Believer: My Forty Years in Politics (Penguin 2015; $35), tells the story not only how the powerhouse political consultant David Axelrod first came to politics (he was inspired by John F. Kennedy) but also his journey with Barack Obama starting from when the latter was an Illinois state representative with a failed try for the U.S. House of Representatives to a two term presidency of the United States.
“I hope that he likes the book,” says Axelrod, a former Chicago news reporter, noting that it’s not just his story he’s telling but Obama’s as well. “I have great affection, not just respect, but affection, for him. I’ll always feel close to him, even when we’re distant.”
It was Axelrod who recognized the timing was just perfect for Obama, then serving as a U.S. Senator for Illinois, to go for the biggest political prize of all. And during a very tumultuous six years so far (and still counting), Axelrod is focused on what the president has achieved.
“Every one of those 10 million people who have health care who didn’t have it before, or every one of those who are getting treated better today because of the health care bill, that’s real, meaningful and tangible change,” says Axelrod, now the director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics he founded as a way to inspire young Americans to consider participating in American politics.
Other missions accomplished include the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” which he sees as the precursor to the recent court rulings on same-sex marriage, the executive orders on immigration reform, more consumer protections and climate change.
“There were 180,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq when we took office,” he says. “Most of them are home now with their families.”
There would have been more change, Axelrod believes, except for what he considers a strategic decision on the part of the Republicans that it wasn’t in their interest to work together.
Axelrod was extremely impressed when he first met Obama in 1992.
Obama had been the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review and was highly sought after by big law firms, instead decided to put together a voter registration drive and practice civil rights law at a little firm in Chicago. Those initial feelings haven’t changed in the intervening years.
“I’m very proud of him,” says Axelrod.