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Believer: My Forty Years in Politics


Believer: My Forty Years in Politics

Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent or a Libertarian, if you’ve ever been involved in the political process, David Axelrod’s exciting book is a must read. From the enthusiastic envelope stuffers and door knockers to the hardcore precinct chairmen and state or national conventioneers, Axelrod brings into vivid focus what it’s like to work for a candidate you support and a cause in which you truly believe.  

Axelrod’s career began in journalism, covering local and statehouse politics in Chicago. What a proving ground that was, honing his already considerable writing skills in an arena of political gladiators that would either send you scurrying for cover or jumping into the fray for the sake of the battle. He was a political reporter covering the early presidential primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire when he began to consider working as a political consultant. He had covered such notables as Rahm Emanuel, Rod Blagojevich, Jane Byrne, Harold Washington and Richard Daley --- household names and, for good or for ill, major players in any political sphere, especially in the boiler-room atmosphere of Chicago politics.

"If you’ve ever caught political fever...this is the book for you. The rewards, frustrations, highs, lows, lack of sleep, and passion for something in which you truly believe could not be better told than by David Axelrod."

Later, he would be introduced to a young Barack Obama, an up-and-coming recent Harvard law school graduate who was impressing a lot of important people with his ideas and rhetorical skills. The two became good friends, and when Obama decided to run for the Illinois State Senate, Axelrod took him on as a client of his fledgling political consulting firm. Their friendship and collaborative skills grew into a strong mutual admiration of one another’s talents that led right to the Oval Office in 2008.

Axelrod writes with the clarity and knowledge of someone who has been there, and BELIEVER reads like a novel. He begins with his first taste of political fervor when, as a small boy, he is hoisted up to see President Kennedy pass by in a cavalcade. That thrill of seeing a living president was emblazoned in his memory. He writes about his life as a grandson of immigrant Russian Jews, his school years, and the personal pressures on his family during his adventurous career as a campaign consultant, which frequently found him far from home for long periods of time.

Axelrod was present at the very beginning of Obama’s political career and writes with intense honesty (not always flattering) of their relationship. We see a side of Obama that few outside his family would witness. Then, as Obama’s political advisor, Axelrod provides a non-worshipful but respectful view of a president --- sometimes jubilant, sometimes troubled, but ever dedicated to doing the right thing for what he sincerely believes are the right reasons. 

If you’ve ever caught political fever (I admit to a 30-year career of political activism myself), this is the book for you. The rewards, frustrations, highs, lows, lack of sleep, and passion for something in which you truly believe could not be better told than by David Axelrod.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on May 1, 2015

Believer: My Forty Years in Politics
by David Axelrod

  • Publication Date: February 2, 2016
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction, Politics
  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • ISBN-10: 0143128353
  • ISBN-13: 9780143128359