Stacher clearly articulates the leftist narrative about the Egyptian "Arab Spring": The people's revolution was suppressed by the military autocracy, mostly working in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood. This is, of course, a complete fantasy.
His title is the cleverest part of the book. The reference is to the common Egyptian joke about the gamble of buying a watermelon: "The skin of every melon at the fruit stand shines a deep, rich green, tantalizing you with the promise of a sweet, juicy treat inside. ... Sometimes the watermelon lies."
Stacher focuses on the turbulent 2011 overthrow of long-time president Hosni Mubarak and the eventual consolidation of power by the present dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi after the 2013 military coup. For Stacher, the intervening Muslim Brotherhood rule is an inconvenient minor episode. However, the Brotherhood's role should be a focus: The group stole power when the rest of the opposition was disorganized and then tried to implement an agenda that was massively rejected by the Egyptian people. Stacher shoves the Brotherhood into the shadows so he can concentrate on his heroes—the populist revolution overthrowing Mubarak—and his villains—the military—which took power when it became apparent that the Brotherhood could not run Egypt.
Stacher is no friend of the Brotherhood and portrays it as an ally of the military. But he dismisses the possibility that ordinary Egyptians rejected the Brotherhood's plodding and repressive rule and that the secular opposition was too disorganized and naive about how the disciplined Brotherhood could push them aside. Instead of analysis, there is an apologia for the secular opposition. Stacher also presents the military as the embodiment of evil with the Brotherhood an understandably flawed actor.
One point that Stacher gets correct is that the Sisi government is an autocracy completely hostile to democracy. The years following Mubarak's overthrow have been a bitter disappointment for the Muslim Brotherhood, secular democrats, and leftist partisans like Stacher. What Watermelon Democracy does capture well is the Left's ability to give priority to ideological predilections over facts.