The book starts out with an exceptionally good analysis of the structures of the current political system and what they term the “political industrial complex.” This analysis helps you understand how the duopoly of the Democratic and Republican parties have structured the election and legislative processes to control who we can vote for how we pass legislation and who these processes serve.
The current political system is not broken. It is designed to do exactly what you see it is doing. It works for and delivers to exactly who it is designed for. Clearly, not the citizens who vote for them but the corporations and donor class that pays for them.
The book starts with an analysis of the election and legislative processes. The book does an excellent job of defining the structure of these two processes and how the duopoly manages to keep its power. Over the past few decades, through an accumulation of minor changes in how elections are run and how the legislative process works, the duopoly of the two major parties has managed to make it very difficult to be an independent candidate or Congressperson.
The changes in these systems protect the duopoly at the expense of democracy. With this structure in place, there is very little incentive for Congress to deliver for the average citizen. It is the best government that money can buy.
The second strength of the book are the solutions to democratizing the election process, specifically non-partisan open primaries leading to the top candidates moving on to a general election with ranked choice voting. My one criticism of the election process assessment is the lack of analysis of the redistricting process and how gerrymandering distorts this part of the process. Personally, I think the “efficiency gap” method of analyzing the redistricting process is a good one but the Supreme Court seems to think it is a bunch of “sociological gobblygoop.”
My other basic criticism is with a lack of emphasis/analysis on campaign finance reform. Along with gerrymandering, I consider these problems to be more important than election and legislative reform. It is possible that it was thought that some of the solutions proposed would help alleviate these issues but that was not made clear.
Relative to the election process, I thought the solutions of open primaries and ranked choice voting were excellent. After that, the solutions for legislative reform, campaign finance reform and opening up competition were weak. There are many suggestions about what “should” be done to solve many problems but no specificity in how the solutions to these problems should be implemented.
Currently, there is no incentive to have “solutions-minded centrists” to run for office. All the other/above problems would need be solved before that can be a reality. My opinion is that if the above problems are solved, it will lead to less polarization and more centrists will be elected. If politicians don’t work for voters, you will never have solutions-minded ones.
My major disagreement is thinking that change can come from the center. As the book says so itself, most change has come from the fringes. Since the corporate/donor class is the right side of the spectrum, I only see any possible solutions to any of these problems as coming from the left side of the political spectrum. To see how hard the corporate/donor class is willing to fight, one only has look at what was done to Bernie Sanders during the 2016 and 2020 presidential cycles. The Democratic Party, basically being a private corporation, did everything it could to make sure his prospects as a viable candidate were destroyed.
Alan Baily is an architect who, as a member of the Big Apple Coffee Party, has a keen interest in fighting against corporate power.