Grand Illusion

The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny

A smart, provocative, and wonderfully entertaining analysis of our stifling two-party system and the importance of third-party and Independent candidates—from Ralph Nader’s campaign manager

“Theresa Amato takes the biggest swing—not a jab, but a roundhouse punch—at America’s corrupt electoral system. It is not an overstatement to speculate that the next president of the United States could be decided by Anheuser-Busch! Skeptical? Read this book.” —Phil Donahue

As the national campaign manager for Ralph Nader’s historic runs for president in 2000 and 2004, Theresa Amato had a rare ringside role in two of the most hotly contested presidential elections this country has seen. In Grand Illusion, she gives us a witty, thoughtful critique of the American electoral system, as well as a powerful argument for opening up the contest as if people and their daily lives mattered.

While making the case for specific reforms in the United States’ arcane system of ballot access laws, complex federal regulations, and partisan control of elections, Amato also offers a spirited history of how third-party and Independent candidates have kept important issues on the table in elections past and contribute to our country’s political life. Even the most fervent Nader critics will think twice about Nader’s role in 2000, thanks to Amato’s trenchant factual analysis.

Looking beyond the Nader story to campaigns waged by challengers John Anderson, Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, and others, Amato shows how limiting ourselves to two candidates deprives our country of a robust political life, strips would-be contenders of their free speech and association rights, and cheats voters out of meaningful political choices.


“Until you have run, as I did, outside the two major parties, it is impossible to imagine the injustices of the two-party-tilted electoral process. Theresa Amato masterfully exposes the horrors faced by third-party and Independent candidates seeking the chance to compete and provide political choices for the American voter.”
—John Anderson, former Independent presidential candidate and Chair of the Center for Voting and Democracy
“Theresa Amato has written the best book about ballot access ever. . . . This book is of the most supreme importance.”
—Richard Winger, publisher of Ballot Access News

Goodreads Reviews