Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Devil's Bargain by Joshua Green

I read this book in my continuing quest to understand the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Green argues that all the attempts to explain it have missed an essential element, Steve Bannon.

A crucial time in the run up to the election was after Trump had received the Republican nomination and was falling drastically in the polls. A wealthy and influential contributor, Rebekah Mercer, approached him and suggested that an aggressive person was needed to run his campaign. She knew just the person, Steve Bannon. Bannon took over the floundering campaign in August. For Bannon, there would be no holding back. (209) The result was a campaign like no other.

I learned a great deal about the campaign and the election from this book. I had no idea of Bannon's history and influence. He was bent on ruining Hillary Clinton, the person he saw as the greatest threat to his populist-nationalist ideas. I had no idea that the aim of his communication would be to arouse shock and intense feeling, not communicate truth. (148)

I was amazed at the hatred towards the Clintons by many on the right. I was amazed at the amount of money billionaires put towards the Trump campaign. I was amazed at the behavior of Trump himself. I was disappointed that leaders in the Republican Party did nothing to control Trump's inciting and inflammatory rhetoric even though many were “privately appalled by his behavior.” (40) I was shocked by Trump's birther crusade and him knowing “that a racist attack targeting a black president was the surest way to ingratiate himself with grass roots Republican voters.” (101)

Reading this book helped me to understand a bit more how this unusual presidential campaign and election developed. I also received some insight into the character of Trump, a man Green describes as “an opportunist driven by a desire for public acclaim, rather than a politician with any fixed principles.” (241) I do recommend the book.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Joshua Green is a senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek, focusing on political coverage for the magazine and Bloomberg News. Previously, her was senior editor of the Atlantic, a weekly political columnist for the Boston Globe, and an editor at the Washington Monthly. He has also written for a number of major publications.

Penguin Press, 288 pages.

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