Category Archives: First Chapter

First Chapter: National Urban Policy in the Age of Obama by Hilary Silver

urban policyBelow is an excerpt from a new edited volume Urban Policy in the Time of Obama. With President Obama’s term coming to an end Friday, we take a look back at the legacy he will leave behind. Hilary Silver, Senior Visiting Fellow at the Ash Center and Professor Emerita of Sociology and Urban Studies at Brown University, shares her chapter “National Urban Policy in the Age of Obama.”

Many supporters expressed disappointment that the first African-American community organizer to be elected US President did not do more to help cities. Although Barack Obama began to embrace the subject of race relations late in his second term, his urban policy seemed to disappear as his Administration endured. Signature initiatives like Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Zones were anemic in comparison to his predecessors’ programs, adding to the impression that the days of national urban policy were over. Yet, this chapter argues, President Obama did have an effective urban policy that worked by stealth, one embedded in the Recovery Act, foreclosure policies, and other stimulus programs. He also made headway against homelessness. Obama’s urban policy was pursued through new forms of governance as well, promoting interagency cooperation and leveraging resources. Thus, his legacy is not as modest as some have suggested.

This post is part of an occasional series highlighting chapters of recent books by those affiliated with the Ash Center. “National Urban Policy in the Age of Obama” by Hilary Silver appears here by permission of the University of Minnesota Press from Urban Policy in the Time of Obama edited by James DeFilippis, copyright 2016 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. Readers can purchase the book here.

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First Chapter: Democracy Reinvented by Hollie Russon Gilman

Gilman book coverBelow is an excerpt from Hollie Russon Gilman’s 2016 book, Democracy Reinvented: Participatory Budgeting and Civic Innovation in America. A postdoctoral scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Russon Gilman has long been affiliated with the Ash Center, most recently as senior adviser to our Technology and Democracy Fellowship program.

Democracy Reinvented assesses the opportunities and obstacles of participatory budgeting (PB) and civic engagement using hundreds of interviews, survey research, process tracing, and field observations. Based on Russon Gliman’s PhD dissertation, the book is one of the first academic works to extensively analyze participatory budgeting in the United States and its efforts to mend our democratic state. Continue reading

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Filed under Boston Participatory Budgeting, Cities, First Chapter, Innovation, Participation, Participatory Budgeting, Youth

First Chapter: Why Elections Fail by Pippa Norris

9781107679023Below is an excerpt from Pippa Norris’s book, Why Elections Fail. Paul. F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at HKS, Pippa Norris is a long-time friend and Faculty Affiliate of the Ash Center, where she gave a book-talk last fall.

Electoral integrity, the set of international norms governing the appropriate conduct of elections, is more complex than the popular focus on ballot stuffing and vote buying. In Why Elections Fail, Norris argues that the rules preventing political actors from manipulating electoral governance are needed to secure integrity, although at the same time, officials need sufficient resources and capacities to manage elections effectively.

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Filed under Democracy in Hard Places, Elections, First Chapter, Participation, Voting Rights

First Chapter: Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy by Darryl Pinckney

blackballedBelow is an excerpt from the introduction to Darryl Pinckney’s 2014 book, Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy. On November 3, 2014, Pinckney spoke about Blackballed at the Ash Center as part of its Challenges to Democracy public dialogue series.

Blackballed is a masterfully-crafted study of American democracy and the changing role of the black vote within it, from Reconstruction to the election of Barack Obama. It is insightful, personal, informative, and remarkably timely. The book not only speaks to current questions about race within the social and political arenas, but to broader issues of the health and legitimacy of a democracy in which some voices are kept from entering the dialogue. Blackballed is one of those special works that effortlessly transports readers to another time while subtly drawing thematic ties to the present day. One leaves the experience not only appreciating the work done by generations past, but contemplating one’s own role in the historical arc. Continue reading

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Filed under First Chapter, Inequality vs Democracy, Participation, Voting Rights

First Chapter: The Loneliness of the Black Republican by Leah Wright Rigueur

leah coverBelow is an excerpt from Leah Wright Rigueur’s 2015 book The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power. An Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, Wright Rigueur’s research interests include 20th century United States political and social history and modern African American history, with an emphasis on race, civil rights, political ideology, the American two-party system, and the presidency. Hear more at our book talk with Wright Rigueur on April 1, 2015.

The book examines the “intersection of race, civil rights, conservatism, and party politics” and traces almost half a century between 1936 that marked the political realignment of the new deal and 1980 that heralded the beginning of the Reagan revolution. The author peels away the stereotypes and simplistic characterizations that deem to define African American Republicans. She studies the motivation, efforts and contributions of African American conservatives: activists, officials, middle class professionals and politicians at the local, state and national level who “attempted to influence the direction of conservatism—not to destroy it but rather to expand the boundaries of the ideology in order to include black needs and interests.” Continue reading

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First Chapter: How Organizations Develop Activists by Hahrie Han

Hahrie Han_GroundbreakersBelow is an excerpt from the first chapter of Hahrie Han’s 2014 book, How Organizations Develop Activists: Civic Associations and Leadership in the 21st Century. An Associate Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College, Han studies civic associations and engagement, organizing, political activism, and health and environmental politics. Han is on the steering committee of The Gettysburg Project, a new initiative co-organized by the Ash Center that explores ways to improve the scope, diversity and impact of organizing and mobilizing the public. On September 24, 2014, Han will speak about How Organizations Develop Activists at the Ash Center along side Sarah Hodgdon of the Sierra Club and HKS professors Archon Fung and Jane Mansbridge as the kick-off to the second year of our Challenges to Democracy public dialogue series. Continue reading

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Filed under First Chapter, Future of Social Movements, Gettysburg Project, Participation, Representation, Technology

First Chapter: Affluence and Influence by Martin Gilens

Below is an excerpt from the first chapter of Martin Gilens’ 2012 book, Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America. One of the most exciting political scientists in the country, Gilens spoke at the Challenges to Democracy launch event, an October 3 panel discussion moderated by WBUR and NPR’s On Point host Tom Ashbrook on the threat economic inequality poses to the health of American democracy. This post is part of an occasional series highlighting the first chapters of recent books by speakers and participants in the Challenges to Democracy public dialogue series. Continue reading

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First Chapter: Plutocrats by Chrystia Freeland

An excerpt from journalist Chrystia Freeland’s book Plutocrats in which the author gives two brief historical narratives, one of America’s economic inequality and the other of political inequality, from the 1770s to the 1970s. Continue reading

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First Chapter: Nation of Devils by Stein Ringen

Below is the first chapter from Oxford Professor Stein Ringen’s latest book, Nation of Devils: Democratic Leadership and the Problem of Obedience. It is the first post in an occasional series highlighting the first chapters of recent books by speakers and participants in the Challenges to Democracy public dialogue series. Ringen spoke at the Ash Center on October 30 on the leadership challenges that presidents and prime ministers face. Foreshadowing the recent debacle around the federal health insurance website, he argued that legislation and policy-making is relatively straightforward compared to the arduous tasks of implementing that law and policy. Continue reading

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Filed under Expansion of Presidential Power, First Chapter, Nation of Devils