A careful exposé of the libertarian agenda, spearheaded by the Koch brothers, to “impose their minority views on the majority by other means.”
Those other means, writes New Yorker staff writer Mayer (The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, 2008, etc.), are accomplished by a flood of money—$760 million in the last five years alone—pumped into the political system to two immediate ends: to “cripple a twice-elected Democratic president” and “supplant the Republican Party.” It took decades for those floodwaters to rise, during which time, Mayer suggests, Charles and David Koch had come to realize that their unfettered free-market agenda was unpalatable to most Americans. (Refreshingly, on that note, the author affirms that those Americans value fairness.) The brothers, scions of an activist so doctrinaire that he worried the John Birch Society was soft on communism, banded with the likes of Richard Mellon Scaife, “an heir to the Mellon banking and Gulf Oil fortunes,” the Coors family of Colorado, the founders of Amway, and others opposed to any governmental effort to regulate their enterprises, from monitoring pollution to investigating financial practices. The result: that flood of “dark” money, bought-and-paid-for candidates (Mayer names Ted Cruz high among them), and the co-optation of the Republican Party in order to promote the interests of the decidedly 1 percent stratum, which in the meantime still struggled to rebrand itself “as champions of the other ‘99 percent.’ ” Mayer closely documents her charges—about 10 percent of the book is notes—while delivering a swiftly flowing narrative. None of it should surprise anyone who follows the political press, and some of the author’s thunder has been blunted, if not stolen, by Daniel Schulman’s Sons of Wichita (2014). Still, Mayer provides plenty of ammunition for those convinced that the U.S. is no longer a representative democracy but instead an oligarchy.
A valuable contribution to the study of modern electoral politics in an age that Theodore White, and perhaps even Hunter S. Thompson, would not recognize.