Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America

Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America

4.8 4
by John Nichols, Robert W McChesney

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Fresh from the first $10 billion election campaign, two award-winning authors show how unbridled campaign spending defines our politics and, failing a dramatic intervention, signals the end of our democracy.

Blending vivid reporting from the 2012 campaign trail and deep perspective from decades covering American and international media and politics, political


Fresh from the first $10 billion election campaign, two award-winning authors show how unbridled campaign spending defines our politics and, failing a dramatic intervention, signals the end of our democracy.

Blending vivid reporting from the 2012 campaign trail and deep perspective from decades covering American and international media and politics, political journalist John Nichols and media critic Robert W. McChesney explain how US elections are becoming controlled, predictable enterprises that are managed by a new class of consultants who wield millions of dollars and define our politics as never before. As the money gets bigger—especially after the Citizens United ruling—and journalism, a core check and balance on the government, declines, American citizens are in danger of becoming less informed and more open to manipulation. With groundbreaking behind-the-scenes reporting and staggering new research on “the money power,” Dollarocracy shows that this new power does not just endanger electoral politics; it is a challenge to the DNA of American democracy itself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Nichols and McChesney (coauthors of The Death and Life of American Journalism and cofounders of Free Press, a media reform group) are both despairing and hopeful in this incisive account of what they see as corporate America’s hijacking of the election process. While the billion spent in the 2012 presidential election was unprecedented, America’s plutocrats have long been determined to make their vote count. Though contesting this trend is a deeply rooted American tradition, it’s troubling to read about dismantled restrictions against corporate dominance, beginning with Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell who, in 1978, laid the groundwork for the problematic 2011 Citizens United decision. As the authors note, unchecked out-of-state donations ensure that elected officials hold no loyalty to their constituents. Their examination of media involvement proves less precise. It remains unclear whether they are positing that media conglomerates collude with business by narrowing coverage in order to rake in billions in political advertising, allow advertising to drive the story, or roll over and play dead. The hopefulness here is in the authors’ prescription: encouraging the growing movement to amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United; a call for more robust public broadcasting; and an appeal to make voting a Constitutional guarantee. They conclude with a fervent call to all citizens to “refuse to be ridden by a booted, and spurred favored few.” Agent: Sandra Dijkstra, the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. (June)
From the Publisher

“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)

Kirkus Reviews
Collaborating once more (The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again, 2010), Nichols, the Nation's Washington, D.C., correspondent, and academic McChesney (Communications/Univ. of Illinois) decry the pernicious influence of Big Money on our elections. Mining the $10 billion 2012 campaign for supporting data and illustrative anecdotes, the authors explain how the plutocrats have seized control of our electoral process, to the detriment of everyday Americans. It's a conspiracy, they write, among the major parties, their big money donors, lobbyists, consultants, super PACs and giant media corporations, all benefiting from the status quo. The unobstructed flow of Big Money washing through the system has been aided, they argue, by a series of Supreme Court decisions that beat back any attempt at reform--Citizens United is singled out for special opprobrium--and abetted by a supine journalistic establishment too obsessed with the horse race and too beholden to the financial windfall accompanying each election cycle to advocate for change. Though Nichols and McChesney take an occasional swipe at the "too friendly to business" ethos that infected the Democrats under Clinton and the Obama campaign's dangerous, digital incursions on our privacy, they reserve most of their fire for Republicans, for their wealthy backers--the Koch brothers, Richard Mellon Scaife, Sheldon Adelson--their supportive media--Fox News, Rush Limbaugh--political masterminds--Karl Rove, Lee Atwater--and judicial "architects" of the dollarocracy--Burger, Powell, Roberts--who've helped ensure a corrupt system. The authors reject contentions that the Internet will permit voters to break through the barriers erected by the moneyed interests and, instead, propose a radical reform agenda that includes a constitutional amendment to dispose of Citizens United, the abolition of the Electoral College, free airtime for candidates and the establishment of a nonpartisan Election Commission. An alarming, not-incorrect diagnosis, but an argument too one-sided and a solution so lofty as to be of little use.

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Nation Books
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Meet 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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Dollarocracy: How the Money-and-Media Election Complex is Destroying America 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mybookreview More than 1 year ago
This book details with well-document, easy to read analysis, the single most important problem in the U.S. today. This problem is destroying democracy and underlies all other issues and problems. It deserves the advocacy energy and skills of all issue-related organizations, and that of every American who values freedom and democracy. Corporations and wealthy individuals have taken over the democratic processes through their financing of election campaigns and lobbying. 
Kamaki More than 1 year ago
This book is frightening! Our individual votes are being erased in a flood of dollars. This history of how all this came about is interesting, infuriating and, again, frightening. Our democracy is already gone. The authors write in a very readable style. Simply reading is easy. Digesting what you read is hard. They do offer some strategies for correcting this, but it takes a lot of grit and optimism to enter into those efforts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago