Steal this Vote

The history of American politics is a cautionary tale of corruption, fraud and "hollow democracy." It's amazing that most people in America still seem to believe their system is somehow a model of democracy; truth is it's a mess, and always has been. As one historian said, the phrase "free and fair American election" is basically an oxymoron.

Andrew Gumbel is a reporter for UK newspaper the Independent, and this is his carefully researched, scrupulously nonpartisan account of the history of American democracy. And it's a revelation! Stolen elections, routine fraud, murder, bribery and widespread disenfranchisement – all from the get go!

Most fascinating – and troubling – is Gumbel's account of the openly anti-democratic thread running through American political discourse, from the founding fathers all the way to Karl Rove: the belief that universal suffrage is inherently dangerous, because it allows the "ignorant" mob to destabilise the nation. Much of the structure of American institutions has been shaped by efforts to minimise that danger, by limiting the people's access to the political process.

Gumbel also does something few Americans seem willing to do: he compares American democracy to other countries – from Europe to Latin America, and even Albania. Surprise, surprise: America comes out of it looking like a poor yokel cousin from the sticks…

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