The Obama Revolution by Alan Kennedy-Shaffer is the first book to be written by an Obama staffer about the 2008 campaign. The book promises an insider account of the Obama campaign, but does it deliver?
The author was a regional field director for the Obama campaign in the Tidewater region of Virginia. The book itself attempts to describe Obama and his campaign as revolutionary in terms of policy and people. The results of this dual strategy are mixed. The book works best when Mr. Kennedy-Shaffer is a people based story. It gets off to an emotional start as he describes the tears of joy that came down his face as the television networks announced that Barack Obama had been elected president. However, the book gets bogged down in three chapters of talking about Obama’s policy views that rely heavily on quotes, and don’t offer anything that any Obama supporter didn’t already know. (For example, Obama favors middle class tax cuts, creating jobs through green energy, and debating the 50 state strategy).
Just when the reader starts to wonder where all the insider information is, Chapter 4, which is titled Community Organizing, takes us to Virginia with Mr. Kennedy-Shaffer and the volunteers that worked with him. From here the book starts to discuss the personal experiences of the author while working for the Obama campaign. One of the high points of the book is the description of how the technologically advanced Obama campaign depended on volunteers and human contact to win votes for the candidate.
The Obama campaign wasn’t built on fundraising and web presence. Those were simply tools to allow supporters to connect with one another in what was a grass roots movement political campaign. These are elements that have not been talked about in the post-election analysis of Obama’s victory. They are details that only someone who worked as an organizer inside the campaign would know. It turns out that the Obama revolution wasn’t about race, age, or technology. From the author’s perspective, it was about people who wanted to take their government back.
As Mr. Kennedy-Shaffer wrote, “There may seem to be little in common between the young children who scampered after me in the housing projects on Allison Hill, eager for Obama stickers, and the Democrats in Westmoreland County who turned out in droves for rural action meetings. But below the surface they all hope for a brighter future for their children, and they share a belief that America can-and will-change.”
The shortcomings in this book can be easily forgiven, because what it does well, it does really well. The book also contains texts of some of Obama best speeches spanning from the 2004 Keynote Address at the Democratic convention to Obama’s election night speech. The Obama Revolution is more than reasonably priced. There aren’t too many books that give you a great story and even greater speeches for $10-$12. This is a fine first Obama insider book that is well worth the money.
The Obama Revolution will be released in March, but the Kindle version is available now Amazon.com