This provocative, often insightful, sometimes thought provoking, and always ranting book, reminds me of the most famous of Samuel Johnson's critiques: that it is both good and thoughtful. However, the good part is not very thoughtful, and thoughtful part is not very good.
The author sees a solution, but has not yet found a problem that the solution fits. So, using the same tactics as those he criticizes, the book rants at the messengers rather than at the message. He skims along the surface unconcerned that there is a cancer gathering steam just beneath the thin ice he is ranting upon. He waxes eloquently with rich and funny metaphors about the sins of those actively thrashing about in an effort to examine and address the symptoms of a disease that is destroying the American body politic. But the author unlike many of those he analyzes and criticizes, is unconcerned about the nature of the disease, that the ice holding him will soon crack, or that the American body politic is dying.
Standing on safe, hallowed and non-controversial ground, he attacks all attempts at remediation - that is all attempts to fix the problem through better awareness, open debates, alerting others to the disease, or in general being active, open and concerned about the ever-diminishing "common good?" Anything other than sitting mute on a log is seen by him as being self-absorbedly engaged in passionate meddling -- a kind of activism he sees as harmful and undemocratic: as mindless attempts to change the status quo for the sake of changing it: the disease that is in large part itself the status quo, be-damned?
He sees (and seizes) the moral high ground as that of transforming the deadlocked binary world into an equally dysfunctional and inert tri-nary one, one in which the "middle-of-the roaders," "independents," "undecideds" and "uninformed," are rhapsodized, and then (by fiat) raised to the level of equality with everyone else -- especially with the vocal and active? In the author's mind "inactivity and remaining mute" is a democratic virtue?
Most of all, the author seems to fail to appreciate the context within which he is operating: within a republican form of democracy, whose life-blood is "informed open dialogue," "shared conversations" about what is undermining the common good, what is wrong with the system and how they both are to be fixed?
If he had pulled his "squeezed head" out of his own already much too tight dernier for just one second, maybe he would have been able to see that the inmates are running the asylum; and that there is an overall method to this dysfunctional madness: binary (or tri-nary) gridlock perfectly serves the interests of the puppet-masters who are the cancer on our system. It is they who have strangled our democracy with corrupt political money and with meaningless amusements for the author's "politically tone deaf and mute but sanctified non-activists," those that the puppet masters so easily manipulate and that he so easily lionizes. It is not the messengers, but those with the message: those who by orchestrating and stoking the fires of the internecine binary (and tri-nary) warfare, keep the disease that is destroying our democracy alive.
It is easy enough to write a "cute book" that is mostly all sound and fury, that loudly proclaims nothing, and that with the same empty words, plays the role of feigned victim while attacking the symptoms but not the disease. As he eloquently tells us what we already know, no one is fooled by his fancy tap-dancing around the `real" issues.
We know well from the subtext and the framing of his rant, where all his sympathies really lie: He is a foot soldier for the status quo; and this book is just another clever vehicle in which those who lack the courage to stand up for bankrupt right wing ideas can hide and try to "distance" themselves from the racist cancer that is destroying this country. Despite the subtext that overshadows the cleverness, it is still not a bad book. Four stars