Informed Politics: What To Read

By Sue Anderson

The following is a list of books that I have read in the past twelve months in an effort to try and understand what is happening in America. Why is our political environment so divided and how could someone like Donald Trump become the candidate for the GOP and then ultimately our President. I usually read for fun, which means lots of good novels enjoyed after dinner on winter nights. I have not read a novel in months. As it turns out some of the books on this list are absolutely riveting and I am not missing my novels at all. The stories they reveal are the stuff good fiction is built on. They are true and they are disturbing but I think they can help us understand how we arrived at this confusing place in our history and hopefully help us learn what we need to do in order to preserve our democracy.

There is a historical component, a political component and some titles that concern race and activism. They all intertwine and as I was reading one, it led me to another and then another. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did and I hope you add some favorite titles of your own. Here  are the first titles selected from my list.

Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money and Power. 

By Michael Kraish

The Washington Post publishes a factual book on each of the candidates prior to each Presidential election. This book came out in the summer of 2016. If you haven’t read it, you probably should. It is well read and impossible to put down. There are exhaustive footnotes and resources cited. In hindsight, everyone should have read this before the election. It is still good to read as it introduces players from the past whose names resurface in the news today.

Atlas Shrugged

By Ayn Rand

This is fictional tale that serves to illustrate Ayn Rand’s philosophy. I wanted to try and understand this line of thought because I read in several articles that Bannon and Trump revere it. This book is a tome. My advice is get the Cliff Notes unless you want to speed read over 1000 pages, which is what I did. In a nutshell Ayn Rand followers believe that only the industrialists can run a country and that all the workers and the government are parasites that suck off the hard working industrialists to fund meaningless civil service jobs and public assistance. To that end, in this story, the industrialists all bring about the end of civilization as we know it, leaving us to assume a new better civilization run by the industrialists will rise.  A person ought to at least read up on Ayn Rand online and read a summary of this book, which she thought her best. Pretty scary philosophy in my opinion. Rand was a big deal in the early part of the 20th century.

Dictator’s Handbook

By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

Here is another one to read for background.  It is a political study of dictators. Dry reading unless political science is your major but it is a good book to browse through for an insight into the personalities of dictators and the methods that they use. There is good material here and it puts another facet of understanding to stories reported in today’s news.  Watch those tweets.

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

By Jane Mayers

Jane Mayer is an amazingly thorough researcher and a captivating author. This book also has many pages of footnotes and references.  The author tells the story of the Koch brothers, the Mercer family and many other extremely wealthy people who dump billions into political races all over the country and use their money and influence to shape the government in the way that they prefer.  This book made my hair stand on end when I realized how pervasive their influence has become. If you are worried about the abuse of money in campaign finance and “Citizens United” this is the book for you. It is well written and very hard to put down. It grabs you and won’t let you go.

Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy

By Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

Captured is the first hand account of a sitting Senator showing how the situation explained in Dark Money is playing out in our government today. Senator Whitehouse has divided the book into the sections of government and how the influence has endangered our democracy in each one. The fact that a busy Senator took time to write this short but very informative book should lend credence to situation.

Rat Fu**ed: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal American Democracy

By David Daley

After you read Dark Money, you know how they got the operating capital, this one explains what they did with it! Gerrymandering is explained in Captured but this book goes deeper and researches the grand scheme, which was devised right after the 2008 election. Here we learn about the software developed to draw the lines for “The Red Map,” the extreme gerrymandering that has resulted in the Wisconsin district lines being currently challenged in the Supreme Court. It paints a pretty bleak picture. We have lots of work to do.