Reading Richard Wolffe’s Renegade in the context of the last four years, instead of less than a year after Barack Obama’s 2008 victory, helps one realize how pragmatic the then junior of Illinois really was in his political thinking even as he challenged the establishment. Throughout the book, Wolffe threads the narrative of the nearly two-year campaign with Obama’s biography and life experiences to help give an informed view of Barack Obama and how he used those experiences to shape his campaign and political policies he used. But this book wasn’t a glorification nor idealization of Obama himself nor was to a glowing account about how perfect his entire campaign was, as Wolffe shows Obama angry and frustrated like anyone who was campaigning for President of the United States and highlighted the small and large mistakes members of the campaign made.
There were a few problems I had with the book, though both were how Wolffe decided to structure the material he presented and both played into one another. The transitions between Obama’s personal experiences that helped shape him with the campaign issue that brought about said experience were not always ideal, which occasional resulted in some rough reading. Combined with this was that Wolffe would jump back and forth along the two-year timeline in which the campaign took place, though it was partly understandable as Wolffe wanted to give the whole narrative of the issue he was covering but then returning to earlier in the timeline with the next issue was a little jarring.
Given both the positives and negatives this is a book I would recommend for anyone who seriously wants to understand how Barack Obama came to his policy views and how he changed from the junior senator from Illinois to major party nominee to President of the United States.