Matthew Mills Stevenson

During the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential elections, Matthew Mills Stevenson followed the many Republican and Democratic candidates in primary states, at political conventions, and in various debates--coming away with first-hand impressions of those who would be president, including Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden. He travels across New Hampshire and Iowa, hears candidates in New York, Washington D.C., and Chicago, and attends numerous political rallies. His book, however, is anything but conventional, as he writies with verve and humor about everything he sees and hears on the campaign trails. He attends one of the first Trump rallies in New Hampshire in 2015, writing: "From where I stood at the back of the room, Donald was hard to see coming into the ballroom. At first all I could make out, bobbing along the stage over the heads of the adoring cops, was his trapezoidal hair, which is the color of marmalade and turns on more angles than the track of the Daytona Speedway. That his 'do' stays in place is a marvel of Western spray technology." Also in 2015, he senses early trouble for the Hillary campaign, noting: "The reason she loses, however, is because she is playing it safe, and her campaign feels more like a coronation than an election. Even her devoted supporters can hardly muster much enthusiasm for her. I have heard more cheering for a third-grade pageant than Hillary got in two events." Of Joe Biden, in Iowa in 2020, he writes: "Unlike other candidates that I have seen over the years, Biden seems genuinely to like the American people and, in particular, his supporters. He knew personally a number of the firemen in the audience, and he talks about the issues as though you had bumped into Biden at Home Depot and asked him how he was fixed for dental insurance. He doesn't speak in Lincoln-Douglas complete sentences. Instead he riffs in fragments from memory (something of a risk, I am sure, to his staff) about the issues of the day while strolling around the stage with a mic in his hand--the Dr. Oz of the Iowa caucuses." The result is a political book that is an endless delight--for the first-hand accounts of the candidates, for the rich humor in the language, and for the insights into a system that is closer to carnival barking than Athenian democracy. This is a book you will want to share with friends. --Matthew Mills Stevenson

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