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Hilarious, terrifying, insightful, and compulsively readable, these are the articles that Hunter S. Thompson wrote for Rolling Stone magazine while covering the 1972 election campaign of President Richard M. Nixon and his unsuccessful opponent, Senator George S. McGovern. Hunter focuses largely on the Democratic Party's primaries and the breakdown of the national party as it splits between the different candidates.
With drug-addled alacrity and incisive wit, Thompson turned his jaundiced eye and gonzo heart to the repellent and seductive race for president, deconstructed the campaigns, and ended up with a political vision that is eerily prophetic
496 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1973
We spent the rest of the flight arguing politics. He is backing Muskie, and as he talked I got the feeling that he thought he was already at a point where, sooner or later, we would all be. "Ed's a good man", he said. "He's honest. I respect the guy." Then he stabbed the padded seat arm between us two or three times with his forefinger. "But the main reason I'm working for him", he said, "is that he's the only guy we have who can beat Nixon"...He picked up his drink, then saw it was empty and put it down again. "That's the real issue this time", he said. "Beating Nixon. It's hard to even guess how much damage those bastards will do if they get in for another four years."But after a few underwhelming primary performances dissipated Muskie's aura of "electability", he sank like a stone. I posted the quote above as a reading update a few weeks ago, and someone commented: "just one more?" By which I assume the commenter meant that it's very important to beat Trump this year, just as it was very important to beat Nixon in '72, and that the Democrats should therefore nominate Joe Biden. I assume that's who the commenter meant, because that's who everyone means this year when they talk about the supposedly pragmatic choice. But...well...hold that thought.
I nodded. The argument was familiar. I had even made it myself, here and there, but I was beginning to sense something very depressing about it. How many more of these goddamn elections are we going to have to write off as lame but 'regrettably necessary' holding actions?
My own theory, which sounds like madness, is that [McGovern] would have been better off running against Nixon with the same kind of neo-radical campaign he ran in the primaries. Not radical in the left/right sense, but radical in a sense that he was...a person who would actually grab the system by the ears and shake it.It takes some effort to remember just how badly most of us (let's exempt Michael Moore) underestimated that appeal four years ago. Which is not to say that public opinion exists in a vacuum, without any rhyme or reason- but it seems like this is another "grab the system..." moment, and frankly for good reason. Is Joe Biden really the "safe", pragmatic candidate to run at such a moment? And by the way, what does it mean to be "too far Left", anyway? If Medicare-for-All routinely polls above 50% (and it has for many months, dipping below that number only recently under a barrage of fear-mongering from candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar), for example, doesn't that mean that it's not too far Left but mainstream? The fact that there's only one Democratic candidate who supports it unequivocally doesn't mean that the idea is too far Left- it means that we're not being represented by the candidates. So if Thompson's right about why McGovern lost (or at least why the loss was of such devastating proportions), a better lesson to draw might be "don't try to be everything to everybody", or maybe "something is better than nothing." For example, why has Elizabeth Warren fallen in the polls in the last few months? Why is she so far behind nationally that she's resorted to trying to smear Bernie Sanders as a sexist, when this is the same man who encouraged her- Elizabeth Warren, that is- to run for president four years ago, and later campaigned like hell for Hillary Clinton? Maybe it has to do with the fact that no one knows where she stands on a variety of issues, including M4A. Is she for it, against it, or something in between? Even people who disagree with Sanders on M4A understand that he's sincere. The only thing I know for an absolute certainty about Warren's stance on the issue is that it's not a priority for her, which means her administration would never get it done. Which also happens to be an issue that affects women (as well as men) a hell of a lot more than whatever she claims was said in a private meeting.
And how many more of these stinking, double-downer sideshows will we have to go through before we can get ourselves straight enough to put together some kind of national election that will give me and the at least 20 million I tend to agree with a chance to vote FOR something, instead of being faced with that old familiar choice between the lesser of two evils?
The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage & whup their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy-then go back to the office & sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece. Probably the rarest form of life in American politics is the man who can turn on a crowd & still keep his head straight-assuming it was straight in the first place. Which harks back to McGovern’s problem. He is probably the most honest big-time politician in America.
The assholes who run politics in this country have become so mesmerized by the Madison Avenue school of campaigning that they actually believe, now, that all it takes to become a Congressman or a Senator-or even a President-is a nice set of teeth, a big wad of money, and a half-dozen Media Specialists.
‘Christ, we can’t get away calling him a pig-fucker,’ the campaign manager protested. ‘Nobody’s going to believe a thing like that.’ ‘I know,’ Johson replied. ‘But let’s make that sonofabitch deny it.’
That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new. That America must accept
Like the historical republics corruption and empire
Has been known for years.
Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you.