cover image SPOILING FOR A FIGHT: Third-Party Politics in America

SPOILING FOR A FIGHT: Third-Party Politics in America

Micah L. Sifry, . . Routledge, $27.50 (365pp) ISBN 978-0-415-93142-7

Focusing, to a large degree, on Ralph Nader's highly publicized but unsuccessful bit for the presidency, Sifry, a former editor at the Nation, charts the history and potential of third-party politics in the United States. Arguing with intelligence, a massive array of facts and a sly wit, Sifry claims that our two-party system is a "duopoly" that decisively dictates national politics through control of federal money and does not reflect the views or needs of many Americans. Casting a wide political and sociological net, he explicates the rise of "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore politics;" explains how third-party candidates can circumvent the lack of federal funding (Ross Perot and his Reform Party had other sources of funding), and a party's lack of profile (Jesse Ventura's American Reform Party relied on the former wrestler's name recognition and an appeal to a working-class constituency). Sifry also documents how alternative groups such as the Green Party or the Working Families Party can work through their constituents' differences to find common goals. In this debut book, Sifry presents a vivid tapestry of the problems faced by, as well as the enormous potential promise of, alternative political parties. Always optimistic, Sifry is never naïve (he details with precision how the Gore campaign countered Nader's popularity by addressing issues raised by the latter without ever integrating them into the Democratic platform) and presents a balanced, important and enlightened new way to think through the political process. (Feb.)

Forecast:Sifry's study is a bit too dense for most general readers, who will more likely turn to Ralph Nader's own Crashing the Party (Forecasts, Dec. 17, 2001).