If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that state government has more to say about how votes are counted, how pandemics are addressed, how students are educated, and how guns and maternal health are regulated than any other entity. Yet we mostly ignore these laboratories of democracy—and the myriad ways in which they can be engines for civic engagement and public welfare. David Toscano brings his keen eye for state and local politics and his lawyerly analytic tools to this timely new look at how powerful states can fill in the broken spaces of current American democracy—and also work to tear it apart, if we decline to pay attention.
– Dahlia Lithwick · Slate
Unity of purpose is very difficult to achieve in a gridlocked era of bitter disagreement between liberals and conservatives. In a timely book, David Toscano has focused us on the path forward in this divided, polarized country—the states, where within a federal framework the laboratories of democracy can experiment with ideas and solutions. He shows us how the states can tackle a wide range of problems with perhaps more success than one-size-fits-all proposals from Washington, D.C.
– Larry Sabato, Director of the Center for Politics, University of Virginia
From the University of Virginia Press:
In this profoundly polarized era, the nation has been transfixed on the politics of Washington and its seemingly impenetrable gridlock. Many of the decisions that truly affect people’s lives, however, are being made not on the federal level but in the states. Faced with Washington’s political standoff, state governments are taking action on numerous vital issues, often impacting citizens and their communities far more than the decision makers in D.C. Despite this, few Americans really understand their state governments or the issues they address. In Fighting Political Gridlock, David Toscano reveals how the states are working around the impasse in Washington and how their work is increasingly shaping society.
Long a central figure in one of the most important legislative bodies in the nation, the Virginia House of Delegates, Toscano brings a unique expertise to this urgent and timely discussion. Beginning with an analysis of state responses to COVID-19, including the processes and consequences of declaring states of emergency, he goes on to detail how various states are attacking issues in different ways–from education and voting to criminal justice and climate change–and provides a broad overview of how state actions affect our system of federalism. Toscano concludes with a call to action and civic engagement, including suggestions for how citizens and public officials can revitalize American democracy.