Reviews of Political Books  

        [note: Titles in green are of current issue.]

On this page (click on the topic):


Boss, Richard J. Daley of Chicago by Mike Royko (1971), 215 pp., 25 cm./10 in., hardcover.  

American Pharaoh - Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor (2000), 614 pp., 23 cm./ 9 in., hardcover.

This work is a most thoroughly researched study of the massive, powerful, ruthless, wasteful political machine that the late Mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley, amassed. It controlled Chicago down to the smallest political act and encouraged corruption on a scale unmatched anywhere in the U.S.

(Yes, it even outdid the folks in Boston and Jersey.)

In chronological order authors Cohen and Taylor plough through the smallest details of machine organization and operation. Contains 42 pages of notes; 14 pages of index (real small type and lots of detail ... this reviewer likes a good index which is a mark of a solid work of non-fiction).

American Pharaoh nicely complements Royko’s Boss (see previous review) in describing how Daley acquired power for its own sake while doing some good for Chicago and much, much more damage to the city and particularly its growing and immense minority population.

The best summary of Daley’s legacy is found in the last words of the last chapter, to wit:

“To millions of Chicagoans ... he embodied the spirit of their city as no man ever had -- optimistic, determined, hardworking, God-fearing, and rooted in family and neighborhood. He gave them jobs [mainly via corrupt patronage and at great cost to taxpayers], stood up for their way of life [buttressed their bigotry and discrimination against fellow Americans] against threats from all sides [by keeping their ethnic neighborhoods “pure” through malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance], and made their city work [at terrific cost through graft and waste to the taxpayers: city, county, state, and federal].

But Daley would also be remembered by millions of others, who saw in his career the dark side of modern America. They viewed him as the master of a corrupt political system, backward-looking, power-hungry, and bigoted, who ruled in the name of -some groups and at the expense of others. They saw him as someone who had built a city founded on unfairness, and who was deaf 

to calls for change.”

This book should be required reading for all citizens since, over the years, we as a society have forgotten most of the clean government efforts that have been made by honest and progressive politicians; e.g., the LaFollettes, Roosevelts, and Milwaukee’s own Socialist mayors Hoan and Zeidler.         #4 - the highest possible rating. hcl


Winning Political Campaigns, A Comprehensive Guide to Electoral Success, Second Edition   by William S. Bike (2001), The Denali Press, P.O. Box 21535, Juneau, AK 99802-1535,, 272 pp., 23.5 cm./9.2 in., paperback, $31.00. (+$4 shipping)     [Note: We at FICOA have no monetary interest in this book ... we just think that it is excellent. We normally don't provide ordering information for any book that we review. We make an exception in this case.]

First the recommendation and rating and then the review.

This book belongs on the bookshelf, in the desk drawer, and in the glove compartment of every aspiring politician or operator.  From a practical, political operations standpoint, it is the best book out, yet.  Rating: 3.8

 "In the movie, Atlantic City, the heroine asks an aging, has-been mobster to 'teach me'. The reply is, 'What do you want, information or wisdom?'   She wants both.

The final judgment on this book is that the author, Bike, provides both. It is comprehensive,  well-organized and well-written. It's a second edition and it will be a steady-seller. [Bookstores: Please Note. There are too few of this genre on the sales shelves.]

The main functions (often called, "principles) of management could have been explained in terms of the areas of campaign planning, developing an overarching strategy, organizing, staffing, direction, and the timing of various phases. There's a lot of detail offered but little help in the larger view of campaign management.

Since 'the Devil is in the details' [actually, the original saying was 'God is in the details'], the author provides plenty of detail on political operations and properly so. A missed detail can be costly, e.g. overlooking the cost of a component of producing an effective ad or media piece. (see pp. 6-7).

There is extensive coverage of media, including the Internet and e-mail communications. The commentary on the requirements of a good website is excellent: forget the bells-and-whistles, aim for clarity ... and a fast download. [Pictures download with excruciating slowness, add little to political websites, and people will exit from that type of website, post haste.]

Although the index is rather scant [This editor likes a really large index.], the table of contents more than makes up for it since it is organized alphabetically and has many listed subsections ... unusual, but most useful.  The book is a true handbook, but goes far beyond that as a 'cookbook / do-it-yourself / self-improvement book' on how to manage a winning political campaign. The anecdotes are excellent and up-to-date. Many lessons are drawn from very recent campaigns. Political theory is absent and, necessarily so since this is a practical work.  

While this book is priced slightly higher than competing types (see reviews, below), it is worth owning and should be the high priority choice. At this stage, it is the standard work in the field (of practical politics). Don't rely on your library to obtain a copy since most librarians' funds are limited and this subject category (practical politics/operations) carries a low priority (at libraries).  Again, the rating: 3.8#"   -   hcl


Politics for Dummies by Ann Delaney (1995) IDG Books Worldwide, Foster City, CA, 367 pp., 24 cm. / 9.3 in., paperback, $19.99 list.  

Student Government, Activities, and Politics

Very little has been published on the topic of political operations in student government. To date, just three* books address the political and managerial side of student activities. This is unfortunate since student activities which includes governance and extra-curricular activities is the only place in academia which can provide knowledge and experience on how organizations function.      *One of the three isn't worth bothering with unless one has a morbid curiosity and hasn't anything better to do.


The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations     For more information, click on The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations   the web page which provides a review, description, rationale (for), Table of Contents, selected excerpts, library cataloging data, and Ordering Information for the PHB/SGO. More information is offered above with reviews and some descriptive data.

Developing Student Government Leadership by Melvin C. Terrell and  Michael J. Cuyjet (1994), Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA, 23 cm/9 in., paperback.  "An abstract  with some rather limited commentary on a large number of academic papers. The work lacks a useful structure in that it has no overarching theoretical base, no principles enunciated, and no case study/ anecdotal evidence to support the title. It doesn't even have some limited "cookbook" guidance for the very persons needing it badly, the advisors and administrators. These bureaucrats are poorly equipped to cope with the problems of or to exploit the vast opportunities inherent in student government and activities.

Mercifully, this piece is out-of-print. If your curiosity overwhelms you, contact your librarian and get the piece via an interlibrary loan. [LC 85-644751]  NO RATING."   -   hcl

How to Win a High School Election by Jeff Marx, (2001) Jeff Marx Books, New York, NY, 23 cm/9 in., paperback, 174 pp. excluding advertisements.  $14.95   "A short, simplistic, narrowly-defined work wherein the title is apt: the book is simply about winning a high school election and no more.  In summary, Marx strongly suggests that the aspiring candidate (1) meet a lot of people, (2) be friendly, (3) be sincere, (4) regard posters as mere reminders rather than primary campaign mechanisms, and most important of all: (5) give a funny campaign speech (pitched to a large assembly). Along with this limited advice, which is quite sound for high school politics, Marx surveyed hundreds of successful (read: "They were elected.") student leaders. Scores of e-mail replies are offered. There is, therefore, much repetition in the short bits of advice that the high school folks offer. It is clear that high school student government (and campaigning) is light-years distant from college political activity and governance in terms of sophistication. And, no one takes it very seriously since, according to the e-mailed anecdotal data, the funniest candidate usually wins. Marx is quite the enthusiast and his advice to "go for it" is sound and all students should take heed of it. The book has no index.    NO RATING.    " - hcl   [Cautionary note: The reviewer (hcl) is the author-editor of The Political Handbook for Student Government Operations which could be judged as a competing piece.]

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September  2008