Sunday, 19 February 2012

Review: Race of a Lifetime

Race of a Lifetime
John Heilemann & Mark Halperin
Penguin, £9.99
Shelley-Marie Phillips
Race of a Lifetime is the ultimate and savage chronicle of an election that gave America it's first black President, based on the 2008 election campaigns. Written by two political journalists whose resumes include TIME and New York Magazine, it provides a fast paced and almost gossipy account of the campaign. Based on hundreds of interviews, it provides the reader with exclusive revelations regarding the candidates who unlike many before them, had a celebrity stature. 

For a political chronical, it reads more like a compulsive novel and it grasps attention with the use of it's gossipy components and occasional manifest into tragedy.  It is a thoroughly investigated and researched account of the 2008 election, and is saturated with detail on the events and personalities that shaped the ultimate result of the race. Race of a Lifetime takes the reader on an inside journey through the battle of the election and provokes us to wonder, who are Americans actually voting for?

Race of a Lifetime exposes the myth behind Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of 2008 Democratic candidate John Edwards,  almost ridicules Sarah Palin's inadequacy and somewhat pities the doomed John McCain. It sometimes casts a harsh and occasionally cruel light on the real personalities that lay behind the well composed facade of key political players and their spouses. The Clinton/Obama rapor is the underlying love story of this book, as much of a journey it is of a campaign it is also a historic tale capturing the ultimately respectful relationship between these two key players in the race, with Obama telling Clinton 'Your country needs you. I need you.' 

The casualties of Race of a Lifetime include Bill Clinton, who appears as an undiginified and unruly cariacture, and those familiar with the novel Primary Colours will be familiar with the dysfunctional relationship portrayed in this book. Although Bill Clinton fundamentally appears to be somewhat of a loose cannon, his belief in his wife and her campaign is untouchable, and despite certain dysfunctionalities, the Clintons appear to be one of the most balanced couples,in comparison to others such as the McCains. It is portrayals such as this which gives the book its almost tabloid effect, as its based purely on revelations that insiders wanted to give.

This fly on the wall account of the events of the 2008 election provide a framework in which those interested in the upcoming election can base knowledge of Barack Obama's previous campaign and the structure and schedule of which an election takes. It is interesting to Obama's campaign in retrospect and wonder, does he run a better campaign than a presidency? It reads like a 2008 version of Primary Colours, except with sources that would make the egos of the Washington community shiver without the tactic of using an anonymous byline. The book is a definitive example of what political reporting should aspire to, the one exception being that the account may be told from the perspective of the sources themselves, as we may be left with political insiders with their own agenda. If the 2012 election is anything based on the 2008 account of a race that was savagely vicious, prepare for battle.

Race of a Lifetime is available from Amazon here, and the trailer for Game Change, the HBO movie under the book's original name can be seen here.

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