When the first 10 pages of a book on American politics mention Michael Stipe, Jann Wenner, Christian Slater, and the band Cracker, young readers have a right to be suspicious. Could this be yet another political spin artist talking down to them with pop-culture references?
Yes and no. Rob Nelson does sometimes rely on an unfortunate Rock the Vote slickness to carry his message, but the ideas in Last Call carry a little more depth. If anything about the book appeals to young people, it will be the radical bent of the author's "commonsense solutions," any one of which would probably keep a political candidate from ever being elected to office. Nelson is a political activist and former leader of the Gen-X advocacy group Lead or Leave, which in 1994 asked members of Congress to pledge that they would quit office unless they had chopped the federal deficit in half by 1996. In Last Call, he asks for more systemic changes: throw everyone out of Congress and start again; eliminate prison terms for all nonviolent property offenses; pay off the national debt by establishing a national lottery. "If we want to put America back on track," he declares, "we need something of a shakeup." These are words that will appeal to any youthful idealist. --Maria Dolan