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You've Seen the Election: Soon You'll Read the Book

November 07, 2012|By Hector Tobar
  • Barack Obama revels in his victory.
Barack Obama revels in his victory. (Jewel Samad )

The election is over, but now a new race begins. The race to write the books that will tell us why and how President Barack Obama won and how the country changed — or did not — with his reelection last night.

Among the big books from 2008 election was “Game Change,” by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, a reconstruction of that epic campaign and the personalities it produced.  You can get a sense of what a similar book about the 2012 election might look like in this 4,700-word story in the Washington Post by Scott Wilson and Philip Rucker.

“The choice was made,” the authors write, describing how the Obama team’s decision to attack Mitt Romney early and often.  “The onetime campaign of hope and change soon began a sustained advertising assault that cast Romney as a heartless executive, a man who willingly fires people and is disconnected from how average Americans live their lives.…”

A few paragraphs later, Ann Romney is asking: “What are we going to do about this?” Nothing right now, Ann, is the reply.

There’s already a lot of soul-searching going on in the ranks of the GOP. One expects that the next batch of conservative books — there’s always a few on the bestseller lists — will answer the question: How and why did we fail to convince a majority of the country what we so fervently believe?

 “GOP soul-searching: 'Too old, too white, too male'?” reads the headline in this Politico story, which is a kind of précis for what a “Whither the Party of Lincoln?” book might contain.

“After tonight, the GOP had better figure out that a big tent sounds good, but if there aren’t any seats in it, what good is it,” says Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo).

I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Chris Christie writes a book that tackles this question ahead of his inevitable run for the 2016 GOP nomination. His book will weave the story of his rise to power in New Jersey with his ideas about where the country is headed. He’ll describe the drama of Superstorm Sandy and his response to it, and his embrace of President Obama in the storm’s aftermath. Let’s give it the working title: “The Audacity of the Jersey Shore.”

Christie’s campaign and his book will have many rivals, including, more than likely, losing vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

Even before the votes were cast, Heilemann at New York magazine gave us a sense of the narrative territory a Ryan candidacy and book might try to occupy. Ryan, Heilemann writes, is sure to survive “the storm” of a Romney defeat “with an enhanced reputation among the Randian faction of the party.…”

 There are two other big stories out of last night’s election likely to produce a few good books. The first was the overwhelming Latino vote for Obama (71% according to exit polls) and its growing share of the American electorate. Back in 2005, I wrote a book, “Translation Nation,” that tried to foresee the political and cultural influence of that coming demographic shift, and now that it’s definitively arrived are certain to be more.

I personally would like to read a biography about the biggest Latino winners of the 2012 campaign: the Castro family of San Antonio. Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, gave the keynote speech at the Democratic convention, his mother, Maria, was a founder of La Raza Unida Party, and last night his twin brother, Joaquin, was elected to Congress. A family story of idealism, community activism, family and political triumph: irresistible, if you ask me.

There’s also a good biography waiting to emerge from the second big story of last night’s election: how gay marriage and gay rights moved to the mainstream of American politics. Voters in four states appear to have backed gay marriage. And  Wisconsin elected the first openly gay Senator in U.S. history — Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. A coming-out story that ends with an inauguration in the Capitol and Sen. Baldwin taking the seat that once belonged to Joe McCarthy? Yeah, I’d read that.

But the, big huge book to come out of the 2012 election will probably have to wait until 2017 at the earliest.

It will begin in Springfield, Ill., in 2007 with the junior senator from Illinois announcing his candidacy for the presidency; then take us through his defeat of Hillary Rodham Clinton, John McCain, Sarah Palin and assorted other rivals. We’ll hear how he felt when the grandmother who raised him died just before he was elected president of the United States; and we’ll get dramatic accounts of his battles with Congress over healthcare, and of the killing Osama bin Laden.

Yeah, Barack Obama’s next book is going to be huge.

hector.tobar@latimes.com

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