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The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America: Or, Why A Progressive Presidency Is Impossible [Kindle Edition]

John R. Macarthur
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The publisher of Harper’s Magazine presents “an able, witty, and suitably pissed-off guide” (Bookforum) to American politics
Barack Obama swept into the White House in January 2009 still floating—or so it appeared to millions of his admirers—high above the crude realities of contemporary American political life. Old-fashioned landmarks—party loyalty, ideology, campaign fundraising, patronage, corruption, even race—seemed hopelessly outdated as points of reference for understanding what was trumpeted as a new phenomenon in the nation’s civic history.

But nearly four years after Barack Obama’s election, elite interests in America remain triumphant. Nearly all measures of inequality continue to rise. And barriers to entry to our political process have reached nearly insurmountable heights.

Looking closely at Congress, elections, and money in politics, and sparing neither side of the political spectrum, John R. Mac­Arthur delivers a devastating exposé of the entrenched interests and elites that make change in America—even by a supposedly progressive president—so arduous. What, Mac­Arthur asks, could change this system?

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews


“This book lays bare the malfunctions of our democracy and the solutions in a superb literary style and a convincing manner.” —George McGovern, Democratic candidate for President, 1972

"If national campaigns are exhibitions of elaborate theater and Cicero and Machiavelli wrote scripts that candidates would be wise to recite, MacArthur, the former investigative reporter and publisher of Harper’s Magazine, cuts down the curtain to expose the direction, stage setting, and choreography that takes place behind the scenes.... MacArthur’s undressing of the American mythos posits that perhaps you can be president, but before you think about it, you better have the connections necessary to earn the approval of a major political machine, raise hundreds of millions of dollars, and please the media outlets that not only report, but shape the news."
The Daily Beast, "10 Books to Read for the Election Season"

“A chapter-by-chapter postmortem of cherished American ideals. . . MacArthur’s tone is wry-enraged, but he includes serious anecdotal discussion, looking at the startling numbers behind election-year pomp and following the end result of our politics to America’s economically depressed, hollowed-out small cities.” —Time Out Chicago

“His careful narrative of political power abuses, from the national to the local, from yesterday to today and maybe tomorrow, shows us that if we do not become committed as ‘we the people,’ we will continue to be ruled by ‘they the corporations.’ ” —Ralph Nader

“A no-nonsense political reporter. . . a stiff antidote to the pleasant notion, voiced somewhere in this country every few milliseconds in an election year, that anyone, from any background, can grow up to be president.” 
—Chicago Sun-Times

“A critique—cogent and mostly unassailable—of the corrupt, self-serving nature of contemporary American ‘democracy’. . . Maybe a dozen more books like this one . . . and people’s attention will finally be drawn to the rot in the system and away from fleeting symptoms of that rot.” —
The Brooklyn Rail

“An able, witty, and suitably pissed-off guide.”  —Bookforum

“A courageous book that takes a bold new approach in the field of American political science. It helps to explain how presidents are chosen and elected, including in the money-fueled 2008 contest. This singular work is thoroughly documented, clearly written and convincingly reasoned. I suggest that it be placed on the bookshelf—next to the Constitution and the Federalist Papers—by students, librarians and thoughtful voters.” 
—Herbert Mitgang 
Society of American Historians and author of 
Abraham Lincoln: A Press Portrait

“This book had a profound impact, as indeed it should have for every American who reads it. It’s an excellent, excellent book, perceptive and intelligent and inspiring.” 
—John Anderson 
independent candidate for president, 1980

“This book challenges the ‘wu wu’ we all profess and preach to children: that anyone can be President. This is one of our nation’s core beliefs, even though facts don’t sustain it. I challenge you to read it and make your own decision as to whether our ‘core belief’ is reality or a total myth.” 
—Patricia Schroeder 
Democratic candidate for President, 1988

About the Author

John R. MacArthur is the president and publisher of Harper’s Magazine. An award-winning journalist, he has previously written for The New York Times, United Press International, The Chicago Sun-Times, and The Wall Street Journal. He is also the author of the acclaimed books The Selling of Free Trade: NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy, and Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War. He lives in New York City.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3246 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House; Reprint edition (September 18, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005R81Z86
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #721,993 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars eye opener December 29, 2012
A great deal of voters have either been significantly or extremely disappointed with the Obama administration accomplishments thus far.
Mr. MacArthur's book spells out to what extent Pres. Obama has been coopted by the financial power- house establishment.
(Had he not been sufficiently coopted at the outset, Obama would have likey NOT been nominated by the Democratic Party)
Hopefully, in his second term President Obama will be more courageous and true to his 2008 promises. Else, he will be remembered for skillfull DEMAGOGUERY rather than for limited contributions to undoing the severe economical damage perpetrated by the Wall Street "fat cats"(and by everybody else who handsomely profited from the real-estate financial "bubble").
I am SHOCKED to find there are no other reviews in AMAZON to this well researched, timely and relevant document! (Round up the usual suspects :)
Does this mean America suffers from IGNORANCE ... I DO NOT KNOW ...
or perhaps it suffers from APATHY ... I DO NOT CARE TO KNOW ....
(NOTE: If you ask me, the first, real and only Afro-American PRES shall always be LESTER YOUNG, the Abraham Lincoln of American JAZZ Lester Young Story (Mini Lp Sleeve),he rules supreme in jazz-heaven! )
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The GEORGETOWN SET read along with THE OUTRAGEOUS BARRIERS TO DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA: OR WHY THE PROGRESSIVE PRESIDENCY will turn your stomach and scare you but it will also make you a more intelligent citizen. Perhaps, God willing, you may, someday find yourself able to do something to prevent our failure and collapse as a culture and civilization.
From various Pew polls we see that Americans mostly feel the country is on the wrong track. They give their president a positive rating of 50% or less and the Congress low teens. In a vague way, we know something is wrong but we don't know the details and we have no idea how to go about changing the way our government functions
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We carry on about grand principles, and liberals and conservatives and libertarians, etc. Meanwhile the lobbyists, bureaucracy and corporations continue making all of the decisions that matter. This book explains what is really happening. Understanding the broken modern U.S. government is the first step to figuring out how to repair it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wake up and smell the corruption! February 27, 2015
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The facts concerning the conditions in this nation are worse than explained in this book.
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More About the Author

JOHN R. MACARTHUR is the president and publisher of Harper's Magazine. An award-winning journalist, he has previously written for The New York Times, United Press International, The Chicago Sun-Times, and The Wall Street Journal. He is also the author of the acclaimed books You Can't Be President: The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America, The Selling of Free Trade: NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy, and Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War. He lives in New York City.

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