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America, the Owner's Manual

America, the Owner's Manual
You Can Fight City Hall—and Win

New Edition

July 2016 | 328 pages | CQ Press
In 2016, Americans fed up with the political process vented that frustration with their votes. Republicans nominated for president a wealthy businessman and former reality show host best known on the campaign trail for his sharp rhetoric against immigration and foreign trade. Democrats nearly selected a self-described socialist who ran on a populist platform against the influence of big money in politics.

While it is not surprising that Americans would channel their frustrations into votes for contenders who pledge to end business as usual, the truth is that we don’t have to pin our hopes for greater participation on any one candidate. All of us have a say—if we learn, master and practice the skills of effective citizenship.

One of the biggest roadblocks to participation in democracy is the perception that privileged citizens and special interests command the levers of power and that everyday Americans can’t fight City Hall. That perception is undoubtedly why a 2015 Pew Charitable Trusts survey found that 74 percent of those Americans surveyed believed that most elected officials didn't care what people like them thought.

Graham and Hand intend to change that conventional wisdom by showing citizens how to flex their citizenship muscles. They describe effective citizenship skills and provide tips from civic experts. Even more importantly, they offer numerous examples of everyday Americans who have used their skills to make democracy respond. The reader will see themselves in these examples of citizens who chose to be victorious participants rather than tranquil spectators in the arena of democracy. By the end of the book, you will have new confidence that citizen participation is the lifeblood of America -- and will be ready to make governments work for you, not the other way around.
Prologue: Green Tea
An 800-Pound Gorilla  
The Odd Couple  
The Right Level at the Right Time  
Framing the Problem and the Solution  
A Legislative Champion  
The Bright Future  
Introduction: In the Arena
Chapter 1: What's Your Problem? Defining the Challenge That Active Citizenship Can Solve
Case in Point: A Road through the Mountains  
How to Define the Problem  
1. Look with a Telescope, Not a Microscope  
2. Focus the Telescope if Necessary  
3. Begin with the End in Mind  
Tips from the Pros: Anticipate the Decision Maker’s Needs  
4. Suggest Solutions as You Define the Problem  
5. Define the Problem in Public Terms  
6. Be Prepared to Refine the Problem  
7. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat  
Checklist for Action  
Chapter 2: Just the Facts, Ma'am: Gathering Information to Sway Decision Makers
Case in Point: A Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned  
The Information-Gathering Process  
Why Conduct Research?  
Inform Every Citizenship Skill  
Enhance Credibility  
Learn from the Past  
Locate Precedent  
Out-Prepare Your Opponents  
Another Case in Point: Stormy Weather  
Effective Research: A Step-by-Step Guide  
1. Above All, Be Credible  
2. Stay on Target  
3. Use All Your Tools  
Tips from the Pros: Data Engagement Leads to Innovative Solutions  
Tips from the Pros: Finding Public Records  
Tips from the Pros: Make the Most of University Researchers  
4. Harness the Power of Real People  
Knowledge Can Be Power - If You Use It  
Checklist for Action  
Chapter 3: The Buck Stops Where? Identifying Who in Government Can Fix Your Problem
Case in Point: Putting the "Be" in South Beach  
You Know the Problem - Who Has the Solution?  
Aiming at the Right Target  
1. Determine Which Level of Government Is Involved  
Tips from the Pros: Contacting Local Governments  
Tips from the Pros: Success in Your State Capital  
2. Pinpoint Your Specific Targets within the Proper Level of Government  
3. Use Representative Democracy to Your Advantage  
Tips from the Pros: Maximizing Customer Service  
Tips from the Pros: I’m Your Elected Representative— and Also Your Neighbor  
Checklist for Action  
Appendix: Constitutional Sources of State and Federal Authority  
Chapter 4: Testing the Waters: Gauging and Building Public Support for Your Cause
Case in Point: Reversal of Fortune in Steamboat Springs  
Why Does Public Opinion Matter?  
1. Determine the Level of Support  
2. Identify the Arguments Most Likely to Resonate with the Public  
3. Anticipate and Rebut the Opposition’s Arguments  
4. “Microtarget” Specific Groups of Persuadable Officials or Citizens  
Tips from the Pros: Microtargeting 101  
Tips from the Pros: Targeting (aka Microtargeting)  
5. Get the Most Bang for Your Buck  
How Do I Determine What Public Opinion Is?  
Tips from the Pros: The Dos and Don’ts of Public Opinion Surveys  
Other Methods of Measuring Public Opinion  
Different Types of Survey Research  
Tips from the Pros: Leadership Polling  
Focus Groups  
Tips from the Pros: The Dos and Don’ts of Focus Groups  
Cost-Effective Public Opinion Research  
Tips from the Pros: Affordable Public Opinion Research  
Conclusion: Putting Public Opinion Data to Good Use  
Checklist for Action  
Appendix: Steamboat Springs Schools Survey  
Chapter 5: Winning Friends and Influencing People: How to Persuade the Decision Maker
Case in Point: Getting MADD at Drunk Drivers  
Influencing and Persuading the Decision Maker  
1. Educate Decision Makers before They Become Decision Makers  
2. Define the Relationship with the Decision Maker before You Create It  
3. Follow the Chain of Command  
Tips from the Pros: Back to School  
4. Respect Professional Staff  
5. Know the Decision Maker before You Advocate  
6. Determine Who Influences the Decision Maker—and Influence Them  
7. Understand Internal Politics and Dynamics  
8. Do Your Homework—Always Be Credible  
9. All Politics is Local  
Tips from the Pros: Ridesharing Gets a Lyft in Portland  
10. Maximize Your Face-to-Face Opportunities with the Decision Maker  
Tips from the Pros: Getting in the Door  
Tips from the Pros: Make a Lasting Impression on a Decision Maker  
11. Don’t Assume that the Final Decision Maker Is the Right Target  
12. Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good  
Checklist for Action  
Chapter 6: Timing is Everything: Using the Calendar to Achieve Your Goals
Case in Point: A Watershed Moment in Sports Activism  
Manage the Clock  
1. Be Aware of Fixed Deadlines— and Start Long in Advance  
2. Know the Official Time  
3. Study the Budget  
4. Think in Terms of “Best Time” to Achieve Your Goal  
5. Play the Long Game  
Tips from the Pros: Time after Time  
Take Advantage of Trends and Cycles  
Checklist for Action  
Chapter 7: All for One, and One for All: Coalitions for Citizen Success
Case in Point: Equality Means Business  
Building Your Own Coalition: A Step-by-Step Guide to Forging an Effective Alliance  
1. Define the Problem to Attract the Widest Possible Coalition  
Tips from the Pros: Ingenuity and Innovation Are Keys to Effective Coalitions  
2. Build the Coalition around a Solution  
Tips from the Pros: Home Defense in San Francisco  
3. Tailor the Coalition to the Decision Maker  
4. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel  
5. Draft for Talent and Need  
6. Turn Opponents into Allies  
7. Pick a Strong Champion to Celebrate Your Cause  
Another Case in Point: The Trail of Dreams  
8. Have a Simple, Direct Message—and Repeat, Repeat, Repeat  
9. Be Vigilant in Keeping the Coalition Together  
Checklist for Action  
Chapter 8: All Your News Is Fit to Print: Engaging the Media
Case in Point: The Street Doctor  
Planning for Media Success  
Getting to Know the Media  
Traditional Media  
Tips from the Pros: Citizen Advocacy on Camera  
Tips from the Pros: Cut Through the Static— How to Stand Out on Radio  
Tips from the Pros: Talk to Me. Quickly  
Multicultural Media  
The New Media  
Tips from the Pros: Engaging the New Media  
Tips from the Pros: Social Messaging Strategies  
Tips from the Pros: Social Media Success Is All about Personality  
Tips from the Pros: Podcasting for Citizen Success  
Designing and Implementing Your Media Plan  
1. Know Your Goals, Message, and Media Audience  
Tips from the Pros: The Right Message  
2. Distribute Your Own Message  
Tips from the Pros: To Win Digital, Be Flexible, Mobile, Versatile—and Real  
3. Do Your Homework  
4. Walk a Mile in the Media’s Shoes  
5. Make Contact  
6. Take Multiple Bites at the Apple  
7. Stay Credible at All Costs  
Tips from the Pros: The Dos and Don’ts of Advocacy Storytelling  
Checklist for Action  
Chapter 9: The Prices of Progress: Finding the Resources to Support Your Initiative
Case in Point: Nothing But Nets  
The Most Popular Labor-Saving Device  
Paying for Your Advocacy Effort: A User's Guide to Successful Financing  
1. Determine How Much Money You Need  
2. Develop a Fundraising Plan  
Tips from the Pros: Digital Fundraising Success  
Another Case In Point: Following the Crowd in Jersey City  
3. Establish a Finance Infrastructure  
Tips from the Pros: The One B and Five Cs of Financial Management  
4. Be Creative  
Another Case In Point: Comic Relief  
5. Demonstrate Financial Credibility to Decision Makers  
Tips from the Pros: Mastering Local Budgets  
Tips from the Pros: Thinking Outside the Fiscal Box  
Another Case In Point: Soccer Advocates Net Goals in Newburyport  
Checklist for Action  
Chapter 10: You've Won! You've Lost: Preserving Victory and Learning from Defeat
Case in Point: A Victory Born in East L.A.  
If You Have Won: Capitalizing on Victories  
1. Look over Your Shoulder  
2. Run through the Tape  
3. Say Thank You  
4. Chronicle the Campaign  
5. Turn Opponents into Friend  
6. Close the Doors Correctly  
7. Keep Your Momentum  
If You Have Lost: Recovering from Defeat  
1. Try to Snatch Victory from the Jaws of Defeat  
2. If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again  
3. Be Gracious  
4. Finish Strong  
5. Diagnose the Problem and Fix It  
Checklist for Action  
Final Thoughts: The Journey Continues  

"When it comes to the state of American democracy, are you a doer or a complainer? In America, The Owner's Manual, Bob Graham and Chris Hand don't just urge more Americans to be better citizens. They provide the instructions.” 

Chuck Todd
NBC Meet the Press moderator

“Americans need to be reminded of the importance of their role in our democracy.  We are the only ones who can change the direction of our country. America, the Owner's Manual provides just the roadmap to achieve those changes."  

Christine Todd Whitman
Former EPA Administrator and New Jersey Governor

“Bob Graham and Chris Hand's book, America, the Owner’s Manual: You Can Fight City Hall–and Win, is an exciting, energizing and hope-giving guide to effective citizenship.”

Donna Brazile
Democratic strategist

 "Bob Graham belongs to that now practically endangered breed of public servant that put country above politics. Sen. Graham and Chris Hand provide an important read to those of us who want to see citizens restore those governing values in American democracy."

Ana Navarro
CNN and ABC political commentator

“In America, the Owner's Manual, Senator Bob Graham and Chris Hand honor the ideal of a government of, by, and for the people by preparing citizens with the skills they need to hold public officials accountable."

Joe Lieberman
former Vice Presidential nominee and U.S. Senator

"Combining expert advice with relevant and timely examples, America, the Owner's Manual is a straightforward and accessible ‘how to’ guide to working for change in any political system. “

Annise Parker
former Houston Mayor

"Senator Bob Graham and Chris Hand have provided a how-to manual complete with clear examples, simple rules of the political road and smart strategies for Americans ready to get off the couch and get results from their government."

Rick Wilson
Republican media consultant

“Senator Bob Graham and Chris Hand have produced an invaluable primer on how American citizens can be involved in politics and affect policy change."

Russell J. Dalton
University of California, Irvine

America, the Owner's Manual is the only book that comprehensively explains how to be effective in American politics and civic life, and it does so brilliantly. It’s consistently practical, realistic, accessible, and inspiring."

Peter Levine
Tufts University

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

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Bob Graham

Following 12 years of service in the Florida Legislature, Bob Graham was elected governor of Florida in 1978. During two successful terms as governor, Graham was nationally recognized for reforms in education, environmental protection, and economic diversification. Upon concluding his two terms as governor, Graham had an 83 percent approval rating from the people of Florida. Graham was elected to the United States Senate in 1986, serving three consecutive terms. As a member of the Senate Finance, Environment and Public Works, and Veterans Affairs Committees, he was a leader on health, trade,... More About Author

Chris Hand

Chris Hand is an attorney with a long record of public service. He previously served as speechwriter, press secretary, and campaign press secretary for Senator Graham and as campaign manager for Florida’s former statewide elected chief financial officer, Alex Sink. In 2008, Hand served as one of 27 Florida electors in the United States Electoral College. In 2010, Graham and Hand authored the original versionof this book, entitled America, the Owner’s Manual: Making Government Work for You.From 2011 to 2015, Hand served as Chief of Staff at the consolidated City of Jacksonville, Florida—the largest... More About Author

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ISBN: 9781506350585