John Stewart’s A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction in America

On the dedication page it reads, “To the huddled masses, keep yearnin’!” And that’s exactly for whom this book is intended. This tongue-in-cheek joy ride, created by the host and correspondents of The Daily Show, is formatted as a high school history textbook and may be the closest thing to a textbook you’ll ever enjoy…or read.

The opening pages give a bulleted summary of each chapter beginning with one- “Democracy Before America,” which includes such points as “Witness thousands of years of history casually dismissed in a few pages” and “Have a hard time keeping the book open on a table while you read it.”

Some may choose to write off this book as a joke through and through, and it is. However, the writers make it fairly obvious what is intended for humor and what is historically accurate. It presents history just as The Daily Show presents news events- with facts included and, more importantly, opinions excluded.

Chapter three, “The President: King of Democracy,” combats the rumor that anyone can be president or that democracy is possible when any average Joe acts as a representative. It explains the failure of Athenian democracy in the following metaphor- think about the guys you knew in college who would eat dog feces for ten dollars, then picture them as your randomly chosen Chief Justice and you’ll understand just how screwed-up this system was.

Remember all of those pull-out quotes and inserts you skipped over in order to finish your reading assignment more quickly? Never again would you avoid them if they read like these. To balance out a serious, real quotation from Thomas Jefferson, you’ll find the following underneath; “Martha, when I tell you I was helping Ms. Hemings move her bed against the wall, I mean precisely that.”

Obviously, readers must be somewhat historically cognizant in order to understand America’s humor. In addition to this quote, the book contains some profane language and adult-directed humor so reader discretion is advised.

America also includes a full-sized poster of the pyramid of democratic government along with a two-page presidential Monopoly board divided into the four years of the term along with Impeachment Alley, Lame Duck Lane, and Cover Up. Blocks include such fates as “Optimistic press release on economy ineffective. Spin again,” and “Submit balanced budget to Congress that reduces deficit while funding both defense and health care. Just kidding. Roll again.”

While it may not be found in the history section of Walden’s, America certainly informs the reader while it entertains. Although The Daily Show makes no attempt at disguising its position on the political spectrum, America isn’t as direct or scathing until the last couple of chapters. It’s a delight for anyone amused at historical satire and a must-have for anyone falling asleep while trying to study up for quiz bowl tournaments or the next showing of Jeopardy.

Praise on the back of the book says it best- “So informative, I even found out who I was,” said Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury, May 14, 1801- Feb. 8, 1814 and, “This is similar to my works in that anyone who reads it is sure to be intolerably obnoxious for at least a moneth afterward,” wrote Ayn Rand.

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