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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Permanent Campaign and Journey of Howard Dean, October 7, 2010
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This review is from: Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics (Hardcover)
"Herding Donkeys" is about the singular political journey of Howard Dean and several unknown (at least on the national level) grass roots activists in places like Boise, Waco and Western North Carolina who laid the foundation for the election of Barack Obama and many Democrats in Congress in 2006 and 2008. In some ways the story is a familier one -- feisty outsiders get fed up and plot thier way to political power even where they are outnumbered and ignored by power brokers in state capitols and, especially, Washington, DC. The book gives a sense of what made the Obama Campaign different -- because it began as a progressive movement in 2003 and 2004 when nobody outside of Chicago had ever heard of Obama.

Dean, an outsiders insider, is juxtaposed against Rahm Emmanual who plays the part of an insiders insider. The two are the Democrats' yin and yang. This book is told from Deans perspective as well as the organizers who learned campaigning and new internet tools with Dean and never stopped until Democrats took Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. Occasionally the chronology in the book is confusing as characters such as Dean then Obama organizer Jeremy Bird bounces from New Hampshire to South Carolina to Ohio to Washington. Herding Donkeys captures much of the zeitgeist of a time that has passed and hints at what has become of the forces that propelled Obama in 2008. It's an look at what political organizers do in places like Colorado Springs and Florence, SC before the big money and big media take hold of a movement and many of the brash young organizers move to Washington to replenish the ranks of the dreaded establishment.

Berman's achievement is that he has written a new kind of campaign book. The old prototype of the genre, Theodore White's The Making of a President 1960, began with a well defined political calendar and process. Herding Donkeys shows how the campaign has become both permanent and decentralized. This is a book about the ebbs and flow of continious grass roots organizing. It's not about elite decision making and the insider echo-chamber of pompious pundits. People do have power, even in forgotten places like Greeley, Colorado but only when they are part of a movement as well as a campaign.
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