Obama Revolution, by Alan Kennedy Shaffer – Book Review


the-obama-revolutionThe Obama Revolution, by Alan Kennedy-Shaffer
Publisher: Phoenix Books
Publication Date: March 1, 2009
Format: Trade Paperback, 266 pages

Alan Kennedy-Shaffer’s new book, The Obama Revolution covers a lot of ground. It is literally  jam packed with coverage of the beginning of Obama’s campaign for the presidency through his swearing in- has a lot of examination of  the rhetoric of the campaign, speeches and proposed policy of the new president. Kennedy-Shaffer worked behind the scenes as a regional field director for The Democratic Party and Barack Obama in Virginia and also helped to organize field campaign offices in North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

Even though some of the main selling points of the book were the explanation of the 50-State Strategy and the way that the Obama campaign was able to organize so many young people to mobilize the field offices and make the campaign a viral one, there is so much more that is offered here.  The first couple of chapters delve headlong into an examination of the policies that Obama planned to change or new ones to be implemented, along with quotes from his speeches that supported his plans.  There is also quite a bit of comparison between the various presidents who have been influences to Obama or to whom he has been compared- like Andrew Jackson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, and how Obama had to switch his campaign tactics from an emphasis on hope to one of change, and provide detailed the plans and procedures for implementing his policies for the parts of the country where there was more of an interest in the nuts and bolts of his plans.

The book had a false start for me when it began with the explanation of the policies that Obama planned to implement.  I was overwhelmed to be reading all of the proposed policy changes, especially since there wasn’t much back up as to how they would be accomplished.  It was a bit too much like reading a list and difficult to sort through because everything ran together for me.  Luckily that only went on for the first couple of chapters.  Kennedy-Shaffer excels when speaking about his experiences in working on the campaign.

When starting out in Virginia, he drew on some of Obama’s own writings about his efforts at community organizing in Chicago.  When Kennedy-Shaffer started out barely had an office to work from or any supplies or volunteers.  His first attempt at outreach produced only thirteen volunteers and his next effort was hardly more successful, but slowly he was able to talk to the community and get people more involved by using them to talk to each other. They expended a huge amount of energy and effort in registering first time voters and getting apathetic voters to be more involved.  I loved seeing how the small communities pitched together to outfit the office with supplies, and how the volunteers would prepare food to feed the volunteers and workers in the office.

Another thing I really loved was the bonus collection of Obama’s speeches at the back.  The book is worth a read just to have the text of those speeches alone, especially after the book has put a lot of the key moments and turns of the election into focus.  The enthusiasm and admiration that Kennedy-Shaffer had for Obama and the campaign showed through in his writing and the amount of research that it took to create such a thoughtful book. The 50-State Strategy breakdown is wonderful, and easily understood.

I would definitely recommend this one who has an interest in learning about the procedures of the new campaign strategies that were developed and implemented during Obama’s campaign.  I am sure that we will be seeing more of this kind of strategy in the future and it will be interesting to see how the now proven theories will play out in future elections. Kennedy-Shaffer’s enthusiasm and depth of knowledge about Obama is vast and it was so interesting to see his observations about the campaign and his experiences from working in the field offices.  I was touched by quite a few of the stories that he included.

The Obama speech collection at the back is a big plus.  My only reservation would be the sheer amount of information that is packed into this book.  Without the speeches it’s only about 160 pages, and they are dense and at times can be a little dry, but given the other content it’s well worth wading through if you have any interest in politics, Obama, or the campaign process.

alan-kennedy-shaffer1About The Author: Alan Kennedy-Shaffer served as a regional field director for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in Virginia. Educated at Yale University and William & Mary Law School, Alan is the author of The Obama Revolution and Denial and Deception: A Study of the Bush Administration’s Rhetorical Case for Invading Iraq. His writings have also appeared in The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Washington Post, the Patriot-News, the Daily Press, the Virginia Gazette, and Scoop08. Alan lives in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

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  1. I’ve been looking for something that would cover the new campaign strategies used in this election. I thought I would need to wait longer for a good book to come out. This one sounds very good with somewhat of an insider’s perspective. Thanks for the review and the recommendation.

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