SOCIAL SCIENCES

Why Cities Lose: The Deep Roots of the Urban-Rural Political Divide

Basic: Perseus. Jun. 2019. 336p. ISBN 9781541644274. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781541644250. POL SCI
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Rodden (political science, Stanford Univ.; Hamilton’s Paradox) looks beyond gerrymandering and voter suppression to offer a nuanced understanding of the Democratic Party’s inability to maintain majority representation despite consistently winning popular votes. At the heart of this issue, argues the author, is the contemporary U.S. urban-rural divide, which connects with the larger history of political geography beginning during the Second Industrial Revolution. By comparing countries with small winner-take-all districting vs. large proportional representation zones, Rodden’s well-researched narrative offers critical insights into why the U.S. government has become a rigid two-party system and how the geographical concentration of Democrats is undermining their ability to win elections. Many will find this helpful in explaining how the Republican and Democratic parties have grown so partisan, and may also serve to illuminate potential reforms that could alleviate urban-rural polarization.
VERDICT A timely and critical work that explains the ramifications of operating a winner-take-all election approach in U.S. state and federal districting.

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