How to Overthrow the Governmentby Arianna Huffington
Take back your country, America: a brazen manifesto from America's boldest political commentator.
It's clear: Our government isn't working. Both political parties are ignoring the real needs of the country. Campaigns are packaged by pollsters and the media, bought outright by corporate money. Our cities, streets, and schools are festering with neglect. And our
Take back your country, America: a brazen manifesto from America's boldest political commentator.
It's clear: Our government isn't working. Both political parties are ignoring the real needs of the country. Campaigns are packaged by pollsters and the media, bought outright by corporate money. Our cities, streets, and schools are festering with neglect. And our "leaders" have made politics a dirty word. Is it any wonder Americans are staying home on election day?
Our patience has run out, says Arianna Huffington. It's time to overthrow the government. Huffington's call to arms will strike a chord in fed-up voters everywhere--Americans eager to throw out the two-party system, clean up campaign finance, rewrite tax law, get rid of stale incumbents and stale ideas. What the Boston Tea Party did in 1773, this book will do today: show us all how to take back our government.
Huffington's celebrated "Strange Bedfellows" segments with bestselling author Al Franken will make their eagerly anticipated return to Politically Incorrect for campaign 2000.
About the Author:
Arianna Huffington is a frequent guest on television, including Politically Incorrect, Larry King Live, and Hardball. Her hugely popular Los Angeles Times syndicated column appears regularly in the Washington Post, New York Post, and many other papers. She lives in Los Angeles, CA, and Washington, D.C.
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Read an Excerpt
How to Overthrow the GovernmentChapter One
A Tale of Two Nations
We live in a democracy universally acknowledged to be the greatest governing system in the world. But a democracy is only as strong as it is responsive to all of its citizens. While our current government crows about the endless rain of profit on Wall Street, average Americans are sitting back and wondering, What about me? What about my children? What about their lousy school? What about my retirement, our health care?
And we have no faith in our elected leaders to do anything about it. The economic boom of the '90s has masked a looming national crisis: a corrupt political system that auctions off public policy to the highest bidder, and leaves the overwhelming majority of Americans feeling alienated from their own government.
American politics is brokenunder the thumb of a small corporate elite using its financial clout to control both parties' political agendas. The founding democratic principle of "one man, one vote" has been replaced by the new math of special interests: thousands of lobbyists plus multimillions of dollars equal access and influence out of the reach of ordinary citizens.
From 1997 to 1999, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the number of registered lobbyists in Washington grew by 37 percent, to more than 20,000, while the amount of money they spent reached $1.42 billion. Crunch the numbers: That's roughly 38 lobbyists for each member of Congress. Like a swarm of ravenous termites reducing a house to sawdust, they are making a meal out of the foundations of our democracy.
And what are we ordinary Americans doing about it?Not much at least not yet.
Almost two out of three Americans didn't even bother to vote in the last election115 million eligible voters failed to exercise a right for which a few months later people were willing to die in East Timor, where the turnout was 98.6 percent.
Back at home, among the 36 percent who did vote, many held their noses while voting for the candidate they abhorred the least. According to the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, since the 1960s national voter participation has fallen more than 25 percent, the largest and longest slide in our country's history. Twenty-five million Americans who used to vote now choose not to.
And if a democracy is only as healthy as its voters, then its life expectancy depends on the involvement of its youngest voters. So it's especially troubling that youngpeople together with poor people, have the lowest out and the steepest decline in participation. Only 20 percent of Americans aged eighteen to twenty-four voted in the 1998 elections. Despite the Rock the Vote campaign, and MTVs growing political forays, as of 1996 fewer than half of America's eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds had even registered to vote.
Even the idealists are getting discouragedthey're pushing a product no one likes. "How do you sell political participation," Rock the Vote director Seth Matlins asked, "when the state of politics is just so repulsive?" The group's founder, Jeff Ayeroff, concurs: "If 1992 was about enlightenment, then we're in the dark ages now."
When turnout among the young shrinks from 50 percent in 1972 to 32 percent in 1996, it's foolish to keep pretending our democratic future is safe. With that rate of decline, in forty years nobody will be voting.
It's a stinging repudiation of the rotten spectacle our elections have become that despite a Motor Voter-fueled surge in voter registrationa net increase of 5.5 million from 1994 to 1998voter turnout declined by 2.5 million. Registration drives have only increased the number of eligible people choosing not to vote.
The American people aren't satisfied by this-and they aren't stupid. Since 1964, the University of Michigan's National Election Studies has regularly asked eligible voters a simple question: whether, in their opinion, the U.S. government is run "for the benefit of all" or "by a few big interests." In 1998, nearly two-thirds64 percentanswered "a few big interests," a complete reversal of theelectorate's opinion in 1964. Sixty-two percentcompared to 36 percent in 1964agreed with the statement, "Public officials don't care much what people like me think."
The Michigan study also found that attitudes toward government are clearly divided along fines of class and education. The least-educated respondents agreed much more often (58 percent) than the most-educated (24 percent) that people have no say in their government. The same was true in terms of income. About half of all lower-income Americans feels disenfranchised from the political process, compared with only 18 percent of those whose income is in the top 5 percent. And unskilled workers are nearly twice as likely to feel this way as professionals64 percent to 3 3 percent.
Shouldn't the opposite be the case? Shouldn't those with the most have the least to expect from our collective efforts, and those with the least have the most to expect? Isn't that what's meant by comforting the afflicted? If the least educated and the poorest among usthose at society's margins-have the lowest expectations of government accountability and responsiveness, what does that say about our society?
Millions of voters are feeling ignored by politicians more concerned with staying in power than with serving the people. And when a candidate wins, it becomes increasingly unlikely that he or she will ever lose. In 1998, House incumbents ended up running unopposed in 95 districts, while in 127 they faced only token opposition. It's no surprise then that a record 98.5 percent of them were reelected, collecting an average of more than 70 percent of the vote. In an ideal world, a people that reelects....How to Overthrow the Government. Copyright (c) by Arianna Huffington . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Arianna Huffington has been named one of Washington's most influential commentators by both Newsweek and People. Her syndicated column appears twice weekly in newspapers around the country, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a frequent guest on television talk shows from Crossfire to Politically Incorrect, and a contributing writer to Talk magazine. The author of seven previous books, she lives in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., with her two daughters.
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Ms. Huffington has hit a positive cord within the American body politic. She offers great advise for getting involved in politics and returning the government back to the people, combined with terrific biting quips. A great resource and 'how to' book.
Huffington's depiction of an unequal society run by special interests is not only accurate, but wonderfully illustrated by countless examples gained from her years writing as a columnist. Unfortunately Huffington's work, although moderately well-researched, is scattered rather than a cohesive plan for change. The previous reviewer has missed the point entirely, and I'm guessing that's probably because he/she's one of the minority who have benefited greatly from the 'booming economy', not one of the majority who's income has remained static or fallen, despite economic 'good times', as the business press constantly informs us. Bottom line: if you regularly read politics and economics, particularly from a leftist approach, there's really not much new here. On the other hand, this is an approachable and readable book--Huffington's anger and indignance may serve to mobilize those who haven't got it yet.
This book might not be the written by the world's great political commentator, but it offers an interesting point of view and sets forth her positions in a clear manner and with conviction. Have I read better books about the state of the government? Yes, but it is good to see other opinions especially when they are so well articulated. Even if you don't agree with any of her issues, she does makes her points well.
How odd can you get? Here we are in the most prosperous time in the history of the planet and in the most prosperous country on the planet, and Ms. Huffington wants us to overthrow the gov't that has played such a central role in everything that has happened to get us here? A book titled 'Counting our Blessings' would be far, far more logical. It would seem a sad confluence of events from her personal and professional life and has led her to be a strident reformer at exactly the least rational time in the history of the planet for reform. Accordingly, she stretches far to find issues that make sense and comes up very short time after time. She even downgrades her own arguments by calling them, pet peeves rather then real issues. Her biggest pet peeve seems to be that Archer Daniels Midland gets $300,000,000 a year in ethanol subsidies to nicely symbolize how special interest groups now run the gov't at the expense of little people. The truth is: 1) many agree with ethanol subsidies as insurance against the day when our oils supply finally runs out 2) The voters are a special interest who can vote out any politician who is too much in the pocket of any special interest. Any politician who takes a penny or casts one vote does so knowing his opponent in the next election will hold him fully accountable. 3) If the gov't really were for sale then the Nazi's, or big oil, or socialists, or Catholics would buy it, but instead it seems perfectly stable. 4) Given the unprecedented and widespread current prosperity it is silly to even consider the notion that special interests run the gov't for themselves. 5) We are all free to organize, raise money, and lobby the gov't , even if we want to lobby against what other lobbies are for. Perhaps her second biggest pet peeve is that very few people vote. She considers it 'scandalous' and just ghastly when in reality there is nothing to be concerned about. It is so tough to be a good reformer when there is so little to reform! If we passed a law that everyone had to vote then what: 1) Germans voted a lot and they voted for Hitler so we know that voting doesn't mean voting intelligently. It can actually lead to worse gov't; especially if you force people who didn't care enough or know enough to vote on their own. It is actually more logical to have voter qualification tests to insure that voters bring some expertise into the voting booth, and this would probably reduce rather than enlarge the electorate. It would seem you have to know something to vote intelligently just as you have to know something to perform surgery intelligently and we can be sure Ms. Huffington knows this at least when she needs surgery. Perhaps her third biggest pet peeve is that the Democrats and Republicans are the same; so voters, she claims, have no choice really. Well, this is just a self serving lie; at best. For example, the Democrats and Hillary wanted to socialize medicine while the republicans wanted to shut down the gov't. Several ratings groups, like the ADA assign numbers to each member of congress based on the way he/she votes and, surprise, Democrats overwhelmingly vote very differently from republicans. In fact Republicans strongly tend to vote in a Jeffersonian way for small gov't while Democrats tend to vote in a Hamiltonian way for larger gov't. This has always been the real and only central issue in American and world history and Ms. Huffington shamelessly steers the reader away from it. I would recommend to the reader 'Understanding The Difference Between Democrats and Republicans' which is still the classic on the real issue that has always faced America and the world and the real issue we have always and will always face each time we enter the voting booth.