In the early fall of 1984, as the Reagan-Mondale presidential campaign swung into high gear Jonathan Schell set out into the United States to find one or two voters through whose eyes he could watch the election. He found Gina and Bill Gapolinsky, a young, college-educated, married couple of working-class background who lives in the middle-class neighborhood of Sherman Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Schell spent the rest of the campaign visiting and talking with them and their friends, neighbors, and relatives, and reflecting on the political state of the country.
What emerges when he is done is a fresh look at how life is now being lived in the United States, and at the new place of politics in that life. Although Sherman Park has been spared the catastrophes of history, history, Schell finds, has nevertheless been quietly and sweepingly at work, transforming the very fabric of life. Against this background of unsensational but profound social change, Schell locates the anomalous and declining role of not just one party or the other ("realignment") or of both parties ("de-alignment") but of politics itself. Is the United States, he asks, becoming de-politicized? In a time when little more than half the voting-age population bothers to vote in a presidential election, and observers are increasingly worried that in some fundamental way our educational system, news media, and political system itself are failing to fulfill the need of a democracy to engage its citizenry in political life, Schell goes to the root and talks to the citizens themselves.
Approaching this work with the keen powers of observation, the analytic brilliance, and the humanity that have characterized all his books, Jonathan Schell looks deeply into daily life in the United States and discovers there the innermost sources of the political changes that make this moment such a politically fluid and unpredictable one in our country's history. He changes the way we see America.