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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Dispatches from the 2016 election that provide an eerily prescient take on our democracy's uncertain future by the country's most perceptive and fearless political journalistIn twenty five pieces from Rolling Stone plus two original essays Matt Taibbi tells the story of Western civilization's very own train wreck from its tragicomic beginnings to its apocalyptic conclusion Years before the clown car of candidates was fully loaded Taibbi grasped the essential themes of the story the power of spectacle over substance or even truth; the absence of a shared reality; the nihilistic rebellion of the white working class; the death of the political establishment; and the emergence of a new explicit form of white nationalism that would destroy what was left of the Kingian dream of a successful pluralistic societyTaibbi captures with dead on real time analysis the failures of the right and the left from the thwarted Bernie Sanders insurgency to the flawed and aimless Hillary Clinton campaign; the rise of the dangerously bright alt right with its wall loving identity politics and its rapturous view of the Racial Holy War to come; and the giant fail of a flailing reactive political media that fed a ravenous news cycle not with reporting on political ideology but with undigested propaganda served straight from the campaign bubble At the center of it all stands Donald J Trump leading a historic revolt against his own party bloviating and farting his way through the campaign saying outrageous things acting like Hitler one minute and Andrew Dice Clay the next For Taibbi the stunning rise of Trump marks the apotheosis of the new postfactual movementTaibbi frames the reporting with original essays that explore the seismic shift in how we perceive our national institutions the democratic process and the future of the country Insane Clown President is not just a postmortem on the collapse and failure of American democracy It offers the riveting surreal uniue and essential experience of seeing the future in hindsightScathing What keeps the pages turning in this so freshly familiar story line is the vivid observation and original turns of phrase San Francisco Chronicle


10 thoughts on “Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the American Circus

  1. says:

    This book includes Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stones articles in which he covered the 2016 Presidential election Now I will state from the start that I am not American; but looking on as an outsider I really could not see why anyone would think that voting for Donald Trump was a good idea and nothing he has done since becoming President has calmed my fears As such I was interested to see if I could gain any understanding from this book What this really tells is the rise of Trump Yes the author obviously had a fondness for Bernie Sanders but there is not really as much about Sanders and Clinton as there is about 'the Donald' and that is he recognises part of the problem He states that the press thought Sanders had no chance of success and covered the campaign accordingly In fact Trump got twenty three times TV coverage than Sanders and the same is true in Taibbi's articles Trump is unpredictable outrageous ignores all the rules ignores common decency and yet the press hating itself it seems can't take its eyes off of him This is the story of a truly outrageous campaign where the most offensive attention seeking outrageous statements got the press attention in a deeply divided country It seems that polls the press and most of all the establishment clearly predicted the wrong outcome In fact they like those outside the States simply could not believe what was about to happen As in the UK with Brexita large proportion of the voting public protested and so those who predict results got it horribly terribly wrong Matt Taibbi attempts to explain why this happened but it feels like little consolation to those of us looking on at recent events and the rise of intolerance not only in the USA but around the world


  2. says:

    Matt Taibbi is a helluva writer Even if you don't agree with his political views you might kinda wish you didto see what he sees He is really funny and it is inevitable that you will choke out a few guffaws against your will when he goes after someone you fell for or settled for Sucker The only person Taibbi doesn't speak of in sarcastic or cynical tones is Bernie Sanders who never tried to entertain us so much as educate inform and move usAfter the election in November last year Taibbi wrote a last dispatch in which he heralds some of the thoughts he exercises in this book Called President Trump How America Got it So Wrong this article published in Rolling Stone gives you some idea of who Taibbi is and how he writes in case he slipped your notice He no longer works full time for that magazine but has moved to First Look Media working with Glenn Greenwald Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras His leaving statement from Rolling Stone is presented hereListening to Washington news today I am getting the burning sensation in my belly again Trump just had his first news conference 11117 and listening to his incomplete sentences and careless way of speaking started my anxiety What is he trying to say? Why should we have to have an interpreter? Who should be our interpreter? Breitbart? KellyAnne? My anxiety and frustration will kill me if I have to listen to this straight on I am afraid I may only be able to view Trump’s presidency through a filter or in the rear view mirrorWhich brings me to Taibbi Taibbi followed the campaign trail as much as he was able this time round and filed reports that were meant to dovetail with the illustration work of Victor Juhasz This book after the preface in which Taibbi takes a long view is a collection of his dispatches from the 2016 campaign trail following a long tradition beginning with Hunter S Thompson In these dispatches Taibbi makes comment on events as they unfolded recognizing that the anti truth candidate might win but still reiterating that he can’t It may be too soon for some of you scarred from that campaign as you are to even consider laughing at the unbelievable thing we as a country did in electing Trump But some say to jump right back on the saddle and Taibbi is a great trail leaderTaibbi admits despite his writing eight years earlier a book about a post truth society based on fake conspiracies and exemplified by Fox News called The Great Derangement A Terrifying True Story of War Politics and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire that even he did not foresee that a charlatan like Trump could hijack an electorate that voted twice for Barack Obama and which had led movements in racial parity and same sex rights Therefore while he is critiuing the “childlike” crowds that throng to Trump rallies faces turned like believers to the clarion call a of television evangelist throughout the year preceding the vote Taibbi can’t believe this clown can possibly winHe is disbelieving but accurate and very very funny in describing the absurd Republican debates fielding seventeen candidates for president Clearly some folks weren’t getting the memos or as we had surmised for some time already were refusing to go along with the Party hierarchy Well they reaped what they sowed confusionBut what Taibbi does very well indeed is show us how long we have been living with our heads in the sand while small indignities were perpetrated upon us eg Fox News Channel the only news network available on some cheap cable packages when free public television was not; news networks hiring attractive airheads who all ask the same uestions and parrot one another until we get less accomplished in an hour of watching than if we’d had the TV off etc We were victims but we didn’t rise upTaibbi helps along with giving us a few laughs to chart the train wreck that was the election and pinpoints moments when the cake icing edifice melted and started to slide off the steaming heap it was hiding For me in particular he makes me wonder how we will manage without news organizations worthy of the effort of readinglistening to them Traditional newspaper outlets have been under stress for many years now and their ranks are decimated TV news you already know are terrifying in their ineptness self satisfaction I listened to the audio production of this book produced by Penguin Random House Audio and read by Rob Shapiro Shapiro has just the right amount of incredulity and snark in his voice to accentuate the disbelief and horror in Taibbi’s tale of woeOn my blog I have posted a short clip of the audiobook for you to sample


  3. says:

    If you ever clicked on a NYT Opinion piece during the Clinton v Sanders race then over on the left side of the screen you would read about what a wonderful President Hillary would make and how Sanders was an unelectable carpet bagger whose proto communist views would never be acceptable to the average AmericanMeanwhile to the right of the screen in the readers’ comments column you would read page after page of comments often than a thousand whose common theme was that Sanders’ policies were no different from those of FDR democrats of a few decades ago that they had served any number of European countries decently well for the past fifty years or and how the Editors of the NYT were insulting their readers’ intelligence by ignoring or belittling their views Interspaced within this flood of reader opinion you could still find a few patronizing comments from Clinton supporters most often referring to the naivety of ‘Bernie Babes’ and so forthNow it’s 2017 and NYT political coverage is in a depressing state devoted to articles trying to mitigate the unprecedented ‘un presidented’? national humiliation of the US becoming the first ever totalitarian state to be run by a reality TV starThankfully over in Rolling Stone magazine you can still read the best political journalism of our present time in the work of Matt Taibbi although this does beg the uestion why is the best political writing to be found in a throw back to the 1960’s rock music magazine rather than the ‘so called’ Paper of Record? Should I be checking out the business pages in ‘Tattoo Magazine’ for my economics news and how good are the personal finance columns in ‘’Angler’s Monthly’ I begin to wonder?If you are feeling mentally strong enough to relive the recent political turn then I cannot recommend ‘Insane Clown President’ highly enough Matt Taibbi was right about the political trends years before the rest of the press The book starts off with his foot noting his work back in 2008 with the hindsight of the Trump win and then moves on to some of the best criticism of the media the electoral process and the main political parties I have read anywhereAnd in addition to being right about politics Matt Taibbi is pretty funny as well I am most certainly not a laugh out loud kind of a guy but he certainly got a few audible chuckles from me Here are a few examples There are many that come at you so often and are so well put together it’s difficult to see how funny or should I say tragic his writing can be from just a few selectionsOn the Republican Primaries “They will go down someday as the greatest reality show every conceived The concept is ingenious Take a combustible mix of the most depraved and filterless half wits scam artists and asylum Napoleons America has to offer give them all piles of money and tell them to run for president Add Donald Trump And to give the whole thing a perverse gravitas make the presidency really at stake” Taibbi’s comments on the media are particularly scathing and on point a news director who made the decision to run a Sanders speech in its entirety would worry about being accused of making a 'political statement' Meanwhile running Trump all day long would be understood as just business just giving viewers what they want Or The ideal CNN story is a baby down a well while the ideal Fox News story is a baby thrown down a well by a Moslem terrorist Here is an excerpt from a longer passage that perfectly summed up the essence of the American electoral process today “The people who sponsor election campaignsdonate heavily to both parties essentially hiring two different sets of politicians to market their needs to the population The Republicans give them everything they want while the Democrats only given them mostly everythingThey get everything from the Republicans because you don’t have to make a single concession to a Republican voter All you have to do to secure a Republican vote is show lots of pictures of gay people kissing or black kids with their pants pulled down or Mexican babies in an emergency room Then you push forward some dingbat like Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin to reassure everyone that the Republican party knows who the real Americans are Call it the ‘Rove 1 2’” I recently came across one of Thomas Mann’s anti Nazi broadcasts that is worth repeating now that we have a racist ideologue as senior counselor in the White House Mann is talking about anti Semitism but all you need to do is replace anti Semitism for Bannon’s ranting about Muslims or Trump’s about immigrants and it holds just as true The anti semitism of today the efficient though artificial anti Semitism of our technical age is no object in itself It is nothing but a wrench to unscrew bit by bit the whole machinery of our civilization Or to use an up to date simile Anti Semitism is like a hand grenade tossed over the wall to work havoc and confusion in the camp of democracy That is its real and main purpose Well it looks like Bannon and Trump are lobbing just such a hand grenade into the American body politic right now Matt Taibbi seems one of the few people today capable of either pissing on the fuse if you can do that with a hand grenade or picking it up and lobbing it right back at them I will certainly be looking out for of his writing at least until the crackdown on the ‘lying press’ really gets going and Rolling Stone magazine is no


  4. says:

    The wonderfully titled Insane Clown President reprints Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone articles from this past election starting in August 2015 to the aftermath of that apocalyptic Election Night The book has its moments but Taibbi isn’t the most original of commentators often than not going with the overall media narrative so if you followed the election closely like me this reads like a summary of the whole thing than a uniue insight from the campaign trail Annoyingly it takes a while to get going His intro and reprinted intro from his 2008 book The Great Derangement basically say the same thing America’s getting dumber and shallower and that doesn’t bode well for the future He’s essentially taking credit for predicting Trump which no sorry and besides it’s a weak repetitive beginning To be fair though later on in an early 2016 piece he writes a fair assessment of Trump highlighting his good and bad points and is savvy enough then to predict a Trump presidency Then 12% in I read this on Kindle we’re into the book proper with the 17 Republican candidates labelled the “clown car” blathering it out among themselves for the nomination Taibbi laughs off Trump as unserious how his very presence there shows the end of the Republican Party and that he’ll never be the nominee let alone win against Hillary There was also a lot of talk about Republicans needing to completely revamp their party in a 21st century style to appeal to minorities and that Trump seemingly losing the Latino vote with his offensive comments would cost him the election I’ll admit to thinking these same things as many people did and how wrong we all were It was funny to be reminded of the bizarre mudslinging that went on during the nominations particularly what went Ted Cruz’s way Cruz was literally accused of being the Zodiac Killer whose dad was in league with Lee Harvey Oswald in the JFK assassination and a neurologist actually wrote an article on why his face is so punchable I laughed so much at those insane accusations it couldn’t have happened to a deserving candidate The drinking game articles on the Republican Nominee debates though were lame as was the one on casting the movie of the election Taibbi reviews the culture that allowed Trump to rise to the top and finds its roots in Dubya Almost as a reaction to having an intellectual like Obama as a two term President a trend of anti intellectualism was on the rise which Trump was able to exploit But of course there’s to it than that Trump and Bernie Sanders were the two candidates people were most pumped about as Trump made it a point that he was funding his own campaign while Bernie wouldn’t take corporate money The message was clear neither would be beholden to corporations in office unlike Hillary who couldn’t stop taking their “donations” It shows the mood of the country that people in general are sick of insider corruption and feel betrayed by their politicians hence why a significant number of voters respond to candidates who appear to be separate from it He also takes a look at the left criticising the Democratic National Committee who didn’t learn from Bernie’s popularity and just how close Hillary came to losing the nomination as well as noting the startlingly crazy stuff that emerged from Trump’s victory with some commentators – sadly one of my favourite political writers Andrew Sullivan was among them – talking about changing the system to stop dumb people from voting The post election article where he’s trying to make sense of what’s happened was definitely my favourite To his credit Taibbi is aware of the media’s shortcomings in this election cycle – including his own – in overestimating their influence earlier in the book he talks almost proudly of the media’s ability to destroy candidates like Howard Dean after a gaffe – but somehow they couldn’t bring down Trump signalling their decline in power and talking too much amongst themselves instead of listening to what ordinary voters were saying More importantly he highlights the shocking failings of the Clinton campaign and why Hillary lost Bill and Hillary were once optimistic and idealistic pursuing policies to benefit the American people but after decades of being ground down in the realities of politics they’ve become cynical and made a conscious decision shortly after Bill’s presidency to pursue money instead becoming multi millionaires in the process Obama indirectly criticised Hillary by noting in a post election speech that when he ran for President he campaigned tirelessly in the smallest communities even the ones where he was told he didn’t stand a chance meeting as many people as possible – a tactic that Trump also used in this election Hillary meanwhile did far less grassroots campaigning allegedly doing over 400 corporate fundraisers instead and relied on public opinion from a computer program called Ada Hillary was an unlikeable unappealing candidate who ran a garbage campaign blocking out dissent and living in an echo chamber so divorced from reality that there was a story that in her campaign headuarters her staffers were popping champagne on the morning of the election As weird and important as Trump’s ascension was it feels like there’s a fascinating book to be written on Hillary’s enormously corrupt campaign If you followed the election closely there’s not going to be a whole lot new to you here though if you didn’t Taibbi is an informative sometimes witty and largely non partisan writer who does a decent job of summarising the madness particularly as the pieces were written as the events were happening reflecting the perceptions of the time That’s also its flaw as Taibbi tends to often defer to the mainstream political narrative than uestion it and try to be objective That said it was such a strange and eventful election that reliving parts of it remain entertaining and he is occasionally insightful on certain aspects to make reading it worth my while It’s not the definitive book on the 2016 Election but it’s not a bad one on the subject


  5. says:

    The American presidency has been ripe for the taking by a wealthy non political entity like Trump for some time now It was inevitable In 2016 the moment of judgment had finally come It didn’t take much doing Child’s play really The system was that weak and ineffective unable to put up any substantial fight Now a new paradigm has been set It shouldn’t come as a surprise The uestion was only how ridiculous sad and vile things could get The conditions had been present for at least 20 years clear to anyone with eyes willing to see the perfect storm about to hit American politics like a juggernautA large swath of disenfranchised deeply resentful citizens with an axe to grind with its increasingly detached and myopic political representatives were ready for change any change Their education was generally poor prospects few if there were ever any to begin with While they suffered grew desperate and radicalised in grudging silence the political intellectual economic and media elites vacantly looked on safely cloistered in those upscale residential area’s on the East and West Coasts gorging themselves on everything the good life had to offer them The Trump presidency isn’t an accident neither an aberration It’s a fitting end product of American culture and politics To a perverse mind a not inconsiderable amount of schadenfreude could be derived from watching this glorious dumpster fire unfold before unbelieving eyeballs of millions around the world This is you America Democrat Republican it doesn’t matter Both wings of the establishment screwed up royally Now you're reaping the whirlwind of your willful ignorance and callousness You’ve reached the end of civilised political discourse things will never be the same after this Division is total Now you truly are the living embodiment of a reality TV freak showMatt Taibbi echoes my admittedly bleak sentiments rather well in his deceptively titled Insane Clown President Deceptive because while Mr Orange does get a fair amount of coverage this series of columns which originally appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine reads as an indictment of the entire system which gave rise to Trump in the first place Absolutely everyone apart from Bernie Sanders has to undergo Taibbi’s scorched earth policy like a child about to be chided a mode of writing which he executes rather well It’s especially refreshing to see a mainstream journalist performing a mea culpa like this “This is a horrible thing to have to say about one's own country but this story makes it official America is now too dumb for TV news It's our fault We in the media have spent decades turning the news into a consumer business that's basically indistinguishable from selling cheeseburgers or video games You want bigger margins you just cram the product full of fat and sugar and violence and wait for your obese over stimulated customer to come waddling forthThe old Edward R Murrow eat your broccoli version of the news was banished long ago Once such whiny purists were driven from editorial posts and the ad people over the last four or five decades got invited in things changed Then it was nothing but murders bombs and panda births delivered to thickening couch potatoes in ever briefer blasts of forty thirty twenty secondsWhat we call right wing and liberal media in this country are really just two different strategies of the same kind of nihilistic lizard brain sensationalism The ideal CNN story is a baby down a well while the ideal Fox story is probably a baby thrown down a well by a Muslim terrorist or an ACORN activist Both companies offer the same service it's just that the Fox version is a little kinkierWhen you make the news into this kind of consumer business pretty soon audiences lose the ability to distinguish between what they think they're doing informing themselves and what they're actually doing shoppingAnd who shops for products he or she doesn't want? That's why the consumer news business was always destined to hit this kind of impasse You can get by for a long time by carefully selecting the facts you know your audiences will like and calling that news But eventually there will be a truth that displeases your customers What do you do then?”Hunter S Thompson would approve What he would make of this madness though one can only guess Recommended for those sadomasochists out there eager to relive one of the darkest times in American political and social history The pessimist in me however thinks this ride will last for a good while yet with no lever in sight to halt it


  6. says:

    We all lived through this election cycle and I like reading about it from Taibbi's viewpoint much better than from my own This book is a collection of his journalistic observations from the introduction with pieces of The Great Derangement notes on 10 years of noticing something was changing in American politics beginning with Howard Dean's campaign in 2004 There is a formula to candidacy as covered by political journalists that worked up until Dean a 3 step evaluation that could pretty accurately predict who would hang in for the long haul and who would bail under pressure before the primaries Who would fail outright Gradually it was clear that Americans had pretty much figured out that government doesn't work all candidates are pretty much alike and nobody but nobody had the real life interests of the middle in mind Acceptable candidates acceptable to the money then the parties then the media were trotted out and we were all supposed to behave ourselves as we'd done for a couple hundred years and vote for one of the 2 leftovers And then this election happened Taibbi tracks what went horribly wrong with predicting an outcome A couple of outliers a tired of the same shit populace a national disgust with legacy candidates and dynasties and a bellicose blowhard billionaire who had no interest in how things were supposed to go Taibbi makes it all entertaining in hindsight I laughed out loud a lot Do not miss the debate drinking game rules Or the casting suggestions for the movie Excellent stuff


  7. says:

    Tiabbi's trenchant funny and tragic book is an excellent post mortem on the 2016 election and demise of institutions like independent media the end of facts the decline of the Democrats and the depravity of the republicans the tightening of oligarchy and the post truth world It is the story of how a vacuity of person a self absorbed con man usually weeded out by our political process became the forty fifth President to be sworn in later today It has a surreal and disturbing funhouse cast of characters a grotesue caricature of a political process Just about everyone in this tragicomedy is rogue's gallery of villains with the exception of Bernie Sanders who seems like Citizen politician oddly placed in this story as a foil for the rest of clowns As Trump would say sad As we will see alarming and disturbinghere is Tiabbl being interviewed on Democracy Now


  8. says:

    Too much crude talk and too offensive to read cover to cover but I did skim from beginning to endThis book sadly is a very factual and 'on the mark' account of how the American people have allowed the American political process to degenerate to the point that America is now totally corporate owned and totally corrupt and unaccountable to anyone To the point that the most dishonest vulgar stupid unualified Narcissist and his foreign agents now inhabit our White House and he and his mob family are shafting the taxpayers like no politician in American history has ever done beforeAn excellent history of how we reached this point and includes an interesting view of the role of the MSM in this evolution


  9. says:

    355The only thing I really miss about my Rolling Stone subscription is the reporting of Matt Taibbi And maybe the scary ass environmental articles written by Bill McKibben I canceled my 25 year standing order because they had the audacity stupidity? to put the Boston bomber POS on the cover I'm surprised this Massachusetts girl received her copy intact and not covered in spittle When I saw the audio of this book was available at my library I eagerly put it on hold but I'm sorry to say I'm a bit disappointedWhat I liked about this book was Taibbi's bluntness about the state of our media and the role that it plays in elections I also liked his exploration of how that role has changed over the years especially in regards to the 24 hour news cycle that now dominates our airwaves I also liked the fact that he was hard on Hillary and her campaign I'm not a Trump fan but I'm not a Hillary fan either Taibbi went into some depth about how our candidates are selected in this country and it's not by us America's citizens It's by money It's by the press It's by those powerful people behind the scenes and their machinations It's disgusting Regarding the mediaall these talking heads and pundits and opinions What happened to the freaking NEWS? What happened to the facts? I hate to say that Trump is right about anything but the media is no longer trustworthy if it ever was They are out to sell us what they consider news And guess what? Poverty doesn't sell No one wants to see homeless people while they're eating dinner People might turn the channel No one could go without covering Trump's antics during the campaign or even now because people love that stuff Here we are 6 months into Trump's administration and what has he accomplished? We're all too interested in Russia and Trump's Twitter feed to look too closely Every time he Tweets the public is distracted Again What I didn't like about this book at least at times was its flippancy The campaign drinking games portion could have been funny if it was done just once Doing it twice with lists of rules a mile long was redundant and irritating The portion about who would play these candidates in a movie was also boring I love Matt Taibbi's sense of humor and razor sharp wit but I think these chapters were cheap shots and beneath his abilities and intellect Then again the title of the book is Insane Clown President and some of these things are insane Overall I enjoyed this book and I still love Taibbi I wouldn't recommend it to Hillary lovers though unless they are ready to hear some hard truths I expect that many are not


  10. says:

    Sane Very sane at least insofar as I'm ualified to judge This is a collection of Matt Taibbi's dispatches from the '16 campaign trail for Rolling Stone with some additional reflections towards the end Taibbi is one of the funniest writers around but there's much to his writing than that these dispatches form a coherent narrative that whether or not you end up agreeing with it is worth thinking about and contending with If there's one thing that I hope everyone can agree on after all it's the importance of how we collectively choose to interpret historical events George McGovern's loss to Richard Nixon in 1972 for example taught a generation of American liberals that they'd been too idealistic The myth that the German army had been stabbed in the back during World War I helped to fuel support for Hitler We may not always be aware that we're making an interpretive choice but we are writers like Taibbi wake us up to that factAs he points out in the early pages of this book the modern media landscape allows each of us to shop around for the version of reality we prefer I thought about this last week after I'd listened to a recording of Hilary Clinton telling David Plouffe on a podcast that both Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein are Russian assets This certainly fits in with one of the narratives about '16 that we're free to believe it was all the Russians Trump couldn't have won without them Trump isn't representative of our country in any way But it's possible to suspect that there was some improper contact between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government while at the same time acknowledging that no one put a gun to the heads of the 60 million Americans who voted for Trump Hillary's bizarre accusations just emphasize to me that there are still a lot of people for whom Trump's election says something about this country that they can't psychologically acceptTaibbi offers a less familiar and less sensational narrative One of the running themes throughout these dispatches is that the American worker has been screwed by both liberal and conservative administrations especially in the economically desiccated cities of the Midwest where support for Trump turned out to be decisive When the electorate is aware that most of our politicians on both sides are bought by special interests just listen to Pete Buttigieg whose favorite book I've been told about a million times by this point is Ulysses trying to rationalize his reversal on Medicare For All now that he's received millions in donations from the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries there's something appealing about a politician like Trump who portrays himself as independent of that influence As Taibbi points out there was a similar dynamic on the left it seems fair to say that a good number of voters discerned a significant difference between a candidate who took hundreds of thousands of dollars to deliver speeches to Wall Street banks and voted for the invasion of Ira and one who didn't They discerned a difference between a candidate who waits for broad consensus before changing her positions and one who drags seemingly fringe ideas like Medicare For All into mainstream discourse Viewed in this light there would be something almost reassuring and democracy affirming about a candidate making it past the establishment bulwarkexcept for the fact that it was Trump one of the most repellent corrupt and profoundly empty human beings I've ever been forced to be conscious of And the irony is that he never meant any of his vaguely populist rhetoric; aside from an uncouth utterance here or a deranged tweet there the signature accomplishment of his first year in office was a tax cut for the wealthy just like any other Republican president with a Republican Congress would've done In many ways Taibbi argues Trump represents continuityor continuity on steroids at least Watching Trump's speech at the 2016 RNC for example he points out that aside from a few of Trump's typical Mussolinian flourishes it's essentially Republican boilerplateMany observers called it the most terrifying speech they'd ever seen but that had a lot to do with its hysterical tenorthe Mussolinian head bobs the draped in flags Caesarean imagery and his strongman promisesbut it wasn't new not one word Trump cribbed his ideas from the Republicans he spent a year defaming He had merely reprised Willie Horton Goldwater's marauders speech Jesse Helms' White Hands ad and most particularly Richard Nixon's 1968 law and order acceptance address the party's archetypal fear based appealTrump was always just smart enough to see that the same money backs the Jeb Bushes and Hilary Clintons of the world But he never had the vision or empathy to understand beyond the level of a punchline the frustrations linking disenfranchised voters on both the left and the right Presented with a rare opportunity to explain how the two parties stoke divisions on social issues to keep working people from realizing their shared economic dilemmas Trump backed down Even if he didn't believe it he could have turned such truths into effective campaign rhetoric But such great themes are beyond his pampered D minus mind Instead he tried to poach Sanders voters simply by chanting Bernie's name like a magic word In the end Trump's populism was as fake as everything else about himhe concluded right where the party started 50 years ago meekly riding Nixon's Southern Strategy It was all just one very noisy ride in a circle All that destruction and rebellion went for nothingwhen we finally pulled the lid off this guy there was nothing thereNaturally Taibbi didn't know what the outcome of the election would be as he wrote these pieces But one of the interesting passages in the book comes towards the end in September when he speculates on what will happen if Trump loses How will we collectively choose to interpret what's happened? Victory rarely encourages reflection Then again maybe defeat doesn't eitherIn the absolute best case scenario the one in which he loses this is what Trump's run accomplished He ran as an outsider antidote to a corrupt two party system and instead will leave that system entrenched than ever If he goes on to lose he will be our Bonaparte the monster who will continue to terrify us even in exile reinforcing the authority of kings If you thought lesser evilism was bad before wait until the answer to every uestion you might have about your political leaders becomes would you rather have Trump in office?