Tossed-off bons mots on “this obnoxious political spectacle, the election of 2016.”
Longtime political satirist O’Rourke (Thrown Under the Omnibus, 2015, etc.) surprised observers during the 2016 cycle by weighing in, if without much enthusiasm, for the Democratic candidate—not to be expected for someone who had long identified with a kind of country-club conservatism. Considering what the Republicans had to offer, that’s not really such a surprise, for O’Rourke has also long prided himself in contrarianism. Still, the author seems as much taken aback as any civilian by the spectacle that saw Donald Trump skyrocket over the preferred candidates, notably Jeb Bush, who, after all, was governor of Florida, “where balloting incompetence and corruption are vital to the GOP.” One by one, O’Rourke examines the slate as, one by one, they fall: Chris Christie is a chump who makes bad suits look worse, Rick Perry a dimwit whose effort at wearing glasses to look intellectual convinces no one, Marco Rubio merely “the least insane candidate.” Where O’Rourke hits hard on a mark, it seems almost accidental. His random remarks on Hillary Clinton’s manner, for instance, eventually add up to a rather deft analysis of how the elite class operates, while the insurgencies surrounding both Trump and Bernie Sanders are two faces of the same coin, species of “internecine warfare [that] brings forth the worst from both sides.” Still, even in the bloodletting and shambles, the author finds room for optimism: after all, we’re not as fragmented as in 1861 (“that was polarized”), and he even ventures the view that our divisions and manifold special interests may mean that American voters “are becoming persons, not masses.”
It’s not Hunter S. Thompson, and O’Rourke has been funnier, lots funnier—but then again, it may just be that our current political situation is no laughing matter.