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Kabuki Democracy: The System vs. Barack Obama Paperback – January 11, 2011
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I don't know that it's necessary to list the topics that Alterman addresses or the merits of his conclusions -- most of which I agree. These are well-discussed in other reviews, as well as information about the book. Stylistically, this is not the easiest of reads; although a professor of journalism, Alterman's prose can seem convoluted because of the lengths of his sentences and paranthetical explanations within them. I did, however, read it in a few hours and will use the book as an outstanding resource when defending my political opinions regarding the state of our system and President Obama's job performance.
Let's get one thing straight: Kabuki Democracy is NOT an apology for Obama's policy failures since 2008. At the outset, Alterman lists those failures and acknowledges his own disappointment in the things President Obama has given in to. He believes that White House strategy had been politically naive and that Obama's advisors were ill-equipped to make wise decisions in face of the brutality of Washington politics.Read more ›
If you enjoy discussions such as Paul Krugman, Rachel Maddow, and Chris Hayes (whether you agree with them or not), then you likely will enjoy this book. It presents a laundry list of problems (from a liberal point of view) that engulf Washington: corporate influence, the domination of PACs, the complicity of the media, democracy-blocking rules in the Senate, etc. And it faults President Obama for naivete at how the system really works.
All of that is fine as far as it goes. However, that's also the problem: that is ONLY as far as it goes. I was hoping the book would have a grand thesis, as is hinted in the title: "oh, yes, we are like kabuki and here's how and why." But it doesn't. It calls for reform of this, change of that, alteration of rules over there, better behavior, more transparency, and so forth and so on. In other words, a bunch of little to medium changes that might, somehow, add up to systematic reform.
There is no grand vision here -- which is OK, as long as you know what to expect. FWIW, I'm not sure anyone has such a grand vision, and analyses like the ones here may be helpful to get there.
Alterman's taken it beyond lowering your expectations due to slow reactions. He looks at the numerous constraints which surround change - - structural, political, and cultural. He also looks at the personalities of the players. Short term, there's plenty of reason to lower your expectations from what Obama can deliver in one term, back half of a mid-term, or a second term.
This is a call for patience and diligence, to moderate your expectations. I first read this over the summer, when portions were published on The Nation's web site. It's not an easy message. But truth doesn't always come easy.
Despite this, we owe him a serious debt of gratitude, and must be grateful for such a clean and detailed analysis of the "low theater" that the American legislative process represents. However, arguably, rather than the "shadow boxing," or "Kabuki dance" that goes on, on the congressional floor, what we really needed was a synthesis -- a connecting of the dots between "high" and "low" theater; i.e., between the way the money and influence is deployed and flows from the top to the bottom to set the parameters for rule-making and constraining the procedural issues -- where the steps of the Kabuki dance are designed and used to gum-up the works of the American political process.
In Mr. Alterman's hands, the dance of our democracy is more about "low theater" -- the "tools and mechanics" used to manipulate the asymmetric levers of the Corporate instigated ideological culture -- things like secret holds, ear marks, controlling the message of the press, suppressing the vote, lobbyists rewriting legislation, etc.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Eric Alterman (born 1960) is a journalist, blogger, and commentator, who has also written books such as Why We're Liberals: A Handbook for Restoring America's Most Important... Read morePublished on September 17, 2012 by Steven H Propp
* It's not his fault he decided, after knowing the economy was ever-sinking even on the campaign trail, that he skipped a jobs bill (or a band-aid, cheap version of... Read more
I believe this book should be a must read for the middle class, and lower income families. This sheds quite a bit of light on how the politicians manipulate our destiny, and how... Read morePublished on May 29, 2011 by Nick
If you have ever wondered how quickly a Leftist can change directions based upon who is in the White House, read this book. Read morePublished on January 21, 2011 by R. Cleveland