to explain the dysfunctions of modern American politics.
After providing an insightful examination of the reasons behind the decline in voting and the triumph of the special interests, Steven Schier concludes this important book with a suggestion on how to increase citizen participation in political decisions.
Contemporary American politics is a highly stratified process in which many individuals participate frequently and effectively but tens of millions are hardly involved at all. Steven Schier explains how and why some Americans are ardently courted by candidates, parties and interest groups, while others are never invited to the party. By Invitation Only should be read by everyone concerned with the future of American democracy.
Steven Schier's clearly written treatise on contemporary American politics challenges us to re-think some of the fundamentals of our system. His exceptionally perceptive analysis of the electorate's current lack of participation is fully matched by his intriguing set of broad-gauged reforms in the concluding chapter. The book is guaranteed to generate constructive dialogue in the classroom and to engage both graduate and undergraduate students in a critical area of political science.
Schier calls for everyone to be invited into the sophisticated world of contemporary politics. This may be unlikely, but By Invitation Only demonstrates why it's worth the effort to try to include all citizens within the political process.
This book advances a provocative thesis: all forms of political activism are not equal from the point of view of a healthy democracy. It is a timely and insightful contribution to the debate on what ails American politics.
Schier has written an extremely insightful examination of the causes and consequences of fundamental changes in American democracy. Exhaustively researched and documented, this book is must reading for those who want to understand how the shift from partisan appeals to all voters . . . to narrower appeals to subpopulations . . . inevitably followed changes in our party system and means of campaigning and lobbying , and just as inevitably resulted in a diminution of the representative nature of our democracy.
This fine collection of first appraisals . . . will serve as an important source for those that follow.
Schier supports his arguments with evidence drawn from a wide range of empirical studies. These include research on electoral behavior, political attitudes, campaign management, political participation, mass communication, interest groups, and public policy. What is original about this book is not the evidence, but Schier's use of it to support his argument about the politics of exclusive invitation. . . .this book provides a sweeping analysis of the changes that have occurred in patterns of voting participation in the United States and of the causes of those changes.
Steven E. Schier, the Dorothy H. and Edward C. Congdon Professor of Political Science at Carleton College, is the author or editor of numerous books including The Postmodern Presidency: Bill Clinton’s Legacy in U.S. Politics, and By Invitation Only: The Rise of Exclusive Politics in the United States.