It’s partially successful at fulfilling its subtitle. I give it a B+.
This is an often amusing and always fairly quick read despite the 61 pages of endnotes! I suspect that they’re there only to show the reader that the light tone does not imply that the book is just anecdotal: it’s clear that everything is carefully researched and documented. Yes, large chunks are indeed anecdotal, but that’s okay, as stories are more important than data. The real question is who the intended audience is supposed to be. Is Begala telling us what he is going to do to defeat Trump, or he is telling us what we should do, or is he telling some unnamed third parties (Biden’s advisers???) what they should do? It seems that he’s doing all three things, and he does a surprisingly good job of accomplishing all three. But he would probably have done an excellent job if he had picked just one and focused on it — though he wouldn’t have a full-length book in that case.
I had expected that a lot of this book would turn out to be outdated because of the pandemic, but no: it was completed recently and rushed into print, officially on August 4 but actually available earlier, in time to include a lot of relevant material about Trump and the pandemic. You probably don’t remember who Begala is, but he was best known for being the chief strategist for Bill Clinton, so he’s well-qualified to give advice on beating Trump. Perhaps his best qualification is Trump’s own opinion of him:
Unfortunately you probably already know most of the material you’ll find in this book. But you may be forgetting Clinton’s Law: “Elections are about the lives of voters, not about the candidates.” In case you are, Begala tells you again and again. That’s okay, since we all need to keep it front and center. And there’s certainly some content that will be unfamiliar to you, as Begala presents 14 different strategies to defeat Trump, and it’s reassuring to see that there are so many. What’s not so reassuring is Begala’s continuing focus on the economy to the exclusion of the cultural issues that motivate so many Trump supporters. But my own main focus for the last few weeks has been on voter suppression, and Begala does a good job on that issue and what do to about it. I also appreciated his analysis of Trump’s fondness for authoritarian leaders.
I think we need to close with another photo to help us keep our eyes on the prize: