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
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.
"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.
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
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
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.”
these books are all fascinating, after reading any or all of them, you will
still be left wondering: "What happened?" We may never know.