Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats’ Campaign to Defeat Trump is a richly detailed overview of the primary and general election campaign to take back the White House. It begins with the heartbreaking defeat of Hillary Clinton through the inauguration of Joe Biden and into the first month of his administration. As a writer for The Atlantic, Dovere had extraordinary access, including interviewing candidates, campaign staff, and voters.
There is a lot of inside information including new information. For example, many people saw Bernie’s staff and key people in alternative media who supported him amplifying the false allegations of the fabulist Tara Reade. But we didn’t know that Bernie’s own staffer, David Sirota, put her in touch with an Intercept reporter. We all saw the people on Twitter suggesting Biden stop down and Bernie step in because of the allegations, but we did not see the machinations behind her allegations.
He also recounts Biden’s decision to choose Kamala Harris as his Vice-Presidential running mate. And yes, some of the influence efforts were obvious, but the actual efforts were far more interesting.
Battle for the Soul is an interesting history of the primary and general election on the Democratic side. It is rich with the kind of details that bring the candidates to life. It also shows how some of the sausage is made and is as interesting and dispiriting as you may expect. We get some of the background to the mess in Iowa, the Sanders – Warren spat and splintering, and other key inflection points in the campaign.
The book suffers from 20-20 hindsight, giving it an inevitability that did not exist. This makes Biden”s staff seem more prescient than is humanly possible. Dover does cover the month’s in the wilderness for Biden, but always with a “wait and see” sense that of course, it will work out in the end.
The other great flaw is far more serious. Dovere has no respect for women who have the ambition to be president. He asserts repeatedly that Clinton was a horrible candidate even though she won the popular vote by three million and was the first woman to successfully compete for a major party nomination. If there is any negative quality in Warren or Harris, he expands on it, often unfairly. Warren emerges as a scheming, manipulative woman seeking power by any means. Kamala Harris suspended her campaign before the first primary but he recycles the Willie Brown relationship. He is more evenhanded about her career as a prosecutor but has obviously scoured her every public utterance to find the most inane he could find. Seriously, everyone babbles at times, but he seems to find every moment. He is kinder to Klobuchar and Whitmer, but then they both publicly withdrew from consideration. I guess women who renounce personal advancement are the good ones.
I don’t want to say Edward-Isaac Dovere is a misogynist. I am certain he supports women’s rights and would vote for a woman candidate, but he has no charity for women of ambition. What might be ignored or shrugged off in a man is given no leeway for women. He does not actively support anti-women initiatives, but women seeking power are seen as suspect and given no room for error. He seems oblivious to these biases, but compare his admiring coverage of the men, Buttigieg in particular, to any of the women, and the difference is stark.
This made for a book that was alternately fascinating and infuriating. I am sure most men won’t notice, but for a woman, his coverage of women has harsh double standards and no room for error. He seems to be the perfect American voter, one who always say they want a woman president, but will also always say, but not that woman.