I just read that the American political writer, Richard Reeves, died on Wednesday. He was 83 and I hate to admit it but, when I first heard he had died, my initial assumption was that he had died due to COVID-19. According to the New York Times, the cause of death was cardiac arrest and Reeves was also in the process of recovering from a battle with cancer at the time of his death. (So, in other words, my initial assumption was incorrect.)
Reeves was a predictably liberal columnist and, during the twilight of his career, he made the same mistake that a lot of veteran political writers did by refusing to hold Barack Obama to the same standard to which he held previous presidents. However, Reeves’s political books from the 70s are among the best ever written. A Ford, Not A Lincoln and Old Faces of 1976 provide an acidic look at American politics in the years immediately after Watergate.
Convention, which Reeves wrote about the 1976 Democratic convention, is one of my favorite political books of all time. By following several different people, including Ohio’s Lt. Gov. Richard Celeste and 17 year-old delegate Clare Smith, over the course of the convention, Reeves paints a portrait of democracy at both its worse and its best. While Celeste plots his future presidential campaign and Clare tries to track down Hunter S. Thompson, candidates like Jimmy Carter, Mo Udall, and Jerry Brown shape the future of the nation.
With Reeves’s passing, I may just have to find my copy of Convention and give it another read.