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the Complete Review
the complete review - politics

The Stock Ticker and the Superjumbo

Rick Perlstein

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To purchase The Stock Ticker and the Superjumbo

Title: The Stock Ticker and the Superjumbo
Author: Rick Perlstein
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2005
Length: 114 pages
Availability: The Stock Ticker and the Superjumbo - US
The Stock Ticker and the Superjumbo - UK
The Stock Ticker and the Superjumbo - Canada
  • How the Democrats Can Once Again Become America's Dominant Political Party
  • With responses to Perlstein by William A. Galston, Adolph Reed, Jr., Ruy Teixeira, Dan Carol, Daniel Cantor, Robert B. Reich, Michael C. Dawson, Elaine Kamarck, Richard Delgado, Stanley Aronowitz, Philip Klinkner, and Larry M. Bartels
  • Originally published (and available in its entirety online) in the How Can the Democrats Win ? Summer 2004 issue of the Boston Review

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting (if limited) arguments, useful collection of responses

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Rick Perlstein's essay, "The Stock Ticker and the Superjumbo", takes up about a third of this volume, with the rest of the space devoted to short responses by twelve other writers, closing then with a final reply and summation by Perlstein. (The complete contents are freely accessible at the Boston Review, where they were originally printed. Though the book is called 'A Boston Review Book' (and is © Boston Review), there is no mention of either the fact that the contents were previously published there, nor that they are accessible at the BR site -- odd omissions.)
       Perlstein's main point is a simple one: he believes that the American Democratic Party has lost its way by focussing on short-term success (though without managing to achieve it consistently), instead of planning for the long term. The example he uses is Boeing, willing to bet the farm on, for example, the 747 and reaping fantastic rewards -- only then to lose its way when it focussed on trying to please investors who were interested only in short term returns. It's a decent comparison (and point): short term investors are like swing voters -- especially insofar as they are flighty, willing to hang around as long as their interests are being addressed, but opting out as soon as someone else dangles something more tempting in front of them.
       So Perlstein looks ahead -- 2018 is a good goal, he figures -- and wants the Democrats to get the big vision-thing organised aiming for success then (and beyond). His 'solution':

Democrats must stop looking leaderless, fumbling, unfocused, disorganized, and confused. They must give voters something to identify with. They must no longer judge themselves sophisticated when they cancel all the long-term dreams. They need new long-term dreams.
       Perlstein -- and many of the responders -- are flummoxed by the success of the Republican Party, specifically because the policies espoused by the Democrats tend (with a few notable exceptions) to enjoy considerably more popularity than the Republicans' positions on the same issues. But the Republicans have that image-thing down: they appear to stand for something, and apparently come across as more dependable -- and that's what he thinks the Democrats must emulate.
       Different authors respond differently to Perlstein's essay, addressing a variety of points and making other suggestions. Some argue the Democratic Party is a hopeless cause (Adolph Reed, Jr. expects it to " melt down under the weight of its own contradictions") while others thinks its supposed weakness is greatly exaggerated (Elaine Kamarck reminds readers that they fell short just 100,000 votes in Ohio from putting their candidate in the White House). Among the creative ideas is Daniel Cantor's discussion of 'fusion politics' -- third parties putting up Democratic candidates so that these also appear on the ballot under, say, the Working Families Party line -- allowing voters to support a Democratic candidate, but simultaneously make clear that they endorse the WFP party-line) -- though, as he notes, a major hurdle is that "fusion voting is not legal in most parts of America".
       It is, in some ways, a bizarre discussion: America is one of the few two-party countries in the world (there are, of course, other political parties in the US, but except for very local scenes these are utterly irrelevant) and most democratic countries have much more fluidity in the rise and fall of new parties as well as their internal transformations. The two American parties contain a wild spread of ideologies and as a consequence inevitably do little for many of their supposed hard-core constituencies -- but these have nowhere else to go.
       The fact that there can even be a debate about 'whither the Democratic Party ?' -- one conducted in this manner -- should make all American citizens scratch their heads at the ridiculous political system they are mired in (with the predictable results). Yet it is also instructive, and within the flawed system it deals with many of the arguments are rational. But that should be little comfort to citizens, regardless of whether they support the Republican Party or the Democratic one.
       The Stock Ticker and the Superjumbo is an interesting little volume for those concerned with American politics and governance. A broader debate, questioning more of the fundamentals, would also have been interesting (as would the Republican perspective), but the collection does address many of the significant issues. The central point Perlstein makes -- long-term versus short-term focus -- is particularly well addressed, but it's open to debate how meaningful that alone really is.

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The Stock Ticker and the Superjumbo: Reviews: The (American) Democratic Party: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Rick Perlstein used to write for The Village Voice.

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© 2005-2010 the complete review

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