Richard Ben Cramer has died

He was the author of the great book about the 1988 presidential election, What It Takes, which I talked about here.  A flop when it came out, over the years it has become recognized as a classic of political reporting.  Here is a nice appreciation.

What explains the enduring appeal of a book about the run-up to a dispiriting election that featured the awkwardly patrician George Bush versus the awkwardly meritocratic Michael Dukakis? Cramer etched a psychologically revealing account of what it takes to run for president, and he wrote it with such brio, with such humor, that it is a delight to simply savor the words.

It must not have been easy to spend six years of your life creating a masterpiece, and then see it fail.  But Cramer must have felt some satisfaction from the recognition he finally received.  What It Takes is currently #18 on Amazon in paperback, #156 in the Kindle edition (only $9.99).  You should buy it.

2 thoughts on “Richard Ben Cramer has died

  1. Funny I should read this now. I’ve just spent several hours looking for some worthwhile reading out there on the subject of politics. I won’t make any guarantees, but I may look this up.


    • A couple of points: first, the book is about politicians, not so much about politics. You won’t necessarily come away knowing whose policies were the best for America in 1988 or who had the best electoral strategy. Second, it’s over a thousand pages long, so reading it represents quite a commitment, especially since many of the main characters (Dukakis, Gephardt, Hart) have long since left the political stage.


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