Herding Donkeys: The Fight To Rebuild The Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics
Chat with Ari Berman about his new book. Hosted by David Weigel.
Berman plumbs the roots of Barack Obama’s 2008 victory, reaching back four years to a failed Democratic presidential campaign that left loyalists dispirited–and the White House, Congress, and a majority of state legislatures in Republican control. Berman, a correspondent for the Nation, describes how the drama and sordidness of the Clinton years left many Democrats feeling that “their party had lost its compass, and just maybe its soul.” Enter insurgent upstart candidate Howard Dean, who revived a 50-state campaign strategy that failed to net him the White House, but energized a populist political base and harnessed its energy with the Internet and a “plethora of new tools that would fundamentally change political campaigns and the nature of public communication.” Obama ran using a similar blueprint, and the book’s accounts of Democratic revival in traditional Republican strongholds read well, making political organizing an exciting, inspiring process–but Berman’s insider perspective obscures some of the broader conditions, notably growing disenchantment with Republican policies that also contributed to Obama’s victory. Berman covers the tactical and strategic shifts within the Democratic party that have reconfigured the national political calculus, to the point where the GOP must mimic their approach in the coming congressional elections. (Publisher’s Weekly)
ARI BERMAN is a political correspondent for The Nation and an Investigative Journalism Fellow at the Nation Institute. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, and he is a frequent commentator on MSNBC and National Public Radio. He lives in New York City. (Picador)