I saw something on TV the other day about there being an election next month. That kind of came from out of nowhere, didn’t it? You’d think somebody would have run a commercial on TV. How am I supposed to make up my mind about Candidate A without an ad telling me that he’s a socialist scumbag who wants to double my taxes, give free Cocoa Puffs to the undeserving poor, send housewarming gifts to new illegal aliens, and outlaw churches? How can I make a decision about Candidate B if a scary-sounding guy doesn’t warn me that he wants to post law enforcement officers in my bedroom, force poor people to sell spare parts of their bodies to survive, dump buckets of money on rich people, and is a bit less liberal than the Taliban on women’s rights issues?
Actually, I saw those ads on every TV at the gym I go to. Over. And. Over. And. Over.
Nevertheless, despite their less attractive elements, U.S. election campaigns hold a definite fascination for many of us. Sometimes, they become the subjects of good books, both fiction and non-fiction. In the spirit of the season, I hereby give you a list of good books about the U.S. electoral process. I’ve linked to their listings on Amazon.com, though you might have better luck with a couple of the older titles in libraries and used bookstores. In no particular order:
The Last Hurrah. Politics in the pre-internet, pre-TV days, when Irish politicians in big cities got votes by attending wakes and candidates relied on newspapers for character assassination of the other side. A compelling read.
Primary Colors. A rather thinly-veiled fictional account of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign for the presidency. John Travolta starred in the film version.
Game Change. A history of the 2008 presidential election campaign, written by reporters with inside access to all of the major candidates. HBO released a film version earlier this year that focused almost entirely on the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket, but the book is far more comprehensive.
Fear and Loathing: On The Campaign Trail ’72. Hunter S. Thompson. Nixon. McGovern. Need I say more? This was the last campaign in which the Iowa caucuses did not play a major part.
Convention. I read this back in high school. A suspenseful novel about the days when the national political conventions actually picked the candidates.
All the President’s Men. Richard Nixon wins 49 states in the Electoral College and sows the seeds of his own downfall. One of the great detective stories of our time.
1876. The late Gore Vidal’s novel about America’s centennial year and a stolen presidential election.
Angels & Demons. Okay, this one’s about the election of a pope, not a U.S. president, and I know that a lot of people have issues with Dan Brown’s writing. Still, it’s a page-turner.
Too Close To Call. Jeffrey Toobin’s account of the biggest electoral debacle in modern American history — the 2000 presidential election. This story still raises blood pressures on both sides of the political spectrum.
The Making of the President 1960. A modern classic of U.S. political literature. The 1960 campaign brought U.S. presidential politics into the television age. For better or worse, it’s never been the same since.
So there you have it — my list of top 10 election-related books. Do you have any favorites that I left out? Any that are on my list that you don’t think belong? List your nominees in the comments.