Review: Politics Lost–How American Democracy Was Trivialized By People Who Think You’re Stupid (Hardcover)

5 Star, Democracy, Politics

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Pages of Notes on This Book–Other Reviews Largely Worthless,

May 31, 2006
Joe Klein
Edited to remove opening at suggeastion of earnest Amazonian, and to add several books and recommend my list of transpartisan books based in part on Reuniting America’s list.

I have five pages of notes on this book, which is my 708th book of non-fiction pertaining to national security and competitiveness, and in the context of the other 707 books (okay, three on MGBs and three on menopause), this is, without question, a five star book.

There are several key points that I take very seriously, and I believe that this book could usefully be read with moderate Republican Clyde Prestowitz’s ROGUE NATION, and Senator Edward Kennedy’s AMERICA: Back on Track. Readers interested in my recommendations might also look at my lists, especially my lists of Democracy and on Collective Intelligence.

Key point #1: AUTHENTICITY is lacking in politics, and could be what wins the 2008 election for either John McCain, if he can avoid the “born again Bushophile” slander, or Mark Warner, if he can bring himself to field the moderate Republican from Maine Susan Collins as a Vice President, and a coalition cabinet committed to electoral reform. McCain is especially attractive to me because he could–as author Joe Klein notes–fix the military by ending military-industrial-congressional corruption and putting a stop to corporate welfare. Warner, on the other hand, could field a credible coaltion government that ends both the corruption of special interests and the corruption of the Republican and Democratic party leadership who force their party members to vote the party line instead of their conscience (see Tom Coburn’s superb BREACH OF TRUST).

Key point #2: Consultants have drained democracy dry and actually driven voters away. This is almost a no-holds barred indictment of the consultants and polling firms that grew from the 1970’s. The author is especially pointed and strong on Patrick Caddell and on Bob Shrum, with Joe Trippi getting honorable mentions. On the one hand, the author slams polling and consulting for distorting both what the people think, and for vacating the value of real leadership–he is compelling in suggesting that the people want leaders to lead with vision and authenticity, rather than follow the numbers like sheep.

Key Point #3: Politics, in its highest form, was Bobby Kennedy in Indianapolis on the night of Martin Luther King’s murder by assassination. The author opens with this vignette, the rest of the book is about politics at its lowest form.

Key Point #4: Television has changed how we select our leaders, and this is generally a very very bad thing. In turn, the cost of television advertisements has fueled massive corruption within both parties. Since the airwaves are part of the public broadcast spectrum, it is certainly clear to me that we have to eliminate the cost of television advertising, and demand equal free time for all validated candidates, at all levels. This is a non-negotiable condition for democracy in the multi-media era.

Key Point #5: Witch hunts and negative politics are the stock of the mediocrities that populate both the Republican and the Democratic parties (I am a moderate Republican and consider both parties to be equally corrupt, the Democrats are simply more inept).

Key Point #6: Here the author is supported by Henry Kissinger (see my review of DOES AMERICA NEED A FOREIGN POLICY?), as both consider the speed of politics and the speed of the real world to have dramatically out-paced the sources and methods by which we acquire, evaluate, and act on information. Government–and the U.S. Intelligence Community and the general inter-agency policy deliberation process are, in one word, INCOMPETENT. We desperately need to harness collective intelligence through new open source software and open source intelligence capabilities that are widely and freely available to citizens as well as their elected or appointed representatives.

As a side note, the author documents the very early and heavy engagement of Saudi Arabia in sponsoring sophisticated and sustained polling of American views and concerns. It can be safely suggested that the Saudi Royal Family has funded sufficient polling to know America as well, or better, than most US politicians.

The author believes that the Reagan era killed concepts of civic duty and long term strategic sacrifice, and that a climate of intellectual cowardice and political correctness led to a shutting out of those who would speak plainly or serioiusly.

John Kerry is slammed as a banana peel politician who uses slippery words, Dick Morris is slammed as a charlatan, the Republicans are slammed for slease, anti-society, pro-market (that is to say, pro-already wealthy Wall Street), and for having no policy process (something moderate Republican and former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill supports in the book PRICE OF LOYALTY). The author slams Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks as delusional and unprofessional. As the recent chorus of generals including General Tony Zinni might suggest, the author is probably on solid ground with this assessment.

On a nuanced note, the author considers Shrum to be off-base in advising Senator Edwards to focus on class warfare, as he finds that this mantra is not effective with either the bi-partisan “common guy” or the social conservative “leave me alone” group. Everything I read in this book confirmed my view that the next congressional election needs to be about personal integrity and indepedence and authenticity, and the next presidential election needs to be about electoral reform–about re-engaging and honoring the votes of every citizen, and keeping those who are elected honest after the fact of election.

I may have read a different book than that which has been so demeaned by the other reviewers to date, but I can certainly say that I did read every word of this book, and I found the author to be thoughtful, authentic, and worth every minute that I spent absorbing his views.

Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
Who Will Tell The People? : The Betrayal Of American Democracy
Democracy’s Edge: Choosing to Save Our Country by Bringing Democracy to Life
Escaping the Matrix: How We the People can change the world
Society’s Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (Bk Currents)
The Two Percent Solution: Fixing America’s Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love
The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics
THE SMART NATION ACT: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest

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