Why We Elect Whom We Elect
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Amateurish exercise in political history, turning on half-correct assumptions and half-formed arguments.

By Chicago-based investment guru and debut author Stoken’s account, Americans have fallen into two big camps throughout the nation’s history: One wants small government, one wants a big state; one wants to save, another wants to spend; one favors business, the other disdains the very thought of free commerce. The nation has survived as long as it has, Stoken writes, because of “its ability to steer from one side of the political spectrum to other [sic]—from left to right—and back again.” Stoken conceives of politics as a kind of game: “No other game, from basketball to baseball, from charades to scrabble, rivals in politics importance [sic]. Not the ‘money’ game! Not the ‘sex’ game! Nor even the ‘love’ game!” One presumes that the back-and-forth quality of American politics is Wimbledon to the rest of the world’s badminton, so well do we play it. But whatever the case, Stoken reduces the nation’s fraught, tangled, often bloody political history to a series of flash-card lessons: “The children of the upper middle class led a cultural insurgency. . . . They flocked to places like Woodstock to participate in love-soaked, dope-hazed happenings”; “[a]ccording to Reagan, the government was taking away too much decision-making power from its citizens. The Reaganites deliberately set out . . . to unleash the power of competition so as to lift the nation’s economy out of its stagflation rut of the 1970s. And it worked!” And so on. There’s nothing much new here, and nothing much worth remembering; readers would do better to consult the far more powerful work of Kevin Phillips and David Hackett Fisher, argued with a welcome dearth of exclamation marks.

A PowerPoint presentation to Rotarians, maybe. A book, no.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-765-30732-4
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2003