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Read My Mind

Jan 03, 2018 02:57PM ● Published by Michael Harris

The Presidential Election Revisited

Book Reviews by Michael G. Harris, OD

More books about the 2016 presidential election? Sorry, but as a political junkie, I just couldn't resist. I hope you find them interesting and insightful if not entertaining.
The “train wreck” that led to Trump’s nomination is recalled in Matt Taibbi’s Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus. Taibbi captures the crux of Trump's campaign: spectacle is more important than substance. There's much to credit for Trump’s stunning victory, including the failure of the Democrats to connect with working Americans, the “lesser-of-two-evils campaign strategy,” and the media that thought ratings were more important than covering the issues that enraged the working class. Taibbi’s book “unfolds as a comedy that slowly turns into a horror movie.”
In Understanding Trump, former Congressman Newt Gingrich provides a sympathetic and supportive perspective of Trump and his unique background. Gingrich focuses on Trump’s decades as a successful businessman. "He knew from more than a dozen years of producing The Apprentice that the media needs content…by the minute." Rather than meeting with consultants or paying for television advertising, Trump got more media attention with his constant tweets. They made their own headlines and kept his message constantly in the news.
For more insight into the election, read Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’ Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign, Katy Tur’s Unbelievable: My Front Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History, and Richard North Patterson’s Fever Swamp: A Journey Through the Strange Netherland of the 2016 Presidential Race.
Shattered reconstructs "the key decisions and unseized opportunities, the well-intentioned misfires and the hidden thorns that turned a winnable contest into a devastating loss.” Clinton's campaign was “being run by amateurs” and "looked like the gang that couldn't shoot straight." It seemed that Clinton was “measuring the drapes in the Oval Office while her team was mismeasuring the electorate.” Many longtime Democratic donors were pushing for Clinton to drop out and for Joe Biden to run in her place.  Obviously, that didn't happen in Clinton's broken campaign that ultimately led to Trump's victory.
Tur’s Unbelievable is her “darkly comic, bizarre, and scary” story of how a former reality star becomes president. As an NBC correspondent, Tur captures the essence of the Trump campaign from the beginning to the end. She starts her story with a quote from Trump's book The Art of the Deal: “I play to people's fantasies… People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It's an innocent form of exaggeration – and a very effective form of promotion." This quote provides the springboard for understanding the success of Trump’s campaign.
Tur’s reporting is so detailed that she seems to cover every day of the 500-day campaign. She reaches two conclusions about the campaign: "First, no one can make sense of it. Second, I'm not smart enough to try." Rather than explain it, Tur simply tells us what she witnessed in the "most unlikely, exciting, ugly, trying, and all-around bizarre campaign in American history."
She also provides a glimpse into “a no-rules world where reporters were spat on, demeaned, and discredited,” and fake news was more important than real news. Unbelievable is a must-read for those who wonder - did this really happen?
Fever Swamp is a funny, clever, prophetic book that focuses on “the bald-faced lies, the painful truths, the pivotal issues, and the astonishing personalities that made the election of 2016 utterly unpredictable and uniquely consequential.”
While these books are all fascinating, after reading any or all of them, you will still be left wondering: "What happened?"  We may never know.

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