After all the online post-mortems on the Romney-Obama race, one has to ask: Is there really anything left to say? Judging from the 10 books or ebooks publishers are churning out, multiple volumes on the 2012 campaign remain to be consumed by eager political junkies. No matter that we have already endured at least 18 months of moment-by-moment coverage of a campaign that held few surprises.
The glut of 2012 campaign books seems to be a classic example of an over-saturated market. And publishers' mistakes seem to be even worse than 12 years ago, when well-regarded political analyst Gary Wills, reviewing four books on Campaign 2000, wrote:
"THE campaign book deserves to die, and it is doing its duty...Admittedly, we may have forgotten that Orrin Hatch ran for president, but why disturb such a blessed oblivion?"...The genre has entered "not only its decline but its decadence."
"Double Down: Game Change 2012," a book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, is in the works, due out in September, amid promises of headlines, revelations and backstage gossip. You may remember Halperin and Heilemann as the authors of the bestseller "Game Change" about the 2008 campaign, from which we learned that Republican operatives had serious doubts about Sarah Palin's fitness for office, and Democratic operatives dished on what an awful marriage John and Elizabeth Edwards had, and how Hillary Clinton couldn't control what Bill said or did on the campaign trail. At the same time, it raised serious questions about whether loyalty and discretion still exist among political aides and consultants. I guess "Double Down" will leave no doubt as to the answers to that question, at least among the losing candidates and their self-serving advisors.
Not to be outdone, Dan Balz and James Silberman in August will release Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America. The book promises to "put the race for the White House in context and explores just what the election means for the future of the democratic process and America."
Do we really need these books?
After all, at least eight -- count 'em eight -- ebooks have already surfaced, full of instant analysis and, supposedly, historical perspective. There's "Why Romney Lost and What the GOP Can Do About It by David Frum; "Why Romney Lost the 2012 Election. The Severely Flawed Candidacy of Mitt Romney" by Mark Allen; Politico's ebook, "The End of the Line: Romney vs. Obama: the 34 days that decided the election";The Washington Post's ebook, "Obama vs. Romney: "The Take" on Election 2012" by Dan Balz; "TRICKS, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE: Obama vs. Romney and Campaign 2012," an ebook by Greg Mitchell of The Nation; "Romney's Run," by Alan Fisher of Al Jazeera; "Self-Inflicted: the Republican Loss of 2012," by Bruce Trout; and "41 Percent: Uncovering the Romney Video that Rocked the 2012 Election," by David Corn of Mother Jones.
Most of these books seem to start with the premise that presidential campaigns are entirely a game, or a great sporting contest. If only the candidates employed different strategies and tactics, emphasized different issues, or made fewer mistakes, they could have won.
This is hogwash. If political authors draw on a knowledge of history, track long-term trends and patterns, they recognize that only rarely is the course of history altered because of the personal foibles of the candidates. The sweep of history is generally larger than any one individual's triumph or tragedy. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the authors of these "instant history books" can muster much historical perspective.