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SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! Do not — I repeat, DO NOT keep reading beyond this point if you don’t want it revealed that Richard Nixon won the presidential election of 1972. You’ve been warned!

Considering the fact that I obviously knew how this book was going to turn out, the ending was surprisingly disturbing. I guess I was hoping that Dr. Thompson would reveal some ancient secrets about why it happened that way. But it turns out that, no, you could have written this ending as well, even without knowing anything substantial about the election. We’ve seen it all again, a thousand times since.

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There’s a reason why I think Hunter S. Thompson is one of the best political writers we’ve ever had in America, and why I think this is by far the most insightful and honest book about presidential campaigning I’ve ever read. It’s hard to pin down, but here’s what I mean:

“By half time, with the Rams trailing by six, I had established a firm scientific basis for the paranoid gibberish I had uttered, an hour or so earlier, while standing in the hotel driveway and talking with Bobo the night pimp.”

And yes, that does mean I’m still reading this book two months later. Hey now, come on! That’s why Jessica is Jessica and I’m just me!

Wrap-up on this one coming soon as I careen headlong towards the end of Dr. Thompson’s wild ride.

Hunter Thompson does something unique in this book that I wish more political journalists tried. He’ll spend almost an entire chapter writing about the campaign like gripping sports commentary and then, just as you’re caught up in the excitement, he whips out a trail of hopeless vitriol about the sham of the entire process. He’s doing his job, but he’s tired of it, and that exhaustion is worth noting. We can pretend this is a contest or a race, or any of the other terms journalists use to trivialize the most sacred act of our democracy, but we should remember that it’s much more serious than that.

I empathize with Thompson (and I bet most voters do, too). We’re involved in this whole thing because it matters, but we have to pretend that the emperor has clothes on in order to keep our sanity and not punch someone. (And that note of violence isn’t all mine — by this point in the book Thompson has talked about wanting to rip someone’s throat out, throw someone else down an elevator shaft, and a half dozen other such flare-ups. The frequency is increasing the more time he spends away from his beloved Sandy and with the pompous idjits on the trail.)

When Thompson sneaks off of Ed Muskie’s campaign train in Florida because the whole depressing business reminds him too much of a Nixon campaign, he fatefully gives his press pass to a crazy hippie so the guy can have a free ride to Florida. The mess that ensues is incredible, not just for what happened, but for what it says about American politics.

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These are the times that try men’s souls. Or, at least, mine.

I hate primary season so much it makes me rage at the wind. Nothing speaks to the absurdity of politics moreso than this load of crap. While the general election in November at least pretends to be about what the people want, the primaries are always about what the media says about the candidates, which state wants more influence over the other, which candidate is the best-looking, most well-spoken, or has collected the most money so far. Do any of them deliver messages that resonate with regular folks? Umm, I don’t know since that apparently doesn’t matter.

So it’s been nice to read the good Dr. Thompson’s book chronicling his chronicles of the 1972 presidential race. I can’t think of anyone better than him, being so outside of the establishment (he always calls members of the mainstream punditry, “the press wizards”). We read to know we’re not alone, and reading this is like having a sage old dope smoker by my side agreeing with everything I scream at the newspaper every morning.

Better than that, he is writing about a bygone era of politics I never knew existed. This year was the pivotal one, apparently. Back then, the possibility — even inevitability — of strong third parties was real. This was a time when party nominees weren’t necessarily decided upon by voters — the gruesome 1968 Democratic National Convention was evidence of that. While the pundits and the press almost single-handedly coronate or crucify nominees today (remember the Dean scream?), in ’72 reporters were still only as influential in the process as football commentators are in the outcome of the Super Bowl.

But the dirty, corporate-controlled, People Magazine-style campaigns were sown back then. It’s kind of exhilarating to read about it first-hand from someone as human and honest as Thompson.

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