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OK political advocacy, but missing a grand thesis
on August 12, 2012
Eric Alterman is a well-known liberal blogger, professor, and political journalist, and I enjoy reading his columns just as I enjoy reading political analysis from many points of view. I looked forward to this book, even though I just read it (a bit late in the game). Note that I'm not reviewing from any particular point of view here, just trying to lay out this book in its own terms.
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.