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Posted October 8, 2013
This book was first published 40 years ago at the height of the Watergate scandal that revealed serious flaws in American democracy. Unfortunately, systemic lessons that might have been revealed by that ugly episode were overshadowed by the shocking behavior of a few corrupt individuals. Karp devotes a chapter to Nixon's outrageous example but places it in an extensive historical context of partisan manipulation of elections and policies to benefit the ruling class at citizens' expense.
Today marks the beginning of week two in a federal government shutdown due to partisan posturing. One week ago, I thought the battle was what the parties said it was - a serious disagreement about Obamacare. After reading this book, I wonder if the shutdown is just another performance intended to dupe everyone into believing America has a competitive political system. It seems outrageous, but Karp offers a unique theory and compelling evidence that Democrats and Republicans have done worse in over a century of collusion to protect their power.
Reform, he states unequivocally, is the real enemy of both major parties. The solution is self-government, a concept embedded in our culture and Constitution that has been neglected but remains as a source of hope. It is difficult to accept most of what Karp reveals, but I must admit that our experience since 1973 - all of my adult life - has added weight to his argument. My hope is that the current state of affairs motivates Americans to declare their independence from party bosses by taking a more active role in politics.