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You Can’t Be President

The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America

They say that every vote counts. But even if they’re right, what about who, and what, you’re voting for? If you’re not rich, not an Ivy Leaguer, not in lockstep with Democratic or Republican ideology (which are a lot closer together than either party wants you to think), would you ever even have a chance at being a major candidate?

The fact is, the entire system is rigged to keep the “mock” in “democracy,” and in You Can’t Be President, Harper’s Magazine publisher John R. MacArthur explains how this came to be—and what it means for the future of our country. Featuring case studies of candidates from Ned Lamont to Ralph Nader and sparing neither side of the political spectrum, it’s a devastating exposé of the entrenched elites.

JOHN R. MACARTHUR is the president and publisher of Harper’s Magazine. An award-winning journalist, he has previously written for The New York Times, United Press International, The Chicago Sun-Times, andThe Wall Street Journal. He is also the author of the acclaimed books The Selling of Free Trade: NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy, andSecond Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War. He lives in New York City.

”A no-nonsense political reporter… You Can’t Be President is a stiff antidote to the pleasant notion, voiced somewhere in this country every few milliseconds in an election year, that anyone, from any background, can grow up to be president.” Chicago Sun-Times

”A chapter-by-chapter postmortem of cherished American ideals… MacArthur’s tone is wry-enraged, but he includes serious anecdotal discussion, looking at the startling numbers behind election-year pomp and following the end result of our politics to America’s economically depressed, hollowed-out small cities.” Time Out Chicago

Author John R. MacArthur’s new book ponders the enduring problems in American democracy… Alternet

”A critique—cogent and mostly unassailable—of the corrupt, self-serving nature of contemporary American ’democracy’… Maybe a dozen more books like this one, and a few less about how Bush is the antichrist, and people’s attention will finally be drawn to the rot in the system and away from fleeting symptoms of that rot.” The Brooklyn Rail

”A blistering indictment of the political and social forces that muffle the voice of the people in our beleaguered democracy grows into an invigorating wake-up call for real change.” Shelf Awareness

”An able, witty, and suitably pissed-off guide.” Bookforum

You Can’t Be President is a courageous book that takes a bold new approach in the field of American political science. It helps to explain how Presidents are chosen and elected, including in the present money-fueled 2008 contest. This singular work is thoroughly documented, clearly written and convincingly reasoned. I suggest that it be placed on the bookshelf—next to the Constitution and the Federalist Papers—by students, librarians and thoughtful voters. —Herbert Mitgang, Society of American Historians and author of Abraham Lincoln: A Press Portrait

”As someone who has personally experienced the truth of the author’s title, You Can’t Be President, this book had a profound impact, as indeed it should have for every American who reads it. It’s an excellent, excellent book, perceptive and intelligent and inspiring.” —John Anderson, Independent candidate for president, 1980

”This book challenges the ’wu wu’ we all profess and preach to children: that anyone can be President.  This is one of our nation’s core beliefs, even though facts don’t sustain it.  I challenge you to read it and make your own decision as to whether our ’core belief’ is reality or a total myth.” —Patricia Schroeder, Democratic candidate for President, 1988

”Written with a personal, engrossing style, John MacArthur draws your attention page after page with enraging and motivating stories of conditions on the ground in America. His careful narrative of political power abuses, from the national to the local, from yesterday to today and maybe tomorrow, shows us that if we do not become committed as ’we the people,’ we will continue to be ruled by ’they the corporations.’ ” —Ralph Nader, Independent candidate for president, 2000, 2004, 2008

”Read [this book] to understand how presidential politics works.” —Charles Glass, The First Post (UK)