The Outside Story

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In the months preceding the 1984 presidential election, while the Republicans were backing an immensely popular incumbent, eight Democrats fought for their party’s nomination. These eight men represented divergent backgrounds, and each offered his own hope for the future of the Democratic party.

The eight included front-runner Walter Mondale; senators Ernest Hollings, Gary Hart, John Glenn, and Alan Cranston; former senator and 1972 presidential candidate, George McGovern; former Florida governor, Reuben Askew; and finally, Jesse Jackson, a protege of Martin Luther King, who had never held, or run for, any political office.

During 1983, all eight shared the same ambition, and, in early 1984, the same forum for sharing their ideas. In debates, caucuses, and primaries, the eight were gradually reduced to one: Walter Mondale. Geraldine Ferraro was added to the ticket at the San Francisco convention, and the Democrats headed to the campaign trail to oppose Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

The 1984 campaign focused on two Reagan-Mondale debates and a single Bush-Ferraro confrontation. Although Mondale bested a seemingly confused President, Reagan and Bush rallied to reinforce their clear lead in the polls. The final result was a Republican sweep--the fifth highest popular vote in history and a record number of electoral votes.

Brookhiser records the “outside story” of the campaign and the election--that is, the public record, what the candidates said and did, as opposed to behind-the-scenes maneuvering. The result is a witty, sometimes cynical account of presidential politics.