Reflections on Axelrod’s Believer: My Forty Years in Politics

David Axelrod provides an inspiring account of his political journey while marinating it with his personal life. This book can fall into two different genres – a biography and a non-fictional prose for a political career.While narrating his political journey (i.e. his career for 40 years), Axelrod recounts his personal life including his relations with parents, sibling, wife, and children. In this, it is a masterpiece.

In his personal life account, Axelrod comes out very honest in his struggles, challenges, and joyful moments. His parents’ separation, dad’s death, mother’s career focus at the cost of being close to his children, his loving wife-Susan, his lovely daughter who suffered from epilepsy, and two sons. The tapestry that his life brought influenced his political career, ideas and values. For example, he turned down a number of life-turning career opportunities (like campaigning for Bill Clinton) after weighing the cost to his young family. Similarly, he signed in candidates (clients) based on their values and mission in politics and signed off/rejects those whose ideas didn’t fit with his values. Money or fame was not priority for him.

With regards to political career, Axelrod narrates with so much life and vibrancy his job as a political campaign strategist. I think he kept a diary or he should be very bright to remember all this. I read the intro and epilogue to find out but couldn’t. Well, his political career is a journey that started at a very junior level to the point of strategizing for the most popular presidential candidate on earth (Barack Obama), who redefined and created an unprecedented psyche into campaigning. Everyone would remember the effervescent 2008 Obama campaign.

In narrating his experience, Axelrod shares with the world some of the key campaigning tips. He shows that “politics and elections are only vehicles and not destinations”. He underlines the need for a vision and ideals.

Probably one of the important lessons beyond elections that Axelrod is exposing the world to is the need to keep “the campaign message” while in the office (i.e. after winning). He says all transformative presidents have done so. He, however, admits how difficult it is to keep the campaign message while in office as the reality checks in and things are not as they seem outside – one has to be pragmatic. But he insists on the need to keep the principles and remember the vision. He honestly showed how challenged Obama was in the pressure to compromise between politics and ideals through which he campaigned. Issues such as war (Afghanistan war) were serious tests. However, it is very clear that Obama kept his values and many times he traded political points for principles. Such included the Health Care Reform Act.

To avoid misrepresenting the book, I urge everyone, especially those who are running for the office or planning to do so at some point to get the book and read it.

I have also outlined the lessons learnt from the books on campaigning and post it in the Elections 101 page in this website.

3 thoughts on “Reflections on Axelrod’s Believer: My Forty Years in Politics

  1. Pingback: Thinking of the CANDIDATE through the eyes of #Nigerian #Elections2015 | Aikande Kwayu

  2. Pingback: Books (social) I have read in 2015: | Aikande Kwayu

  3. Pingback: Lessons from: Axelrod D., Believer: My Forty Years in Politics (New York: Penguin Press, 2015) pp. 509

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