Down for the Count: Dirty Elections and the Rotten History of Democracy in America

Andrew Gumbel. New Press, $18.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-62097-168-0
With the 2016 election season in full flower, Gumbel, a British-born journalist, has “updated and thoroughly revised” his 2005 work Steal This Vote to further showcase the shortcomings of American representative democracy. The veteran columnist lists a number of defects in a history of “dirty elections,” such as gerrymandering, lack of national uniformity in voting rules, restrictive voter ID laws in several GOP-controlled states, over-the-top campaign spending, and instances of voter fraud. Integrating interviews with officials from both major political parties and a keen analysis of transgressions past and present, Gumbel digs into the racist, exclusionary legality of Jacksonian democracy, the strong-arm tactics of Boss Tweed’s Tammany Hall machine, the methodical obstacles to voting in the Jim Crow South, the bully-boy grip of Richard Daley’s Chicago, the Bush vs. Gore Florida recount fiasco, and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The history of the American system is rife with documented examples of disenfranchisement and voter suppression. As former president Jimmy Carter observed in 2004, “The American political system wouldn’t measure up to any sort of international standards.” Gumbel’s assured, confident voice holds the reader’s attention as he cautions against “apathy and political disengagement.” (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/29/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
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