Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

Doorstep Democracy

Face-to-Face Politics in the Heartland

2008
Author:

James H. Read

Doorstep Democracy

The quest for elected office—one conversation at a time

At once a memoir of a hard-fought contest and a meditation on the state of American democracy, Doorstep Democracy refuses the “red state” versus “blue state” view of American voters. James Read shows the power of kitchen-table politics and proves how conversations between citizens concerned about their communities can get us beyond the television ads, mass mailings, and sound bites to rejuvenate American democracy.

In Doorstep Democracy, James Read taps into a growing trend in progressive campaigns—real conversations between candidates and voters as a strategy that wins elections while engaging people in social and political change.

Jeff Blodgett, executive director, Wellstone Action!

The famous Tip O’Neill axiom “all politics is local” comes alive in this chronicle of Democrat James H. Read’s hard-fought but unsuccessful—by 98 votes—bid for state legislature in the socially conservative communities of Stearns and Morrison Counties, Minnesota. Read door-knocked 7,500 households during his campaign, visiting with voters and engaging in genuine dialogue on doorsteps from St. Anthony to St. Joseph.

At once a memoir of a hard-fought contest and a meditation on the state of American democracy, Read’s work contrasts the modern media-driven political campaign, where candidates glean their knowledge of voters from pollsters and communication only flows one way, with the kind of true understanding of constituents and issues that can only grow from individual encounters. Face-to-face doorstep conversations, he claims, give a candidate (or volunteer) and voter an opportunity to truly persuade and learn from one another. In a district where the pro-life movement dominated politics, Read’s invitation to honestly discuss abortion and reject single-issue politics resonated with many voters.

Refusing the “red state” versus “blue state” view of American voters, Doorstep Democracy shows the power and importance of kitchen-table politics—people sitting down together to tackle the issues that affect us—and proves that voters and candidates can be convinced to change their minds. Read ultimately demonstrates how conversations between citizens concerned about their communities can get us beyond the television ads, mass mailings, and sound bites to rejuvenate American democracy.

Doorstep Democracy

James H. Read is professor of political science at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University in St. Joseph, Minnesota. In 1992 he was a candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 14A. He has served as local party chair and has volunteered for many local and statewide campaigns. He is the author of Power versus Liberty: Madison, Hamilton, Wilson, and Jefferson.

Doorstep Democracy

In Doorstep Democracy, James Read taps into a growing trend in progressive campaigns—real conversations between candidates and voters as a strategy that wins elections while engaging people in social and political change.

Jeff Blodgett, executive director, Wellstone Action!

This is a wonderful, wise account of what a grassroots election is all about. Young idealist people need to read this thoughtful book. I wish he would have won, but I am so glad he ran and wrote about it.

Myron Orfield, executive director, Institute on Race & Poverty and former Minnesota State Representative

This book provides an interesting inside view of personalized politics and on-the-ground campaigning.The depiction of the interactions between voter, opponent and political machines provides an eye-opening experience for readers.

MLA Forum

Read’s account of his interactions with voters, his opponent, and both political machines is, for readers of the book, an eye-opening experience. Although the events of the book took place nearly 20 years, ago, the message is current: the tried and true art of door-to-door campaigning, where citizens can get to know who represents their voice from city hall to the state capital, should not be replaced with impersonal politics on the state and local level.

New Political Science

This is an inspiring, comical and often painfully truthful account that is easy to read and certain to entertain.

Political Studies Review