Civic Hope is a history of what everyday Americans say - in their own words - about the government overseeing their lives. Based on a highly original analysis of 10,000 letters to the editor from 1948 to the present published in twelve US cities, the book overcomes the limitations of survey data by revealing the reasons for people's attitudes. While Hart identifies worrisome trends - including a decline in writers' abilities to explain what their opponents believe and their attachment to national touchstones - he also shows why the nation still thrives. Civic Hope makes a powerful case that the vitality of a democracy lies not in its strengths but in its weaknesses and in the willingness of its people to address those weaknesses without surcease. The key, Hart argues, is to sustain a culture of argument at the grassroots level.
Table of Contents
Part I. The Need for Civic Hope: 1. Can politics be fixed?; 2. Can citizenship be revived?; 3. Is civic hope the answer?; Part II. The Search for Civic Hope: 4. People who write letters; 5. People who read letters; Part III. The Texture of Civic Hope: 6. Why letters are compelling; 7. Why letters are irritating; 8. How letters have changed; 9. How letters differ; Part IV. The Future of Civic Hope: 10. Sustaining a culture of argument; Appendices; Index.