If I had kids to talk to (I mean kids who would listen, unlike my kids who dance in place until I stop making noise), I'd tell them to not bother learning to read. It's not worth it.
If I'd never learned to read, I wouldn't be in the middle of a string of crap books. First I suffered through Bubble and Squeak, then The Facts Behind Yann Martel Thinking He's the Cleverest Man in the World, and now I'm saddled with You Can't Be President, by John R. MacArthur.
What makes MacArthur's book more frustrating is that, if he could lay aside his bias, I'd agree with his basic premise.
MacArthur uses quotation marks to undermine any technical term applied to conservatives. Instead of saying "Republican leaders," he'll say "Republican 'leaders,'" letting you know he doesn't think they're "leading" at all (wink wink!). For instance, he writes, "Unfortunately, instead of meeting genuine scholars, I found myself debating Joshua Muravchik, a 'resident scholar' at the American Enterprise Institute, a wealthy 'think tank' funded by right-wing corporations and individuals with little pretense of thoughtfulness but very high standards for propaganda" (29-30). MacArthur is insulted that he, a magazine publisher, is placed on a panel not with "genuine scholars," but with other magazine folks like Muravchik, who often writes for "Commentary."
Later, MacArthur writes, "...National Public Radio's Robert Siegel interviewed 'policy experts,' including Peter Rodman, a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, the somewhat liberal counterpart to the right-wing Heritage Foundation. Siegel--a mildly liberal voice on an occasionally liberal radio network--was having difficulty explaining to his audience why...antiwar members of Congress seemed incapable of influencing President Bush's war policy" (31-32). I thought, "Is he joking? NPR is an 'occasionally liberal radio network'?" I know I've never been able to listen to NPR for more than 10 minutes at a time because of the infantile level of reporting. "Next, on 'All Things Considered,' we'll talk about how corporations and Republicans want to enslave women and minorities for a million years!" Brookings is "somewhat liberal," but Heritage is definitely "right-wing." No bias here.
He excuses away the worst of Thomas Jefferson while writing an entire BOOK dedicated to the evils of party politics. Who introduced factions to our system? It was Jefferson, secretly leading the opposition from within Washington's second cabinet and then continuing from the vice-presidency itself. I'd rather have open factions than secret factions. Jefferson's slave-holding gets a pass from MacArthur with the oh-too-cute, "I can't bring myself to dislike Jefferson for owning slaves, clinging as I do to La Rochefoucauld's insight that 'hypocracy is the compliment vice pays to virtue'" (22). Rest assured that no other hypocrite in the book gets off that easily (except maybe MacArthur himself, who finds nothing wrong with bemoaning the loss of wasteful union-wage jobs and then criticizing Homeland Security spending he finds unnecessary).
Parties may have mysteriously appeared in America, but there's no doubting who's to blame for their continuation: "...the tyranny of the majority so feared by James Madison had been supplanted by the tyranny of a determined minority made up of professional politicians, policy experts, and a hard-core faction of Republican Party loyalists" (40). Only Republicans can have "hard-core" factionists, like only Mensheviks could be traitors.
I don't think MacArthur understands the terms he uses, like when he continually refers to Howard Dean as a centrist. MacArthur is like a woman I worked with, who thinks she's a reasonable person, so that must mean she represents the center of the political spectrum. She also thinks conservatives are evil incarnate, so when we talked and she would see my political views were not evil, instead of thinking, "I must have been wrong about conservatives," she thought, "A Random Stranger must not be conservative."
MacArthur harps about the stealing of Florida in 2000 (didn't happen) and the stealing of Ohio in 2004 (ditto), but is curiously silent regarding the irregularities on South Dakota Indian reservations in the 2002 senate election of Tim Johnson. If Johnson doesn't cheat in 2002, Tom Daschle doesn't lose election in 2004. MacArthur disingenuously says the Supreme Court requiring Florida to uniformly enforce its pre-existing election standards is tantamount to "awarding" the presidency to Bush. Despite his concern with party politics as dangerous to freedom, he's got no problem with black and union voters turning out for Democrats at a nine-to-one pace, which he references as facts without critique (or quotation marks).
On page 49 he complains "...nothing much has been done since 2000 to lessen the likelihood, or the expectation, of vote fraud...." Just five pages before, however, he complains, "Only eight states permit 'same day registration.'" So does he have a problem with voter fraud, or does he want it to happen in a broader range of states? Same day registration would make elections nothing more than cheating contests.
I'm not quite halfway done yet, but I had to write this post before too long so I'd stop taking notes of the stupid things MacArthur writes. Now I can just power through and move on to my next book, How Children Learn Mathematics, by Richard W. Copeland (which has turned out to be a butt-kissing piece for Jean Piaget). Here is my final thought on MacArthur's book: it is true that the current two-party system has been manipulated into an incumbent-protection scheme. It's highly possible that the two parties are in collusion, competing not for the right to implement policies, but for the right to dispense patronage. I very, very seriously doubt that there is a single member of Congress or the administration (ANY recent administration, not just the current one) who has a guiding principle outside his own self interest. And I don't see this changing any time soon.