He doesn’t have much of a chance of winning in next year’s U.S. Senate elections. But if former California GOP chair Tom Del Beccaro can somehow make the 2016 contest a referendum on the quality of the candidates’ books, he could make it a race.

I recently sat down to read – out of duty, and decidedly not for pleasure – the books written by Senate candidates, because I never had. And for the leading candidates, the books didn’t disappoint.

Attorney General Kamala Harris’ book, Smart on Crime, is a lot like her – intelligent, direct, wonky and more than a little opaque. The book is six years old, and on some policy particulars, it reads ahead of its time, since it argues for smarter law enforcement interventions that are less likely to cause harm to citizens (and to trust in police and prosecutors).

But Harris has a tendency to lean on jargon, leaving us with dozens of deadening sentences: “The opportunity before us encourages transformation and empowerment of communities; rather than people feeling like helpless victims of crime, they can become educated consumers of safety.” I’ve gone through the book three times, and I can’t tell you what an educated consumer of safety is.

Then there’s Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, whose book isn’t just her own. She split the duties of putting together “Dream In Color: How the Sanchez Sisters Are Making History in Congress” with her sister, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez The book is clichéd and more than a little weird, as Linda and Loretta jump back and forth as the speaker. It’s got a positive, up-with-people tone, which is good since the book says almost nothing of consequence.

I was prepared to also dislike Del Beccaro’s book, The Divided Era, and I was worried about its 400 pages. (The Harris and Sanchez books are much shorter). But it turns out that Del Beccaro is a very fluid writer, and the book makes for good reading.

Best of all, he makes a coherent argument about the United States, and builds it with some real historical research. It also wrestles with a real problem – political, cultural and social conflict in an America that seems divided nearly half along various lines.

The essence of Del Beccaro’s argument will appeal to conservative readers more than it did me, but I must say it’s honestly made, and won me over in part. The gist: that as government gets bigger and decides more things, there is more for Americans to fight over. So all the money and decisions that come from government, the more divided we’ll be.

Del Beccaro isn’t strident in making this argument, and he’s careful about caveats. He sees our conflicts about war and immigration as timeless, and not all that different today than they were before. What’s different is that we’re arguing about all kinds of new things and new subjects and new programs – often bitterly.

Worse still, the government is so big that it isn’t nimble enough to resolve these conflicts. We are prisoners of the Founders vision of checks and balance and divided government – because that government is too large. Or to put it more pointedly, big government feeds our partisanship.

“Simply stated, the political partisan is the natural offspring of government action,” he writes. The book’s solutions feel more like boilerplate, though Del Beccaro, to his credit, acknowledges just how big the problem is given that citizens in growing democracies tend to want more from government.