You Can't Be President: The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America

John R. MacArthur, Author . Melville $16 (288p) ISBN 978-1-933633-60-2

Alexis de Tocqueville is a guiding spirit for this wide-ranging text, which advances a familiar argument: that moneyed and privileged interests, rather than the needs and opinions of ordinary citizens, dominate contemporary American politics. MacArthur, president and publisher of Harper's magazine, begins by lamenting the “lack of basic comprehension of the Constitution” and American government on the part of the political and media elite. From there, he proceeds thematically, considering the influence of the Republican and Democratic parties, the effects of social class and education, among other topics. Detours into local politics, including an extended account of a dispute over the construction of a Target store in Portsmouth, R.I., feel digressive, as do the author's occasional forays into history, in which he takes aim at targets on both sides of the political aisle from Joseph McCarthy to Woodrow Wilson and James Polk. MacArthur's book will likely inspire like-minded political progressives, despite his harsh criticism of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but its crossover appeal may be limited. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/14/2008
Release date: 09/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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