Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In Honor of Election Day 2010

On this midterm election day, 2010, my thoughts are difficult to focus. I've done my civic duty and voted, even though I am sceptical concerning the value of any one individual vote and the rationality of actually bothering to spend time educating myself and going to vote,  the free rider problem and  collective action being what they are.  I voted and now I await the close of the polls, the results, the spin and some fine Chivas Regal.  An election day tradition. 

Problem is that I can't really accomplish much until the polls close.  What better way to retain some level of productivity then to write about two authors who contributed histories of elections past that I believe belong in any private library with a political interest, Theodore H. White and Hunter S. Thompson.  I admit to not owning even reading copies today because the books that follow are perpetually on my want list and I just want, the first edition first printing.  The ideas and the experience of reading White and Thompson are now part of my soul, the objects will someday be part of my collection.

Theodore H. White (1915-1986) born in Boston, graduated from Harvard in 1938 and was hired to be an East Asia correspondent for Time magazine based in China.  He quit that posting after an argument with Henry Luce in 1945 but published a controversial and insightful history of China during World War II era and the associated American China Policy of that period, Thunder Out Of China.

This first book led to a distinguished career and a Pulitzer Prize in 1962 for his landmark, The Making of the President 1960, the first in a series including, The Making of the President, 1964, The Making of the President 1968, and the Making of the President 1972.  These are without a doubt, the books that early in my education, impacted my study of the American electoral "great game."  White's combination of journalistic reporting of events as they happen, along with a keen eye for the history being made with those events, results in a combination of political reporting and historical insight unmatched since.  Each book in the Making of the Presidents series is valuable to read for anyone seriously interested in the American practice of politics, especially Presidential politics.  All title in this series were originally published by Atheneum, New York and are more difficult to find than expected! As I started to think about White and The Making of the President I noticed that Harper Perennial has just completed a re-release of all four titles in paperback.  If you haven't read these get them now and start!

The Making of the President 1960 (Harper Perennial Political Classics)

The Making of the President 1964

The Making of the President 1968

The Making of the President 1972

While I consider White's, The Making of the President, the gold standard for contemporary reporting on Presidential elections, Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72 (Straight Arrow Books, San Francisco, 1973) reminds us that politics, as practiced in the good old USA is most often a pure and simple comedy.  Coverage of the 2010 Midterm elections has provided much entertainment and associated madness and reinforces my sadness that no one has taken the banner from Hunter S. Thompson to further the gonzo journalism he pioneered.  In the age of Twitter and Facebook I simply long for the courage and insanity that Hunter S. brought to American political reporting.  Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, 1972, along with Thompson's other classics, (Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas......) provide a counterweight to the self-importance of our political class.  Unlike, White's, The Making of the President, acquiring a first edition of Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72, is a much more serious investment.  Luckily many reasonably priced paperbacks are still in print.

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