The maverick socialist senator from Vermont flouts the norms of presidential politics in this rollicking campaign memoir. Rabin-Havt (Lies Incorporated), deputy manager of Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign, catalogues the ways in which Sanders defied the rules: he disdained polls; eschewed big-money fund-raising; avoided schmoozing with Democratic potentates (though he embraced ideological soulmate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez); remained clueless about celebrity culture; and was “genuinely confused and uncomfortable” about his own late-in-life fame. What Sanders did do, tirelessly, was talk about inequality, injustice, and progressive policies—especially Medicare for All—to audiences large and small, in any and every situation. (Riding in an ambulance to the hospital during a heart attack, Rabin-Havt reports, Sanders questioned the paramedics about their insurance status and views on the healthcare system.) Rabin-Havt’s account of the Democratic primary race is breezy, colorful, and often insightful, but also evasive in blaming Sanders’s defeat on the Democratic Party establishment’s animus toward him without considering whether his left-wing politics were acceptable to most voters. Still, the portrait of Sanders as a crusty but caring man, passionately committed to principles and the interests of working-class people, vividly shows why he is one of America’s most influential politicians. Photos. Agent: Will Lippincott, Aevitas Creative Management. (Apr.)
New York Times Book Review - Janet Hook
"Sanders is not well known on the granular level — his management style, tastes and quirks — in a way that is common for national politicians. Into that vacuum comes Ari Rabin-Havt’s engaging memoir of the 2020 Sanders campaign... Rabin-Havt, a former deputy campaign manager, offers an insider’s view."
New York Times - Maureen Dowd
"In The Fighting Soul: On the Road With Bernie Sanders, the former adviser offers an intimate portrait of his cranky boss, writing about everything from Sanders’s famous mittens, to his love of picket lines and Motown songs, to his distaste for ‘the inane droning of cable news commentators,’ to his prescient fear that Donald Trump was ‘nuts’ and would upend democracy."
How did a septuagenarian socialist, who was registered as an Independent, manage to capture the imagination and devotion of the young people of the United States not once but twice as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president? Rabin-Havt, the deputy campaign manager for Bernie Sanders's 2020 presidential bid, believes the Vermont senator's campaign inspired devotion because Sanders stayed true to himself and refused to be influenced by polls, political advisers, or other candidates' attacks on his policies and positions. Here Rabin-Havt describes, sometimes in humorous detail, the determined, principled persona that Sanders consistently embodied. He provides examples of the campaign's strategies while showing that Sanders never doubted his own instincts and refused to compromise or hedge positions when staff thought he should. The book also offers insightful details of campaign rallies and 2020 primary debates and documents the drama and excitement of the Sanders campaign's increasing success. When it became clear Biden would win the Democratic nomination, Rabin-Havt shows that Sanders was ready to campaign for him. VERDICT A thoughtful and comprehensive account of the Sanders 2020 campaign and an authoritative description of the candidate's personality. Readers who want to know more about Sanders or are interested in political campaign narratives will enjoy this book.—Jill Ortner
The deputy campaign manager for Bernie Sanders tells war stories from the 2020 presidential run.
“Could Bernie Sanders have won the presidency?” asks Rabin-Havt toward the end of this eventful account. Though Donald Trump was a distant target, Sanders did note that “at its most basic, this election is about preserving democracy.” His real opponents were the members of the Democratic establishment. “The Democratic Party is a disorganized institution,” writes the author, “but it would organize against Bernie Sanders in a way they had not against any candidate—Democratic or Republican. Bernie’s premonition that the establishment would never let us win was coming to pass.” Granted, Sanders called himself a socialist and challenged the Democrats on numerous matters of principle and practice. Rabin-Havt portrays Sanders as alternately genially irreverent (“That, Ari, is a giant motherfucking windmill,” he noted while passing by a wind farm) and singularly focused, micromanagerial down to the details of a campaign bumper sticker and insistent on staying in small hotel rooms—not out of any political symbolism but because he likes to sleep in cold rooms, and big rooms take too long to cool down. More to the point, Sanders had unyielding views, among them that “his own words [are] sacrosanct,” meaning every word of every speech and bill went under his pen; and that government, particularly at a local level, can be an instrument for change for the good. Rabin-Havt delivers an admirable portrait of his candidate, but of more interest to students of applied politics are the numerous episodes in which he explores the art of political calculus: how Sanders decided, for instance, to attack Pete Buttigieg among the field of candidates in the Iowa caucuses as “the candidate of the wealthy elite,” along with the horse trading involved in Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan.
Among the better campaign confessionals and just the thing for presidential-politics wonks.