Friday Book Post (Game Change)

Yeah, I know, I’ve got a real problem with actually getting these out on Saturday.  Anyway, so I wanted to assign a fun and interesting read on the 2008 election for the Campaigns & Elections class I’m teaching this semester.  Despites my skepticism, several people suggested I consider Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.

My students will not be reading this book.  My skepticism (based on various things I read when it came out) was most definitely warranted.  Sure, the book was filled with fun little observations and anecdotes (e.g,. Elizabeth Edwards screaming and ripping off her blouse in an RDU airport parking lot), but that’s ultimately all there was.  It was just detail after detail with almost no perspective or meaningful analysis.  It was the view of the campaign from 6 inches, when it would have been useful to also include the view from 1000 feet.  It also struck me as an almost perfect embodiment of the pathologies of modern political journalism.  Everything in the book was explained by the actions of various candidates and political actors.  The authors seemed oblivious to the fact that factors beyond the actual campaign (e.g., the demographic bases of each candidate’s support and how these varied across states) could have explained the results.  I don’t entirely regret reading this book, as there were some fun and interesting anecdotes about all the candidates (especially enjoyed the ones about Palin), but ultimately it does depressingly little to actually educate the reader.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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