THE CAMPAIGN by Evan J. Mandery


The Art of Local Politics as Learned from the Cross-Dresser, Cookie Baker, Sugar Slammer and Other Lecturers
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A ground-level chronicle of the Ruth Messinger campaign in the New York City mayoral race of 1997. Mandery, a Manhattan attorney, is a newcomer to the often unlovely world of local politics. Despite ample opportunities to be appalled, however, he successfully avoids the role of an innocent recoiling from the corruption of democracy and focuses on reporting daily events. What he reveals is interesting, if not overly surprising. Quickly he learns that a campaign is not simply an extension of the candidate; the organization Mandery sees around him is a bureaucracy —filled with people who try to affect decisions based upon their own parochial view of the political world— rather than a seamless representation of one person. Moreover, the need (actual, not just perceived) to hire a political professional to run the campaign means the key political strategist is almost certainly someone with few if any ties to the candidate and little concern with issues. Mandery considers the results —laughable.— The most striking example comes from Messinger’s opponent, Rudy Giuliani, —a man who cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the public schools. . . [then] spent a plurality of his advertising dollars portraying himself as a friend of public education.” Yet Mandery admits his own candidate embraced no less astonishing positions. His conclusion in the aftermath of the election reflects both the volume’s weakness and its strength: —If there is a lesson to be learned . . . it is that it is not easy to draw meaningful lessons from campaigns.— True, that’s not a deeply satisfying bit of wisdom, but Mandery’s insight into the barely controlled chaos of electoral politics is the reason to read him; abstracting from day-to-day events might imply a greater level of coherence than the experience here warrants. Mandery successfully recreates the feeling of being in a campaign rather than providing a rational explanation of one. (12 illus., not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8133-6698-4
Page count: 416pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1999