Depending on whose side you were on in the run up to the latest American presidential elections, this book is either going to be a guide to the path to glory, or a catalogue of errors. It’s apolitical in its stance, in that both Republicans and Democrats are taken to task for their actions and statements in the run up to the election – the negative elements of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, for example, are as well documented here as the idiosyncracies of McCain’s, though they’re both given some element of redemption by standing behind President Obama once he’s finally defeated them. However, reading this book it feels like there could never have been any doubt that Obama was going to win, giving it that age-old feeling that history is written by the victorious.
Written by Michael Crowley, already a journalist of some note through his work at The New Republic, this makes a compelling read. Crowley is clearly adept at pulling a quote to reinforce his point, condensing complex arguments into something far more easily understood, and maintaining an eye for the important moments that mark the twists and turns of an election campaign. This honed and sharpened sense of reality ties almost perfectly with Dan Goldman’s superior design, which lifts people, images, expressions and emotions directly from the public record and recreates them on the page. He adds emphasis to Crowley’s words by putting them in the mouths of clearly recognisable liknesses of the politicians, and by using his design skill to lay out the pages in a free-flowing, energetic manner. The book reads like a series of extrapolated headlines, with explanations kept brief and to the point, while the players themselves voice their own parts with public statements made during the campaign.
It’s an extremely accessible book considering its political nature, giving a superb overview of the process of choosing candidates and running an election campaign. By condensing this complex process into soundbites, short explanations and headline concepts, the whole election is brought into sharp focus. Use it as a memento of an historic moment, or as a springboard into further research. But certainly consider it a useful insight into American politics if you found the run-up to Obama’s election of interest.