James McNamara reviews 'Dark Money: The hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right' by Jane Mayer

When I arrived in America, green card in hand, I soon got down to my favourite pastime: discussing politics over grain-based liquor. I was surprised to find that President Barack Obama was widely reviled. I had spent the previous decade in England and Australia where, in my experience, Obama was considered a decent president or, at least, a decent man. Not, it would seem, in the United States.

That opinions could so differ between Western nations was partly attributable to the radicalisation of American politics in the Obama era. From their first leadership meeting after Obama's election, Republicans mounted an unprecedented 'guerilla war' against his presidency. Denying any Democratic victory was more important than governing. This extremist shift, Jane Mayer argues in Dark Money, reflects a sophisticated, multi-decade effort by a small group of billionaires to inject radical right-wing views into the political mainstream. This might sound a bit Bond villain, but Mayer, a veteran New Yorker journalist, proves her case through masterful investigative reporting.

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Published in October 2016, no. 385