A Stanford University political scientist offers a new interpretation of today's urban-rural political conflict and points to electoral reforms that could address the left's under-representation while reducing urban-rural polarization.
With shrewd insights, Rodden, a professor of political science at Stanford, lays out a compelling, intricate, and meticulously documented case for the geographic basis of contemporary political strife ... A study of the political history of Reading, Pennsylvania, since 1877 adds texture and context, as does the book’s frequent references to the UK, Canada, and Australia, which have similar systems and face similar challenges. Surprisingly, Rodden makes little of another element of American antidemocratic politics—racial barriers to voting. Yet he does offer a powerful, well-developed perspective on the nature of our contemporary politics, and compelling suggestions to fix it.
Rodden, a political scientist at Stanford, shows convincingly...that Democrats would be at a disadvantage even if partisan gerrymandering were abolished. Neutral computer simulations still tend to give Democrats a smaller share of seats than Republicans would receive with the same share of votes ... Rodden’s analysis is particularly useful for understanding the choices facing today’s urban-based parties of the left, including the Democrats, as they try to overcome entrenched disadvantages ... Proportional representation isn’t yet an idea that most reform-minded Americans have considered. Rodden’s Why Cities Lose should start people talking about it.
Filling his book with maps and charts, the author excels in analyzing the historical roots of urban political movements. In perhaps the most fascinating section, Mr. Rodden presents maps of 19th-century railroad nodes and shows that the past presence of those steam-age crossings strongly correlates with Democratic Party vote shares today ... The exact mechanics that Mr. Rodden proposes for this particular phenomenon are a bit vague ... With luck, books like Why Cities Lose might provoke both parties to recognize that our electoral system has always rewarded politicians that strive to build a politically diverse coalition.