The Winners and Losers

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Simon presents an intelligently written and barely partisan account of his race for the presidency. The book offers a balanced mix of personal anecdotes, analysis of the nomination process, and his proposals for procedural reform.

Simon argues persuasively that issues were given short shrift during the 1988 campaign. He levels criticism at both journalists and the voting public for concentrating primarily on the candidates’ relative standing in the polls and ignoring their substantial differences. He is consistent in that he limits negative commentary on his former opponents of both parties to their stands on the issues. Simon complains that the candidates themselves (and politicians in general) also focus too much on the polls. Rather than leading, candidates look to polling results to dictate their actions and are reluctant to support any issue that will not garner short-term popularity.

These memoirs are most interesting when Simon tells the behind-the-scenes stories of the campaign, such as the genuine camaraderie among the Democratic candidates, which was often obscured by media accounts of their disagreements. He also describes vividly the tremendous time, energy, and money required to campaign for the party nomination.

Simon offers several concrete suggestions to back up his criticism of the nominating process. Shortening the time spent campaigning for the primaries and general election, Simon argues, would cut the cost to candidates and lead to a fairer contest. In 1988 it was the candidate with the most campaign money in each party who won the nomination and the richest nominee who won the election.

Simon suggests that the nasty, racist themes of George Bush’s campaign have set a dangerous precedent. Unless the general public becomes actively involved and steers the campaign toward important domestic and foreign policy, he concludes, 1992 will only be worse. Simon indulges in little idle speculation as to what he should have done differently in order to win the nomination, and he comes across as fair, honest, and practical. He sets forth both the ideas that he thinks are feasible and could win support and also those that he acknowledges would run against too many vested interests. As the first published account of the 1988 campaign, WINNERS AND LOSERS has set a high standard to which others should adhere.