Partisan Populist Polemic for Independents. I like that Simon opens the book with a note that if you are yourself a hyper partisan that thinks either side or the other is completely evil, this book isn’t for you.
The things Simon discusses in this book are things that I know for a fact many, perhaps most, Americans have not thoughtfully considered – or even considered at all. Sure, some of them are hotter button issues than others, such as his decrying of Citizens United – a common complaint of the left yet a case which is misunderstood by most and even outright misinterpreted in this very text. But others are much more esoteric, largely only thought of when the person themselves gets hit by the problem, such as ballot access – a process by which the “two” Party System in the US actively limits, indeed even places extraordinary hurdles to, the ability for anyone other than themselves to get on the ballot for election for most offices in this country.
Ultimately, however, Simon has crafted a partisan populist polemic for Independents that while useful as a conversation starter has numerous flaws in reasoning – even while being very well documented in his statements. However, even then there are, in the infamous words of Mark Twain, “lies, damn lies, and statistics”, and Simon’s constant refrain that “60% of Americans support each of these initiatives” is a bit disingenuous at best. And I’ve seen some of the very polls he was citing, often used them in my own debates! (See below) Still, with the various issues he brings up, most of which won’t be actively discussed by the various Presidential candidates or talking heads this year, this book deserves to be read and discussed even given its myriad flaws. Recommended.
With all of this said, allow me to note my own history, briefly, so that you can judge for yourself if I may fall into the trap of hyperpartisanship myself. I grew up as a Republican and voted in 2004 for Georgia’s Defense of Marriage Act. By 2006 I was already fed up with “both” Parties and trying to find my own way. I began reading *every* Party’s platforms and looking to what resonated most with me. I officially joined the Libertarian Party as a dues paying member the day after Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, and within 2 yrs I would: be a member of the Executive Committee of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, found a local affiliate (county Party) of the LP-Ga, run for nonpartisan rural small town City Council 2x, found a libertarian-leaning political blog, host the biggest event of the 2010 Georgia election cycle in terms of number of Statewide candidates present, be recognized 2x by the Georgia House of Representatives for my work in open government, video local County Commission and City Council meetings and put the unedited video on YouTube, run a Facebook group working for equal ballot access for Georgia citizens, serve as the Libertarian Party of Georgia’s Legislative Director, recruit a Statewide candidate for the LP-Ga, and probably a few things I’ve forgotten about in the decade since. However, by 2012 I had left active political activism altogether, and when I moved to Florida in 2017 I officially registered to vote as “No Party Affliation” – the way Florida encodes “Independent” status. (No State I had previously lived in actually registered voters by Party.)
This review of The Contract To Unite America by Neal Simon was originally written on February 9, 2020.