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Grand Illusion: The Fantasy of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyrannyby Theresa Amato
Synopses & Reviews
As the national campaign manager for Ralph Nader's historic runs for president in 2000 and 2004, Theresa Amato had a rare ringside role in two of the most hotly contested presidential elections this country has seen. In Grand Illusion, she gives us a witty, thoughtful critique of the American electoral system, as well as a powerful argument for opening up the contest to competition.
Busting the national myth that "anyone can grow up and be President of the United States," Amato shows how independent and third-party candidates face egregious structural barriers that prevent them from fully participating in the race or even getting their names on the ballot. In addition to waging effective voter campaigns, these candidates must simultaneously fend off preposterous numbers of legal challenges from the two major parties — during twelve weeks of Nader's '04 run, as many as twenty-five lawsuits were filed in an effort to squash his campaign.
Amato makes a powerful case for specific federal reforms in the United States' arcane system of ballot access laws, complex regulations, and partisan control of elections. Along the way, she also offers a spirited history of how third-party and Independent candidates have kept important issues on the table in elections past and contribute to our political life as a society.
Despite the dramatic run-up to the historic 2008 election and the efforts of both Obama and McCain to set themselves apart, the national political debate occurs in a very narrow range that's defined by two major parties, which are both influenced by the same corporations, special interest groups, and lobbyists. And on election day, there just aren't the kinds of genuine options that a healthy, multi-party democracy should offer. Looking beyond the Nader story to campaigns waged by challengers John Anderson, Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, and others, Amato shows how limiting ourselves to two candidates deprives our country of a robust political life, strips would-be contenders of their First Amendment rights, and cheats voters out of meaningful political choice.
"Until you have run, as I did, outside the two major parties, it is impossible to imagine the injustices of the two-party-tilted electoral process. Theresa Amato masterfully exposes the horrors faced by third-party and Independent candidates seeking the chance to compete and provide political choices for the American voter." John Anderson, former Independent presidential candidate and chair of the Center for Voting and Democracy
"Theresa Amato takes the biggest swing — not a jab, but a roundhouse punch — at America's corrupt electoral system." Phil Donahue
"Theresa Amato has written the best book about ballot access ever....This book is of the most supreme importance." Richard Winger, publisher of Ballot Access News
"Combines in-depth legal and historical research with an on-the-ground telling of what really happens when third parties and independent candidates have the temerity to challenge the two-party system. In doing so, it raises the most basic questions about the meaning of democracy in our elections." Alan B. Morrison, Washington College of Law, American University
"A must-read for those interested in getting beyond the status quo in America. Talking about change is easy; Amato offers ways to make it happen." Mark R. Brown, Newton D. Baker/Baker & Hostetler Professor of Law, Capital University
Book News Annotation:
While "bipartisan" is often treated as an inherent good by Washington politicians and the corporate media, Amato (the national presidential campaign manager and in-house counsel for Ralph Nader in the 2000 and 2004 elections) notes that, to third parties and independents, it "is a term akin to all white if you are black and trying to buy housing in a neighborhood or facing a jury…or all male if you are a female trying to get a job, into a club, or on a sports team." In this work, she describes the institutional hurdles that currently exist for third party and independent candidates that have been legislated into existence by Republicans and Democrats in order to maintain their dominance within the system. She also examines the impediments facing third parties and independents in the regulatory process, the media, the presidential debates (from which Ralph Nader was memorably excluded), and the partisan administration of the elections. Ralph Nader provides the foreword. Annotation Â©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Theresa Amato was the national presidential campaign manager and in-house counsel for Ralph Nader in both 2000 and 2004. A graduate of Harvard University and NYU School of Law, she founded the Citizen Advocacy Center in suburban Chicago and works with many nonprofit organizations. She has been a fellow at Harvard's Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and a Wasserstein Public Interest Law Fellow at Harvard Law School. A practicing lawyer, Amato lives with her family in Oak Park, Illinois.
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