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Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America Hardcover – June 11, 2013

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Conservative Election Politics
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Editorial Reviews


“With this book, John Nichols and Bob McChesney invite Americans to examine the challenges facing America in new ways, and to fully recognize the threat that the combination of big money and big media poses to the promise of self-government. They paint a daunting picture, rich in detail based on intense reporting and groundbreaking research. But they do not offer us a pessimistic take. Rather, they call us, as Tom Paine did more than two centuries ago, to turn knowledge into power. And they tell us that we can and must respond to our contemporary challenges as a nation by rejecting the Dollarocracy and renewing our commitment to democracy.”
United States Senator Bernie Sanders

"Incisive.... [A] fervent call to all citizens."
Publishers Weekly

"An alarming, not-incorrect diagnosis."
Kirkus Reviews

"John Nichols and Bob McChesney make a compelling, and terrifying, case that American democracy is becoming American dollarocracy. Even more compelling, and hopeful, is their case for a radical reform agenda to take power back from the corporations and give it to the people."
Naomi Klein

"This is the black book of politics-as-industry, an encyclopedic account of money's crimes against democracy. The billionaires have hijacked our government, and anyone feeling complacent after the 2012 election should take sober note of Nichols' and McChesney's astonishing finding: It's only going to get worse. Dollarocracy is an impressive achievement."
Thomas Frank

"Dollarocracy gets at what's ailing America better than any other diagnosis I've encountered. Plus it prescribes a cure. What else could a reader--or a citizen--ask? To me, it's the book of the year."
Michael J. Copps
FCC Commisioner, 2001-2011

"Dollarocracy is the most important political book of the year, maybe of our times. Nichols and McChesney provide an original and painstakingly researched account of how corporations and billionaires have come to dominate the political process, as well as the contours of what they term the 'money-and-media election complex.' Although I study politics for a living, I learned more about how political advertising works, the crucial role of media corporations and dreadful election journalism than I would have ever imagined possible. In the smartest treatment I have seen, Dollarocracy also details how the Internet is being incorporated into the system; its fantastic potential to empower citizens to battle big money has been effectively neutered. Most important, Nichols and McChesney provide a roadmap to a better and more just election system, built on the foundation of establishing the right to vote. It is an optimistic response to a disturbing analysis. This is exactly the book every concerned American needs to read, because the process of understanding what exactly is going on and taking America back from the corporations starts here."
Thom Hartmann

"I hope Dollarocracy reaches a large audience, not just among journalists but among the citizens who will produce the next journalism, so we can all move toward a more open, competent and trustworthy press."
Bill Kovach, former Washington Bureau Chief of the New York Times, and former editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution

"As Nichols and McChesney’s new book shows, the robber barons of the late 19th century were pikers compared with today’s moneyed interests. They have hijacked our elections at all levels, and nothing short of the sweeping reforms called for in Dollarocracy can fix the problem. The book is a must read for anyone who cares about the integrity of our democratic system."
Thomas E. Patterson
Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press, Harvard University

“U.S. representative democracy is built on four pillars: independent journalists, informed and engaged citizens, fair and free elections, and responsive and responsible government. These pillars have been eroded by what Nichols and McChesney label ‘the money-and-media election complex,’ an incestuous and self-interested marriage of big media and big money. The result is a ‘dollarocracy’ resting on four new pillars: media corporations, disenchanted and manipulated citizens, elections that go to the highest bidder, and government that is only responsive to and responsible for the needs of the privileged class. Read this book, then go to your window and shout ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’”
Michael X. Delli Carpini
Dean, Annenberg School for Communication
University of Pennsylvania

"Dollarocracy tackles the most important problem in American public life today in a highly readable and truly insightful fashion. Americans know generally that they live in a money-driven political system, but the book is still likely to shock and dismay them. It's particularly good on how the press plays into money politics, making the whole far worse than the sum of the parts."
Thomas Ferguson, Professor of Political Science at University of Massachusetts, Boston
Senior Fellow, Roosevelt Institute

“Votes should matter more than dollars. Unfortunately, too many politicians and pundits forget this basic American value. John Nichols and Bob McChesney provide a vivid reminder of why we cannot allow our country to become a Dollarocracy. And they inspire us to make the reforms that are needed to realize the full promise of democracy.”
Congressman Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin
Sponsor, “Right to Vote Amendment”

"The billionaires are buying our media and our elections. They're spinning our democracy into a dollarocracy. John Nichols and Bob McChesney expose the culprits who steered America into the quagmire of big money and provide us with the tools to free ourselves and our republic from the corporate kleptocrats."
Lisa Graves
Executive Director, Center for Media and Democracy

"If we want America to be a democracy — and we do — we must guarantee the right of all Americans to vote. John Nichols and Bob McChesney recognize this and their groundbreaking book makes a compelling for placing the right to vote at the center of our urgent struggle to protect and extend democracy."
Rob Richie
Executive Director, FairVote: The Center for Voting and Democracy

"Those of us who have been fighting at the grassroots against the corporate influence on both major parties have for years been waiting for an uncompromising, unrelenting expose of how big money shouts down the voices of citizens. This is it! Nichols and McChesney reveal how billionaires and corporations are buying our media, buying our elections. But Nichols and McChesney don't stop there. They outline an agenda that is bold enough to make this country a real democracy. If you want to build a movement that gives power to the people, you must read this book."
Tim Carpenter
Executive Director, Progressive Democrats of America

"John Nichols and Bob McChesney reveal that the 2012 election cycle had a price tag of $10 billion. They show us who the money came from and how it was spent. But, most important, they explain why this cannot go on if we are to have fair elections and honest government. With its breakthrough reporting and incisive analysis, Dollarocracy give us the foundation we need to make the case for fundamental change like a constitutional amendment to overturn our system of unlimited campaign spending and restore democracy to the people."
John Bonifaz
Co-Founder and Executive Director, Free Speech For People
Founder, National Voting Rights Institute

"Nichols and McChesney strike again! And, as usual, these two experienced and effective fighters for common sense and the common good are right on target with Dollarocracy. The truth might not 'make you free,' but it can make you move into action to free our great nation from the political strangle hold of big money. So read…and let's get moving!"
Jim Hightower, best selling author, nationally syndicated columnist and radio commentator, and editor of the Hightower Lowdown

“This is the book that says it all: It gets right at everything that we know is wrong with politics in America.”
Lila Garrett
Host, “Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett,” KPFK-FM (Los Angeles)

About the Author

John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written The Nation’s Online Beat since 1999 is their Washington DC correspondent contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times, he is also the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers and he is a frequent guest on radio and television programs as a commentator on politics and media issues. Nichols lives in Madison, WI and Washington DC.

Robert W. McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the author or editor of sixteen books. He is the President and co-founder of Free Press, a national media reform organization. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and Champaign, Illinois.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books (June 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568587074
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568587073
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #623,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Hans G. Despain on June 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Capitalism and democracy have a turbulent and unhappy relationship. Capitalism, either with intervention and regulation (the liberal approach) or without intervention and regulation (the conservative approach) generates inequality; and since 1970 the inequality is massive, both within the American economic system and between nations.

Democracy is predicated upon political equality.

Decades of economic inequality has empowered corporations. Mega-corporations now control the American economy and the political (election) process. The mainstream debates of austerity, regulation, intervention, and stimulus are all but irrelevant to the real problems facing the nation. John Nichols and Robert McChesney argue, in this well-written and powerful book, the United States is better understood as a "Dollarocracy" - or the rule of money rather than the rule of the people. A uniquely U.S. form of plutocracy where those with the most dollars advertise and lobbying so too get the most votes.

Nichols and McChesney argue Dollarocracy is tacitly accepted as more or less `business-as-usual' in American politics. Tens of billions of dollars are spent by corporation and the wealthy on lobbying, public relations, and elections. These efforts generate large returns for corporations and wealthy, and corrupt both the American political system and economy.

The most egregious systemic corruption is American financial institutions. In less than two decades the six largest financial institutions have grown their assets from 17 percent of U.S. GDP to breathtaking 64 percent. Nichols and McChesney demonstrate the corporate media is not hurt by these trends but benefit handsomely during elections, with political advertising accounting for 25 - 30 percent of revenues.
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Format: Hardcover
A core principle of democracy is political equality. However political theorists have long acknowledged that social and economic inequality erodes the meaning and vibrancy of democratic equality. In "Dollorocracy" John Nichols and Robert McChesney provide perhaps the most detailed account yet of how the value of "one person, one vote" has been subordinated to something like the practice of "one dollar, one vote" in contemporary American political life. Their detailed examination of the "money and media election complex" should guide readers to ask whether or not "capitalist democracy" is an oxymoron. Yet they also outline the basis for a reform movement, centered on a Constitutional "right to vote," that if enacted could turn around the ongoing de-democratization of America. Essential reading.
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Format: Hardcover
This book makes me sick at two levels.

Level 1: It is the best treatment available of what I and many others have been saying for years. My own treatment was provided in a Preface, "Paradigms of Failure," in the book under my signature below, that also had a preface by Thom Hartmann, another by Tom Atlee, and a third, reprinted, from Senator Bernie Sanders. The entire book is free online, so I am not pimping it.

Level 2: The book is at best naive and at worst deliberately misleading in suggesting that Congress somehow needs to be "empowered" to resist. This is absolute and utter bull. I ran for President in 2012, accepted by the Reform Party, listed at Politics1, interviewed for On The Issues, and I ran for two reasons: to get all of the best ideas in one place (We the People Reform Coalition) and to test the boundaries of the two-party tyranny as immotalized in Theresa Amato's outrageously superb Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny. I specifically ran to be able to contact every single other Presidential candidate from the small parties, and to learn -- as I did -- that not a single one of them could overcome their ego (as Occupy could not overcome its mob) to come together in a demand for Electoral Reform from 2011 in time for 2012. That report to Hackers on Planet Earth and also published in Reality Sandwish is easily found online by searching for "How I Tested the Boundaries of the Two-Party Tyranny.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book we are told by the authors that our system of government has been "colonized" by a handful of oligarchs and turned from a Democracy into a "Dollarocracy." It is a fact that most of us could have intuited simply by watching at close range for the better part of a generation, this slo-motion oligarchic train-wreck taking place right on our own watch. Now here, in 340 densely-packed pages, we get the full picture of the details of how it was done, and by whom.

The way it was done was mind-bogglingly simple: the super rich, led mostly by the corporations, bought all of our elected representatives by spreading campaign money around like cow mature. It was done through a kind of "pay-to-play influence peddling" and subtle bribery that has only been perfected by the US crooks call our elected Representatives. The oligarchs then get their hired guns, their paid lobbyists, to rewrite the rules so that any crimes they may commit, or even hope to commit in the future, are rendered legal before the fact. With Lewis Powell named as the architect-in-chief of this new way of American business and political life, the oligarchs molded our government into a "crime-friendly" enterprise that would make Dons like Michael Corleone, blush.

By granting personhood to corporations though the "Citizens United" decision, our morally-challenged, strict constitutionalist, (don't call us an) activist Supreme Court, literally gave the keys to the kingdom to the Corporate and Wall Street bank robbers. The authors tell us that the modern version of this idea was the brainchild of Mr. Powell.
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