The Nation’s national affairs correspondent diagnoses America’s perilous state and calls for a rebirth of participatory democracy.
After nearly 40 years as a reporter and author of several books, Greider (The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy, 2003, etc.) has earned his reputation as a serious, thoughtful, albeit “uncredentialed” critic of our democracy. He has consistently warned about America’s trade deficits and national debt, our crumbling infrastructure and inadequate health-care system and a greedy and gluttonous capitalism unconcerned with equity and security. He has inveighed against a costly, overreaching militarism, environmental depredations and, most of all, against a deformed democracy where big business gives orders to governing elites hopelessly out of touch with the people they pretend to serve. It’s a left-leaning critique, closely approximated by the soundly rejected political campaigns of Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards and Ralph Nader. Greider’s moment, though, may have arrived. Given the current, gloomy circumstances, all neatly summarized here, it’s more difficult than ever to argue with his analysis, and he’s surely correct that “in crisis lies opportunity.” There are, he warns, wrenching changes ahead, changes too important to be left to the same stewards who’ve created the current debacle. Greider hopes that the anxious and angry electorate will attempt an end run around our “betters” to seize control from the current concentrations of power. With the times propitious and unprecedented organizing tools (the Internet, especially) readily available, the people may finally be sufficiently aroused—in the manner of the late 19th-century Populists and the early New Dealers—to demand accountability from a system that has failed them. If they do, historians may point to this book as one of the prairie fire’s first sparks.
Astute, hopeful and humane commentary.