Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 ~ Hunter S. Thompson

A quote from Thompson’s classic impressionistic/gonzo cover of the 72 campaign in which George McGovern, unfortunately, lost in a landslide to everyone’s favorite person to hate, Richard Nixon

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When you vote for President today you’re talking about giving a man dictatorial power for four years. I think it might be better to have the real business of the presidency conducted by a City Manager-type, a Prime Minister, somebody who’s directly answerable to Congress, rather than a person who moves all his friends into the White House and does whatever he wants for four years. The whole framework of the presidency is getting out of hand. It’s come to the point where you almost can’t run unless you can cause people to salivate and whip on each other with big sticks. You almost have to be a rock star to get the kind of fever you need to survive in American politics.  Hunter S. Thompson

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Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 is a 1973 book that recounts and analyzes the 1972 presidential campaign in which Richard Nixon was re-elected President of the United States.[1] Written by Hunter S. Thompson and illustrated by Ralph Steadman, the book was largely derived from articles serialized in Rolling Stone throughout 1972.[2][3]

The book focuses almost exclusively on the Democratic Party‘s primaries and the breakdown of the party as it splits between the different candidates such as Ed Muskie and Hubert Humphrey. Of particular focus is the manic maneuvering of George McGovern‘s campaign during the Miami convention as they sought to ensure the Democratic nomination despite attempts by Humphrey and other candidates to block McGovern.

Thompson began his coverage of the campaign in December 1971, just as the race toward the primaries was beginning, from a rented apartment in Washington, D.C. (a situation he compared to “living in an armed camp, a condition of constant fear”). Over the next twelve months, in voluminous detail, he covered every aspect of the campaign, from the smallest rally to the raucous conventions.

An early fax machine was procured for Thompson after he inquired about the device while visiting venture capitalist Max Palevsky, who concurrently served as chairman of Xerox and Rolling Stone for several years in the early 1970s. Dubbing it “the mojo wire”, Thompson used the nascent technology to capitalize on the freewheeling nature of the campaign and extend the writing process precariously close to printing deadlines, often haphazardly sending in notes mere hours before the magazine went to press. Fellow writers and editors would have to assemble the finished product with Thompson over the phone.

Like his earlier novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Thompson employed a number of unique literary styles in On the Campaign Trail, including the use of vulgarity and the humorous exaggeration of events. Despite the unconventional style, the book is still considered a hallmark of campaign journalism and helped to launch Thompson’s role as a popular political observer.

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