It wasn’t what I expected it to be.
Having impulsively purchased it without really paying attention to what it was, I expected something more retrospective. It turns out that the book is an anthology of articles written throughout the election. Even the epilogue is written from a fairly early point following the election, when the writer is evidently still in shock. He processes how the Clintons could’ve done better comprehensively, but I don’t think I got the understanding I wanted about America right now.
Then again, I’m not entirely sure any book could give me the understanding I want. Or reassurance. Or whatever it is I’m looking for in this terrifying political climate.
But I do feel like it was worth reading. I did learn a lot about how America works in general and what the campaign was like in this election specifically.
In the variety of articles, there is a healthy mixture of correct and incorrect predictions about how the election would progress. The incorrect ones, with the benefit of hindsight, at times seem quite naive – especially when Taibbi talks about how obvious it is that Trump can’t win.
At times, he speculates about how the world will look back on the contemporary press for taking Trump seriously for so long when he should’ve just been laughed off the stage right away. He suspects that people will judge the media – and the enrapt audience – for allowing him coverage when he was always destined to be a silly little footnote in America’s political history.
Taibbi talks about the time when there is “no longer a threat of a Trump victory”, when people will think it’s ridiculous that we felt threatened in the first place. Well, technically, we’re in that space where there is no longer a threat. But instead of it being a distant memory of a weak possibility, it’s a reality.
We’re reflecting from a much different standpoint than Taibbi expected when he made those optimistic predictions.
Some of these incorrect predictions have asterisks next to them linking to comments made in hindight that explores how Taibbi came to the conclusions he did at the time and what has changed since then. Those little sections were, I think, as close as the book came to being what I thought it would be. They were very interesting.
But I didn’t blame him at all for being so assured that Trump would lose. He made it abundantly clear just how horrific Trump was as a candidate – so rude, so cruel, so selfish, so stupid, so racist, so inconsistent, so completely out of his depth doing something he had no idea how to do and people were still supporting him.
The fact that that blundering oaf is the leader of the free world puts a lot of strain on my hope for humanity’s future. Or humanity’s present.
The confidence with which, at times, Taibbi claimed that it was absurd to think of Trump winning was a little bit heartbreaking, reading it knowing the election results and living in a world where they cannot be escaped.
I know that I definitely felt that it was ridiculous to think that Trump could’ve won for a long time. And I feel like I get to make that mistake. I’m not in America and I have a vague understanding of American politics.
But the fact that someone whose job it is to analyse and understand the nuances of a country’s politics made the same mistake as me is kind of terrifying. If these people are still so removed from the situation that they can’t keep a handle on it, how do voters have any hope of doing so? How can voters make an informed decision?
And if the system really is that twisted out of shape, can anything be done to fix it?
Can anything to be done to prevent Britain, and other countries, from ending up in the same pothole?
I certainly believe that we in the UK are not far behind America when it comes to this kind of broken politics. Taibbi does hit really well on why the general population is disillusioned with the establishment and it rings scarily familiar when I think about our recent significant political events.
I can see it so vividly reflected in the way that Britain conducts politics right now that I genuinely believe that Judge Rinder has a solid chance of becoming Prime Minister in the next decade.
I suspect that the solution to this issue is, as it so often is, education. Teach people comprehensively what politics is, what the government does, what your vote is for and how to use it effectively and these issues will start to ease within the next generation or two.
I feel like I missed out on some hilarious moments during the American election by not paying enough attention when Ben Carson was still in the running. He seemed like a hilarious nutcase.
Although at this point, I’ve had quite my fill of hilarious nutcases purporting as authoritative members of society. I’d just like to return to a time I now suspect may never have occured when politicians were intelligent and wanted to make a positive difference in their country.