This book is an argument to young people that politics is something very much worth engaging in. It’s fun, fulfilling, and really damn important.

Hello all! Rachel here, I’ll be starting off this review, but don’t worry, I’ll still be writing in blue (just to make it easy). Oh, by the way, parentheses are a thing now. Dan Pfeiffer said so. (PAHAHAHAHA. Edmund, in normal black text here. Pfeiffer’s footnotes were hilarious. So we’re going to have parenthesis and footnotes in this one? I’m okay with that. Like you said, Dan Pfeiffer said so!)

Okay, so like many who read this book, I first heard of Dan Pfeiffer through Pod Save America; I just knew any book by those guys was bound to be pretty damn sweet. And I was not disappointed. Unlike many post-administration memoirs, this book is not a gossip-laden, my president and I were the most righteous people ever, here’s every instance in which I saved the country type of book (Dan also made that clear right off the bat.) Rather, this memoir was a rousing telling of how the Obama Administration came to be, its highs and lows, and how the nation can move forward in this um…interesting political era if we learn from past successes and mistakes.

This book BLEW ME AWAY. Like Rachel mentioned, I learned about this book from Pod Save America, my favorite podcast in the world. I thought it would be good, but HOT DAMN, THIS MIGHT BE THE BEST BOOK I READ THIS YEAR. (Yes, I’m shouting in caps. Yes, that’s on purpose!)

The tone, the message, the stories. I loved EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK.

This review will be quote heavy. Dan makes his points so well, sometimes it’s hard to build on his poignancy.

So let’s start with the most personally inspiring one shall we?

At the end of the conversation, Obama looked me right in the eye and asked “How often do you get to put your shoulder against the wheel of history and push?”

Wow. I think this is going to be my go-to phrase to pump myself up for volunteering this election season. Here we go Beto!

The Campaign

What most impressed me, in Dan’s description of Obama’s campaign years, was his tale of the campaign’s culture: no assholes allowed. Amazing. I already knew the campaign team was known as “No Drama Obama,” but I didn’t know quite what that meant. 

Our team eventually became known as “No Drama Obama.” Loyal to one another, total commitment to a cause, empowerment and inclusion, and no leaks. People who didn’t adhere to these principles didn’t get through the door, and the few that did ended up working a backwater field office in a noncompetitive state.” If you ask anyone from President Obama on down to a field organizer in Story County, Iowa, they will tell you that our culture was one of the things of which they were proudest.

Huh. Sounds a little different from a certain somebody’s campaign and presidency. No names mentioned. 

Most people think that the motto of the 2008 campaign was “Yes, We Can” or “Hope and Change”; it was actually something we abbreviated to the family-friendly “WTF.” This was our motto and our attitude. When faced with a choice between something safe with less upside or a higher-risk, higher-reward option, we always chose the latter.

I thought this quote was particularly hilarious. It’s weird to think that even from a staffer’s perspective, Obama’s presidency was the longest of long shots that worked basically because of gambles that paid off.

The Presidency

Obviously this book is partisan. Dan Pfeiffer played an integral role in the Obama Administration and he gives us no doubt about where his political loyalty lies. But he also takes a very critical view of politics in America that is honestly quite refreshing, when it isn’t soul-crushingly depressing. Oh well. In a great sum-up of the Obama years, Dan writes: 

For eight years, Barack Obama dealt with:

  • A dystopic, anything-goes media environment upended by the emergence of the internet.
  • An intellectually bankrupt and increasingly rabid Republican Party
  • A right-wing propaganda machine embodied by Fox News
  • The rising tide of fake news and conspiracy theories
  • The emergence of social media platforms such as Twitter that reward the loudest voices and penalize thoughtfulness and analysis.

I think we can all agree this has gotten worse in the past two years. 

Another notable difference between the former and current presidents (although if I was actually to list all the differences I’d be typing until December probably) was their so-called “media diets.” 

In contrast to Trump’s addiction to cable news and Twitter, Obama had a much healthier (and thoughtful) media diet. If Obama read something interesting in a magazine, he would tab it and ask his personal assistant to share it with the relevant members of the senior staff. Sometimes these were stories that highlighted an interesting policy problem that he wanted the staff to address, and other times they were just interesting stories he thought we should read, such as a piece by historian Taylor Branch in the Atlantic criticizing college athletics and a piece in the New Yorker about the possible extinction of bees.

I LOVED this. Remember when we had an intelligent, critical, discerning president…ah the good ol’ days. (*sigh* Are cartoons allowed in this review?

Image result for wolverine crush on Obama)

As someone who very nerdily once dreamed of becoming a presidential speechwriter or Chief of Staff this book was pure gold (even though I know Pfeiffer wasn’t actually a speechwriter or Chief of Staff, he was close – tomatoes, tomahtoes.) So when Pfeiffer was able to talk about how the inner White House functioned, and about Obama’s speech giving – which I always admired – I was pumped. 

Reagan mythology aside, Obama is the greatest communicator of the modern political era. He delivers speeches of oratorical brilliance. In interviews, he manages to seem extraordinarily talented and ordinarily grounded at the same time. No president has been able to hold a crowd so rapt, whether it was a boisterous political rally or a somber memorial service, like Obama.

I 100% agree with Dan here. Having read through many of his speeches, and listened to many more, it’s clear that he and his communications team were top-of-the-line. And I agree even more with Dan, that it is quite a shame that the culture of instant news, instant gratification, Twitter, and “fake news,” limited Obama’s ability to get his speeches and ideas to the public in the manner he wanted, and needed. And as Dan said, Democrats are gonna have to learn to move forward – ahead of the future, not just in line with it – if they want to take back Congress or the White House. 

Yeah one thing that Obama did *so well* was give speeches. I’m actually still seeing some NOW, after his Presidency, for the first time. It does suck that this amazing ability of his got sidelined because well…the internet kind of made ignoring speeches way easier. I’M SORRY OBAMA {and I’m also SO SORRY for not being as politically active as I am now, and not voting in midterms, giving you that awful Congress that you had to fight for 7/8 years of your Presidency… 😥   }

Fox (And Friends) is Destroying America

Yep, yep it is. Without a doubt. 

If you want to know why the Republican Party has become so far out of the mainstream, you have only to look to Fox News.

If you want to know why large portions of the Republican Party believe in debunked conspiracy theories about Barack Obama and refuse to believe accurate reports about Trump, look to Fox News.

If you want to know why so many Republicans yell “fake news” at information that challenges their point of view, look to Fox News. f you want to know why nativism and racism are resurgent in the Republican Party, look to Fox News.

And if you want to know how we ended up with Trump as president, yet again look to Fox News.

More than a decade or so later, I am still in awe of how ham-handedly racist Fox can be.

Really couldn’t have summed up Fox New’s effect on America better than that. I could go on more about it, but I imagine you should probably just read the book.

This was by far my favorite chapter in the book. And woohoo – Rachel opened this section with my favorite quote from it! Fucking Fox News…turning my otherwise 100% reasonable friends and family into conspiracy lunatics. 😥

Fox News isn’t covering news from a perspective that is outside the elite media bubble; it is not even covering issues from a conservative perspective. Simply put, Fox News is not a news outlet. It is a Republican propaganda machine masquerading as a news outlet.

Preach!

“These are just hyperbolic claims” you say? Well, Dan goes into the evidence:

When Obama was president, Fox News almost never covered the good news in the economic recovery, but now that Trump is president, the same jobs and growth numbers that were ignored or dismissed under Obama are trumpeted from the rooftops.

When Obama was president, the consistent theme was that Obama was not tough
enough in his response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and Syria. Now that Trump is president, in part because Russia interfered with our election, Fox News is leading the defense of Trump’s pro-Putin foreign policy.

Going outside the scope of this book, here is Fox News reporting on talking with North Korea, both under Obama and under Trump.

The brazenness of Fox’s bullshit really bugged me. I wanted to inflict some measure of pain on them. Denying them an Obama interview and giving one to their competitors was the biggest card we had to play.

Switching topics to something that I *didn’t* know about before, Pfeiffer went into detail about the time that Obama’s administration temporarily took away Fox’s press credentials. I honestly entirely missed this when it happened – whoops…

First, Chris Wallace, the host of Fox News Sunday and son of legendary journalist MIke Wallace, is the exception to the rule when it comes to Fox. Unlike most of his counterparts, he will aggressively question Republicans and Democrats and at times has called out some of Fox’s bullshit. Wallace was the wrong person to pick t his fight with.

I really liked how he was introspective about the mistakes he made when making that decision too. Very few people would be able to do this. Honestly, that makes him a bigger man than me.

Many of the reporters who rose to Fox’s defense now tell me that they regretted the way it played out because it gave Fox a veneer of objectivity that they didn’t deserve.

And years later when Trump declared war on all of the media except Fox, blacklisting some from campaign events and using the White House to attack networks by name, Fox did not reciprocate that loyalty. In fact, they reveled in their new role as the propaganda arm of the Trump White House.

…aaaaand, bringing this back to present day, we have a President that calls the press the enemy of the American people. Ugh.

When Pfeiffer tried to exclude Fox News, every other news outlet came to their defense. Now that the Trump administration is basically giving preferential treatment to Fox News and shitting on CNN and MSNBC and even CBS now somehow…crickets.

I wonder if we make it out of this administration if Fox News will start being excluded again, and if that’s the right decision or not. I suppose you could ONLY give interviews to Wallace…?

That Stupid “Obama Wasn’t Born Here” Conspiracy

While we were focused on things like saving the economy and passing a health care bill, however, the rightwing fringe was in overdrive. They had become convinced that the “Certificate of Live Birth” we’d released during the campaign was a forgery.

A major part of the conspiracy centered on the difference between the “Certificate of Live Birth” we released and his “long-form birth certificate,” which was on file with the state of Hawaii.

It’s hard to overstate how dumb a discrepancy this is, but it is also hard to overstate how dumb the Far Right of the Republican Party can be.

It still makes me instantly angry whenever someone tries to say that Obama wasn’t born here. Hearing a firsthand account from Pfeiffer’s perspective was illuminating.

During this period, I was living in blissful ignorance of these machinations even though I knew the president was interested in releasing his birth certificate. This was a classic Barack Obama move. He had a natural tendency to want to address the elephant in the room, even if it took him off whatever we thought was the best message. His instinct was usually right, but in this instance, I couldn’t bring myself to give in to Donald Trump and the band of racist nutjobs that he represented.

I didn’t realize that Obama really wanted to just release his birth certificate and be done with it. I remember distinctly thinking at the time that if I was him, I would want to, just to say “STFU YOU STUPID IDIOTS. HERE’S MY BIRTH CERTIFICATE. STOP BEING IDIOTS.” on live TV.

I had always just assumed that he didn’t for so long because that would in essence be “letting the crazies win.” I didn’t realize it was people like Pfeiffer that were holding him back haha.

The president wanted to use this opportunity to take the conversation to a bigger idea beyond the birth certificate. He wanted to talk about the danger of the political conversation getting diverted by these side issues.

Obama is a much better man than I am. I definitely would have just taken the podium and said “Fuck you Fox News.” Instead, we got this:

“Now, normally I would not comment on something like this…but two weeks ago,when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we’re going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate.

But we’re not going to be able to do it if we are distracted. We’re not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other. We’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”

HOW DID I MISS THIS SPEECH?!

The Affordable Care Act

“What’s the point of amassing political capital if you aren’t willing to use it to help people?” He pointed out to us that if he didn’t try to pass a law to give access to health care to the uninsured on the heels of a landslide election win with huge majorities in Congress, then it would never get done. “If not now, when?”

This quote is just as poignant to me as the “How often do you get to put your shoulder against the wheel of history and push?” quote that I started this review with.

It says so much about two things:

(1) Obama’s character as a person – He could have remained much more politically popular had he not pushed for health care reform. But he did it, because his biggest goal was not his popularity, but to help people. It wasn’t about his ego – it was about people.

Side note – Apparently Obama, in an effort to try to convince Trump to keep the Affordable Care Act intact, told him to just rename it TrumpCare instead of repealing it. “I didn’t have pride of authorship, I just wanted people to have healthcare.”

(2) Obama’s political pragmatism – That quote basically says “This is as good as it realistically gets. If we’re too chickenshit to try this now, it will literally never happen.”

We prepared for some of the obvious criticisms of any health care bill: Is it a government takeover of health care? Will it raise your taxes? Will it raise your premiums? Etc.

Here’s one we didn’t prepare for: Obamacare will kill you.

I’ve been in arguments before, political or otherwise, where a counterargument comes so far out of left field that I’m temporarily stunned and just go “WAT?!’ (spelled like that on purpose). (Side note – apparently my friend Joe thinks that is my signature phrase, since he said that when trying to do an imitation of me lolol)

Like you prepare for reasonable arguments. How do you prepare for something based on lies that isn’t based on the truth at all?

“This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia if enacted into law.” Boehner knew that what he was saying was complete bullshit. He just didn’t care.

(Iowa Senator Chuck) Grassley, who was intimately familiar with health care policy and certainly knew the truth, had two options at that moment: Tell his constituent the truth and reassure them, or try to score political points. Grassley chose the latter, telling the constituent that “you have every right to fear…[We] should not have a government run plan to decide when to pull the plug on grandma.”

Republicans – cowards, the lot of them. I’m so ashamed to say that I was ever a Republican.

Obamacare as a not-so-secret strategy to kill old people was the highest-profile and most pernicious attack, but it was far from the only one. The Republicans would repeat ad nauseam that our plan would increase the deficit, even though it was completely paid for through a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. They alleged that it would cut the Medicare benefits that seniors depend on. Also completely false.

When you can’t attack something on its merits, just make shit up – the Republican strategy to literally everything.

On trying to play nice with Republicans

It seems quaint to think about now, but at the time, outreach to Republicans was a core part of our strategy, so much so that at one point I pitched Plouffe on hiring a disillusioned Republican staffer to join the campaign to serve as a point of contact with the conservative media, including Fox News.

Plouffe loved the idea, and we went so far as to put together a list of possible names before the plan died on the vine. The fact that we even considered such an idea is a sign of how different politics was back then.

The president-elect decided in an unusual gesture of bipartisan outreach to travel to Capitol Hill to pitch the Republicans on his plan and personally solicit their help in saving the economy. Usually Congress gets summoned to the White House, but Obama wanted to show them his desire to work with them in good faith.

Reading about how Obama’s administration basically bent over backwards despite at once point having a super majority is…simultaneously inspiring (because it gives me hope for what  President can be) and rage inducing (because @&*@*%@&^% at Trump’s cabinet selections and judicial nominees.).

Zero “yea” votes from the Republican caucus. Not a single House Republican was willing to work with the newly elected Democratic president to prevent the economy from careening into another Great Depression.

“What a dick,” I thought to myself (about Boehner) “You do the right thing and they ratfuck you anyway.”

To this day, I have perfectly reasonable Republican friends of mine continue to accuse Obama of trying to run the country like a dictator…and it is so upsetting knowing that if he had wanted to, he literally could have run roughshod over the Republicans at one point, but decided he wanted to try to compromise for the good of the nation…and was rebuffed.

The President looked up at us, laughed at whatever the Republican lunacy du jour was, and said: “You know, I was elected about a decade too soon.”

The President said that it was inevitable that the country would have a president of color, but the unique circumstances of his candidacy caused this to happen much sooner than would have otherwise occurred.

He went on to explain that we were living in a period of massive, disruptive economic, cultural, and technological change. And that having a black president with the middle name Hussein as the face of that change had real political and cultural consequences. In other words, Barack Obama drove the Republicans insane.

So insane that the Republicans nominated and America elected Donald Trump. When I think about how the first African American president was replaced by a man whose election caused white supremacists to come out from behind their Pepe the Frog Twitter avatars to dance in the street, I think back to this conversation with Obama on the helicopter.

When I watch Paul Ryan and McConnell bend the knee to a man they know to be dangerously unfit for the presidency, I hear Obama’s observation in my head.

The modern Republican Party is dead. It has no coherent ideology or policy agenda. It’s a conglomerate of clowns, con men, and racists and those who enable the clowns, con men, and racists. American democracy depends on having two functioning political parties. We have only one (it’s the Democrats, I swear).

I know that’s a long passage, I’m sorry! But it’s SO GOOD.

The Republicans did not want to be seen breaking bread with Obama because it would upset their voters. They were petrified of being tossed out in a primary challenge if they were photographed treating Barack Obama like a human being.

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Their voters hated Obama so much that it paralyzed the Republican Party. Now these Republicans should have had the courage to stand up to the rabid fringe of their party that believed Obama was a secret Muslim Manchurian candidate. That failure is how we ended up with Trump. Before the Republican establishment knew it, the far-right fringe they tried to placate started calling the shots and mainstream Republicans like John
Boehner served at the pleasure of the Breitbart birthers.

*sigh*

During heated budget negotiations in 2011 when Obama and Boehner were on the cusp of a historic deal, Paul Ryan, who was then chair of the Budget Committee, scuttled the deal because it would guarantee Obama’s reelection—even though the deal would have been good for the country and accomplish some of Ryan’s longheld policy goals. In the Republican mind-set, beating Obama in 2012 wasn’t just the primary political goal of the Republican Party; it was their only goal. It was their entire reason for being.

Look. I get that Pfeiffer was an Obama staffer and his perspective will be a bit skewed. But I went and did a little research on this after and it seems true.

Republicans literally turned away a compromise deal that included things that tTHEY WANTED, and THAT WERE GOOD FOR AMERICA, simply because it might make Obama look good.

What. The. Fuck.

But every Obama win came at a long-term cost. The Republican base got angrier and more radicalized. Not just at Obama, but at their own leaders. Faced with this revolt, Republicans like Ryan and McConnell decided to accommodate the crazy instead of confront it.

And this is how the Republican party that I knew (and was a part of) died. Because Ryan and McConnell would rather coddle racists and idiots for votes/power rather than govern.

Barack Obama hates to lose and he really hates to lose to Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate. McConnell is smart, diabolical, and basically a robot sent from the future to destroy the progressive agenda. He is the most cynical person in politics and cares about nothing other than the accumulation of power.

Everyone hates Mitch McConnell. He’s terrible.

He’s really bad. Like, really bad.

OH! And the analysis of Mitch McConnell – that’s the kind of good for America gossip I live for. 

Love it. I, like many, can’t stand the man, so it’s somewhat comforting to know that those who work with him also can’t stand him. 

Trump is a symptom of the plague that has infected the Grand Old Party, but he is not the disease itself. Trump didn’t take over the party; he is the end result of a party that weaponized racial anxiety to motivate their base during the Obama era.

:/

Relationships with the Press

Every White House is engaged in a low-intensity conflict with the reporters who show up every day to report on its happenings. Ours was no different.

This is the nature of the beast—the White House wants to get its chosen message out on any given day, and the press wants to report on the things it believes its readers and viewers are most interested in.

The White House reporters want as much access as possible; the White House wants to find the amount of access that is minimally acceptable without getting in the way of doing their job. Conflict is inevitable.

Dan did a really good job of making me learn things when reading his book. I’ve gotten so used to Trump’s ridiculously antagonistic relationship with the press that it genuinely has slipped my mind that the relationship between an administration and the press is not always sunshine and roses, even if you’re not attacking the 1st amendment on a regular basis.

Their job was to hold the president accountable for his or her actions and to be watchdogs against malfeasance and corruption. They took this job seriously—as they should.

Pfeiffer did a great job giving context and nuance to that relationship with his own personal anecdotes.

Presidential frustration with the media has been around as long as we have had presidents and a press. Some presidents vent to their aides; others angrily tweet that journalists are the enemies of the American people.

Twitter Matters

Pfeiffer went into great and insightful detail about why Twitter matters. I never had twitter before King Mierdas became President. I remember being introduced to it and thinking “What can I do on twitter that I can’t do on Facebook? And I’m character limited? This is dumb.” Whoops…

Twitter removes a layer between politicians and the public—creating a closer relationship that is not filtered through the mainstream media and potentially offering an opportunity for conversation or engagement that is normally reserved for elites and the lucky few who find themselves in a town hall. These are all positive  advances for politics and journalism.

On the other hand, Twitter makes politics louder, meaner, and faster. It distorts reality, hypes the trivial, and obscures the important.

Beyond not understanding why twitter even matters to a layperson, I definitely did not understand why twitter matters to campaigns. Pfeiffer’s insights into the pros and cons were much better than I had expected. This is probably where I learned the most from Dan’s book.

Without twitter, Trump would not have won. I believe this. Without Twitter, there is no President Trump.

He managed to use the platform to dominate the political conversation to the point where his Republican primary opponents could never get enough oxygen to mount a real challenge and Hillary Clinton was forced to respond to him so often that her own positive narrative fell by the wayside.

But it’s more than that. Twitter facilitated a coarser, less substantive political culture that significantly benefited Trump, who is at his very core a Twitter troll.

This put her at a disadvantage against Trump, who is legimigately good at Twitter, because for good or ill, he is his authentic self on Twitter. And that is what the platform calls for.

Authenticity is the coin of the Twitter realm.

An unexpected takeaway from this book was “how to be good at twitter as a politician” Dan went into great detail about how a speaker’s authenticity rather than his/her choice of words is what matters the most on Twitter. Politicians can use it to directly connect to a base that would otherwise never know a candidate existed.

(on the Muslim Ban protests)

I was struck by how this many people could end up here so quickly. How did they know about the Muslim ban? It was a Saturday during the NFL play-offs, not exactly a time when people are glued to cable TV.

It was also clear that there was no group organizing the protest, which is frankly how most protests happen these days. Yet somehow all these people from all these different walks of life had gathered together at a moment’s notice. A flash mob for equality and decency.

I heard a group of people standing near Howli and me talking to one another. “How did you hear about all this?” “I saw it on Twitter and it felt like somewhere I should be, so I came.” Twitter. It’s not all bad.

and lay people can use it to organize more efficiently than ever before. As Dan points out, Twitter is a powerful tool. That’s still a weird sentence…

The 2016 election

Not long after, my phone blew up with push notifications informing me of the outcome I’d never imagined possible. An outcome I’d persuaded everyone would not happen—could not happen—had happened. Donald Trump was the president-elect of the United States. Fuck. How did this happen?

Because I (and almost everyone else) thought Trump was too loud, too crass, too inexperienced, and ultimately too ridiculous to be elected, I discounted his strengths as a candidate and the power of the political forces that propelled his candidacy.

Ugh, reading this chapter was like re-living a horrible nightmare. But Pfeiffer did a good job being reflective about what happened so as to learn lessons from it. Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, right?

For all of Trump’s offensive statements and absurd tweets, he had a clear and consistent message that broke through. And the candidate with the more clear and consistent message always wins.

(on attacking Trump for all the terrible things he did in his campaign)

But in the end, these various arguments were never woven into a single coherent narrative about why Donald Trump shouldn’t be president.

Ugh, how I wish this wasn’t true.

Pfeiffer went into detail about how Clinton’s campaign never coalesced around a specific narrative about *why* Donald Trump shouldn’t be President. Their messaging didn’t work.

To my recollection, no one has ever tried the strategy “do so many bad things that the world can’t concentrate on just one and dissect it”. For fuck’s sake, IT’S STILL WORKING NOW! People can’t keep up if you just constantly do bad shit apparently?

It’s counterintuitive to think, but if you’re going to do bad things, you may as well do a BUNCH of bad things? 😕

And I’m just as guilty as Clinton’s campaign. I just assumed that well hey, if one reason is good enough to disqualify him, ten should be TEN TIMES as powerful, right? WRONG.

Campaigns are about telling the American people a story—a story about where we are, where we are going, and why you are the right person, and your opponent is the wrong person, to take the country there.

I never even talked with people like my dad (who ended up voting for Trump…ugh, HOW?!) to see if he was planning on voting for Trump because well…he had disqualified himself so many times, he would obviously lose right?

Well, I talked with my dad AFTER the election, and apparently a big part of the reason for his vote was that “well, everyone discounted him and said he’d never win the primary, and he did, so I thought he must be good at something.”

…..

Oh my god, what Dad?

My sister and I went into the plethora of reasons why Trump would obviously be an unfit President and not only did my dad’s eyes start to glaze over after like the third reason, but he only knew ONE of the three reasons my sister and I started with (the pussygrabbing comments).

If only I’d talked to him BEFORE the election…fuck.

So yeah, poor messaging. Can’t just rely on people figuring it out themselves I guess?

Instead of causing older, more conservative white voters to flee the Democratic Party, Obama was holding on to these voters, who might otherwise have left years ago.

This was a weird realization. Especially since Fox news basically created a narrative out of lies that Obama was the most liberal President ever who had alienated moderates. The only people who believed that were Republicans that weren’t going to vote for him anyway.

It’s hard to argue with numbers showing that more moderate white folks voted for Obama than for Clinton.

Other poignant quotes

There were a couple other quotes that really hit home, but didn’t fit in easily in one of the sections above.

The fact that one of our two political parties now openly traffics in false conspiracy theories as their primary political strategy poses a threat to our system of government. This may sound dramatic, but if anything, it understates the problem.

I hate how some of my conservative friends now openly decry “the death of civil political discourse” while still openly supporting Trump and the current Republican party. Hell, I’ve already lost one closer friend because of it.

Normal political discourse should go like this:

Conservative: Global Warming is real, but for the government to come in and start telling private companies how to behave is problematic. Wouldn’t you be upset if you owned a company and now the government was telling you what to do?

Liberal: Yes, it is a real thing. And while I get why it’s problematic for the government to step in and tell private companies what to do, this is a crisis of as yet unimaginable proportions. Famines! Droughts! This a national security problem, and we need to face it head on as a country; therefore the government will need a heavier hand in this.

Conclusion: Perhaps a cap-and-trade policy, where we provide financial incentives for companies to pollute less would be a good free market solution. We can do temporary subsidies to jump start adoption, but those subsidies should fall off eventually. Let’s argue about when they should fall off and how to do the cap and trade program.

The arguments should be about solutions to problems, NOT WHETHER OR NOT PROBLEMS EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE if there is scientific consensus that something is happening!

Instead, arguments go like this:

Edmund: Hey, it’s pretty fucked up that Trump might have colluded with Russia to win the election. We should look into that to see if it happened.

Trumpist (I will not label Trumpists conservative): FAKE NEWS!

Edmund: What’s fake? The testimonies are real; the CIA, FBI, and NSA all unaminously agree that this happened; PLUS every intelligence agency of our allies as well.

Trumpist: FAKE NEWS!

Edmund: How are we supposed to have a conversation about this if you call everything that disagrees with you ‘fake’?

Trumpist: Can’t listen to the media man. It’s all fake! It’s the DEEP STATE, out to get Trump!

Edmund: ….this is like arguing with a flat-earther. I want to stab you.

What I didn’t understand at the time, but quickly learned, is that the role of the president is more than to inform or even persuade; it is to comfort.

Chalk up another reason why I think Trump is a terrible president. Even under Bush, I felt like he cared about us all as Americans, and not just his base. Trump only cares about the people who still support him, the rest of us be damned.

Multiple studies show that people are most likely to believe news if it comes from someone they personally know; therefore, there is great power in people sharing on social media the stories and fact-checks that debunk the lies being spread by Trump and his friends in the Republican fringe.

You want to know why my facebook feed has gone from like 5% political posts to like 90% political posts? Why I talk politics in normal conversation way more than ever before? This is why. It’s important to prevent the spread of lies and misinformation (tangent- read that in the voice of Arcturus Mengsk :D)

Maintaining Optimism in Hateful Headwinds

When I was working in the White House and the world felt dark and depressing, it never lasted because hope was just down the hall. Now that hope had gotten on Marine One and left the White House for the last time,

…not gonna lie, this part hit me HARD. When people ask me how I’m doing nowadays, I usually cynically answer “quickly turning into a bitter, angry old man” as a joke, but it is pretty much spot on.

Having a beacon of hope replaced with a beacon of hatred has turned me into not only less of a hopeful person, but more of a hateful person. And I know some of that is my own fault – after all, only you can control your own attitude, right? – but gosh…it’s a hard realization.

The America that I thought I grew up in, where compassion and cooperation is rewarded, where honesty matters, where good intentions matter – was that all a dream? A lie?

Many people are clinging to the idea that someone good and decent like Barack Obama was once president as evidence that America has not crossed a point of no return. People want to believe so desperately that the good, decent smart man they saw on their TVs and social media feeds is the same person off camera as on camera. The good news is I can tell you with every bit of conviction that there is really only one Barack Obama.

:’)

“The March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history, that we are masters of our fate,” he said. “The arc of the universe may bend toward justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own.” We are masters of our fate.

Dan’s concluding chapter talks about how we have to be the change we seek now. It’s part of why he wrote this book, to inspire people like you and me to go out, talk to our friends and family (and have slightly uncomfortable conversations), to educate people who don’t bury their lives in politics like we are now.

Hell, recently, Obama even basically told us all to “Stop Moping” and start doing things to help in the Nov 2018 mid-terms.

So that’s what we’ll all have to do. I know, it’s scary. I actually am terrified. But hopefully  it’ll be easier with a friend or two, and one nice thing about this awful Trump Presidency is that it’s helping us all make new political friends (Thanks Joe and Katie and Katie and Madison; hi Rachel lol).

“Sir, how are you doing?” (to Obama)

The tone of my voice made it clear that my question was about something bigger than how his day was. I was trying to get at two things that had been on my mind since the election.

Basically, I was asking him, “How fucked are we?”

Obama knew what I was asking, and he sighed and shook his head and said, “Look, this isn’t an ideal situation to say the least,” and then we both laughed.

Understatement for the purposes of gallows humor is a tried-and-true Obama-ism.

Then, he said, “Maybe I am just looking for a silver lining, but I am hopeful that this will be the clarifying event that will show the public the two different visions for the country.” And there it was: the eternal optimism and unending faith in the American people. I am going to miss him. We are going to miss him.

Rachel’s Conclusion

Dan sums up the last portion of the book with strategies for Democrats to use to win offices in the era of Trump and radical Republicanism. He talks about messaging, politicking, and the use of Twitter and the internet. It’s fascinating to a policy wonk like me, but I won’t bore you with that here. Can highly recommend though. 

If you want an uplifting, quirky, inspiring, but appropriately cynical book in this time of crisis, this is the book for you. I finished feeling optimistic and with way more knowledge than I had before. Every politician and inspiring politician needs to read this book. Like, now. Before the midterms. As fast as possible, please. 

Edmund’s Conclusion

This is my favorite political book I have read since reading Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken, or Pretty But Ineffectual Words Conscience of a Conservative by Jeff Flake (I’m pretty mad at Flake for immediately caving). Definitely better than Comey’s book, or even Senator Sander’s.

Sure, Rachel and I are definitely the target audience for this, since we both love Pod Save America, and are already used to Dan’s speaking style. But this book DELIVERED, surpassing my already high expectations.

Anyone want one? I’ll buy you a copy.

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