The 2016 presidential election campaign was a firestorm of partisan vitriol and crazed Trumpery, according to this energetic, opinionated recap.
Journalist Harrison (NOW They Make It Legal: Reflections of an Aging Baby Boomer, 2015) delivers a week-by-week, tweet-by-tweet narrative of the campaign from the first ominous rumblings in the summer of 2015 through Election Day 2016 and its denouement of competing fraud and conspiracy allegations. His main theme is the anatomy of a body politic, split by innumerable fissures: between Republican candidates; between Trump and Fox News broadcaster Megyn Kelly; between the Republican establishment and the Trump-ian base; and between Hillary Clinton’s Democratic establishment and the Bernie Sanders insurgency. He also looks at the conflicts between minorities and resentful white people; between cops and protesters; between Trump and women, Trump and the press, Trump and the Pope, Trump and Trump; and ultimately between the Republicans and Democrats, the only division that really counts in the author’s telling. His account is lucid, well-paced and evocative. For example, Trump, in a debate, is described as being “like an angry bear with a permanent scowl on a pronounced pouty face.” Harrison’s focus is on campaign ephemera—name-calling, publicity stunts, ill-advised statements, and grudging retractions—and he covers them all adroitly, from Mexican-bashing to the climactic revelation of an Access Hollywood recording. But he also fills in background news developments, such as intermittent terrorist attacks, and does cogent deep-dives into central issues, such as immigration and gun control, to try to separate fact from rhetoric. An avowed liberal Democrat, Harrison wears his own politics on his sleeve, soap-boxing for a single-payer national health system and against religion—which he calls “the biggest fraud ever perpetrated by mankind”—and he makes no secret of his chagrin at Trump’s success. (He dings Clinton for missteps, as well, but generally is softer on her.) Still, he manages to get the facts straight while charting a clear path through the chaos.
Not everyone will agree with Harrison’s political take, but his entertaining re-creation of the campaign makes for an absorbing read.