Seeking (aspects of the) truth about U.S. Elections
What a mess.  It would be funny if it wasn't so sad: the crazy mixture of power and impotence that is a presidential campaign.  I think we all understand at some level that it is nuts and that we can't change it.  But here are some sources on just how odd it is.
trailf.jpg (7714 bytes) Trail Fever
Michael Lewis
Vintage Books, 1997.

Candidates waving to empty airport tarmacs, reactions to a debate printed up before the debate begins, elaborate staging of events to make them look real, and a comparison of Dick Morris' political analysis with that of his prostitute (hint: the prostitute was better at it).  It's all here in a book that is wildly funny -- and sad enough to make you cry at the same time -- and about the same events.

"The widespread boredom with our politics is not a neutral event.  It serves the interests of someone."
mp72.jpg (7831 bytes) The Making of the President 1972
Theodore H. White
Bantam Books, 1973, 500 pages.

What a distance we've traveled even from 1972, an election that was certainly not regarded as very edifying at the time with all the "dirty tricks" of the Nixon campaign.  Still, White writes a book that would be next to impossible to write now: it's about ideas, about shaping the country, about policy, about America on the world stage, dealing with issues of war and peace, and visions of the future of the nation.  Of course, some of that tone is White, even at the time, people thought he got caught up in the rhetoric of the candidates to some extent.   Yet, anyone who tried to write such a book about a contemporary campaign would be laughed out of the debate. 

This is an election before the Internet, before CNN, before personal computers.   We see candidates not spending every second in front of the TV.  We also see a more formal, and older ethos.  McGovern has his young aids, but the process isn't dominated by people in their 20s and 30s, although White speculates at one point on that being the future direction of campaigns.

White also records in detail the almost accidental way that quotas became part of the process.  In retrospect it is fascinating to see that they were intended as only as guidelines, not quotas.
boybus.jpg (10039 bytes) The Boys on the Bus
Timothy Crouse
Ballantine Books, 1972.

It all sounds so genteel in retrospect, but we see all the same nonsense in this coverage of the 1972 campaign. 
Last modified 12/31/06; posted 7/5/00. © 2001, 2006 John P. Nordin