The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream - Barack Obama

This is about policy and a "get to know the candidate" book that those in public office write to make themselves more familiar to voters as the candidate vies for national office. U.S. Senator Obama wrote/published this back in 2006, so there are a lot of references to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush II administration, and nothing about the growing problem of housing/Wall Street that blew up in the recession of late 2007-2009.

 

I will state upfront I voted for him in both presidential elections, and knew enough about his policy stances to feel confident in my votes. However, I found the stances much more nuanced in this book then an any article or interview about him. For the most part I liked what he had to say, even if I disagreed with him on some of the finer points or came from a different perspective. Some of his thinking comes from his time as a community organizer, some from his time as a lawyer and professor, and some from his time in the Illinois state legislature. The little of what we see from his time in the US Senate is about his trips to Russia and Ukraine or to the Middle East and how those experiences influences and sometimes changes his way of thinking about a policy matter. Most of the trips mentioned are of his going back to Illinois for town halls, campaign events, or speaking engagements.

Mixed in the policy talk are personal anecdotes, conversations with citizens, conversations with senior political office holders, and biographical material. This is a pretty personal toned book from such a policy wonk.

 

Be ye forewarned: This man really likes to take walks through history to provide context at the beginning of a few chapters. The chapter on the Constitution starts out with a history lesson that begins with the Founding Fathers and moves along slowly. So much law professor lecturing going on. Most of the history walks start with Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson.

 

I found the chapter on faith/religion the big obstacle in my enjoyment and learning from this book. He basically sold out irreligious and people of faith other than evangelical or mainline Protestants and kissed the asses of the conservative Christian right. He wants Democrats to take pages from the GOP and use Christian language and imagery to help explain party platforms, ideas, and policies. He also uses his Christian faith to defend his stand on opposing same-sex marriage. The one non-Christian mentioned in this chapter is a Jewish GOP Senator who is in charge of planning the Senate's voluntary weekly Bible study meeting...yeah. Nothing about how the Muslims are treated, nothing about the rise of anti-Semitism, nothing but the hate crimes against Shikhs (who are targeted because they are mistaken often for Muslims), nothing about the UU church- nothing about religion other than Christianity. No thank you; I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state.

 

Overall, I found a lot of policy topics for which I can think about from either a different perspective or think about more in depth. I just wished I skipped the chapter on faith.