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on October 19, 2004
All too often, Hunter Thompson's remarkable and vast journalistic production has been overwhelmed and deluded by his famous work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It would seem that most Thompson readers fail to see that Thompson's works, far from being one esoteric drug opus, range the spectrum of popular cultre, politics, and to a great extent a large segment of American history.

One of his best and most illuminating books, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72, is written with the cutting commentary and breakneck pace so recognizable as Thompson. However, each comment and postulation is well researched and based on deep thought, even if enhanced by the occassional milky hit of Singapore Gray.

Thompson studies the 1972 Presidential election month by month, following both polls and candidates across the nation. Rather than see the election as a political institution, Thompson slices away the media fat and studies candidates, their motivations, and the varied behavior of the American constituency.

The author takes time to explore each candidate, although concentrating mostly on the Democratic Party, discussing their platforms on the major issues of the time: amnesty, the de-escalation of Vietnam, the civil rights movement, etc. and accurately and insightfully illustrates their place in not only the election, but in America during the early 1970's.

Thompson, having closely studied politics for innumberable years illustrates waves and trends throughout American politics, from 1964-72, with numerous and ultimately accurate predictions for the future.

Although a different work than Fear in Loathing in Las Vegas, a very interesting and personal look at American politics and Thompson the journalist. A must read for "politics junkies" as well as Thompson fans.
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on February 23, 2000
Although not as thrilling as Hell's Angels and not as profound as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, F+L: on the campaign trail '72 does offer a brilliant analysis of the frenzied, unpredictable nature of American politics. With the McGovern/Nixon presidential race as its focus, this book gives the reader an insider's unflinching view of a year out with the candidates as they crisscrossed the USA. Unfortunately, Thompson takes some of the transcribed dialogue sections a bit too far and the inclusion of many irrelevant details was not necessary. The book should have been properly edited and cut down by about 100-150 pages. But having said that, the word for word transcription of an interview with George McGovern near the end of the book is priceless! What insight! The last 20 pages or so - the "Editor's conversation" - is also very good. If any foreigners want an understanding of the American campaign process, THIS IS THE BOOK TO READ. From no one but Thompson will you get such a realistic account. Gonzo journalism at its twisted peak, perhaps. Excessive at times, but worth the time and effort. Thompson's writing is more penetrating and entertaining than that of any tradional political journalist, period. Hell, you've got to give this guy credit. He's an original! The "football conversation" with Richard Nixon in New Hampshire and the "Sheridan"/Jerry Rubin incident on Muskie's Florida train are both hilarious!
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon December 27, 2001
Hunter S. Thompson became a self-described political junkie from his days on the 1972 Presidential campaign trail. Unabashedly throwing his support behind Democratic candidate George McGovern, Dr. Thompson takes on a dizzying journey from hotel room to hotel room across the country lauding his man McGovern and railing against his enemy Richard Nixon. The book provides as much detail about Mr. Thompson's activities as they do the campaigns themselves, but hell, Dr. Thompson is alot more interesting. One of the most poignant moments is when Dr. Thompson rides in a limo with his enemy Nixon and they discuss football, which is a passion of both men. Dr. Thompson actually sees some humanity in Nixon and breaks down the facade that Nixon and most politicians erect. He shows a human side to a man who is often looked upon as inhuman. Dr. Thompson still despises him and his views, but by peeling away a layer, he can expose things that lay beneath the surface. For people like myself who were too young to experience this campaign and the times, Fear & Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 is a brilliant and amazing ride through the times.
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on November 24, 2008
On C-Span's "In Depth" program, Brian Lamb interviewed Richard Norton Smith and Douglas Brinkley. Richard Norton Smith is probably the most notable living historian specializing on the American Presidency, having had a part in many of the presidential libraries and so forth. Douglas Brinkley is widely regarded as the most prominent living American historian.

Smith cited this book as the best work ever written about the U.S. Elections process, and Brinkley concurred. For those of you who know Smith and Brinkley by reputation, that says far more than anything I could write here. It's not only some of the best political writing of all time, it's some of HST's best work, too. Fantastic.
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on April 7, 2008
This book's setting is eerily similar to the current state of affairs going on in with the 2008 Presidential Election, with the Democrats picking themselves apart while the Republicans sit back and enjoy the show. Richard Nixon is shown as the abomination that he was and HST's writing is as animated and humorous as I have ever seen it. This book surpassed my expectations and was a surprisingly fast read at 496 pages. I was left begging for more political insight and HST wit. A must read for any HST fan or anyone interested in the inner workings ( mostly the dark side) of politics. A great book that shows that HST was and is probably better than his already sizable legend permits.
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on June 3, 2000
From Thompson's opening description of Washington D.C. to his final pondering on power and the nature of the political beast known as the presidential candidate, Thompson is right on the money. In this chronicle he follows various democratic hopefuls around the country during their campaigns to win the democratic nomination for the office of the president.
He contrasts the personalities of the candidates as well as their platforms. He shows the effects of the rigors of campaigning on the individuals and the workings of the political machine of the democratic party in the early 1970's.
After McGovern won the nomination, he analyzes how he won it and how it caused the schizm in the democratic party. He shows the differences between the nomination campaign and the presidential campaign from the National party perspective and finally he contrasts the Nixon campaign and bargaining with that of McGovern.
This is one of the best that Thompson ever has written. His analysis of the campaign and the personalities was pretty much right on the money. The book is not all work and no play, though. His incisive wit is promently displayed and his knack of being in the right place (or the wrong in some cases) gives him the chance to view certain activities from a perspective that most people don't get a chance to see. His descriptions of the organization meeting for the "spontaneous demonstration" by basically high school students at the Republican convention is hysterical. Especially his reasoning of why he participated as a 35 year old wearing a McGovern for President button alone is worth reading, not to mention the incident on the Sunshine Special that caused him to become persona nongrata on the Muskie campaign. If any Thompson book should be made required reading, this one is it. At least you'll enjoy it.
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on March 2, 2008
I read this book as an appetizer for the current US presidential election campaign. And what an appetizer it is - akin to a halopenio shrimp cocktail with mescalin! It would have been an even better starter for the 2004 election, with which the 1972 election (featured here) shared many features: An incumbent hated by all the progressives at home and everybody in the rest of the world, an opponent who stands for nothing but not being that incumbent (defeated in the primaries in 72) and a murderous, immoral and expensive war on the other side of the world, which nevertheless didn't cost the US president his job.

When the great HST covers the 1972 campaign, the verb "cover" takes on a whole new meaning. He immerses himself in the broadcast of a pro football game in order to adopt the same mindset as pro football fanatic Richard Nixon. He almost drowns in the Atlantic ocean in Miami in sight of his friends at a democratic primary-night party. At the republican convention, he joins the young republicans and talks to them about acid (they think he is referring to proton donors, like hydrochloric acid). Not despite, but rather because of this famous "gonzo" style of journalism, HST's book is rich in insight about US politics and politics in general. He goes so much further than the horse-race type coverage commonly fed to the public. Thompson provides an intelligent assessment of the moods and trends in the US population and a really smart analysis of why people vote for whom. He has excellent insight into the dynamics of the individual campaigns and how they are molded by the characters and agendas of the candidates, the interactions with their campaign workers and their relations to the party apparatus. HST doesn't think of elections as some kind of stunt happening every couple of years, but he explains them as deeply interwoven with the social and demographic workings of the USA.

Some of my most favorite political quotes are from this book. Thompson really loves his country, he says "it could have been a testament to some of man's best instincts", but he is in despair over the crocks (Nixon and cronies) who have taken it hostage. This emotional state of his and the worry about the direction the US will take in '72 got him to write an intense and fiery book.

Do yourself a favor - stop following the electoral coverage on the corporate media for a week, use your time to read this book, and then go back to the current campaign and you will view it in a new light.
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on September 23, 2003
Most political science texts are pedantic, dry, and boring. This one is not. The author is known for gonzo journalism; an essentially free association form of writing aided by copious intakes of drugs, hallucinogenics, alcohol, and God knows what else. It is a form of free-for-all frenzy that Thompson has elevated to a fine art. Initiates to this style of writing may be inclined to dismiss it as drug-crazed nonsense, but bear with the book, even though sections of it are marked with coarse, but funny, insults, tales of escapades under the influence, and frightful poems by the author.
Admixed in this collage is the background story of the McGovern campaign of 1972, and a remarkable journey it is. Thompson closely examines the dynamics of groundroots politics, including issue formation, organization, campaign tactics, conventioneering, and the like. He shows you the Eagleton debacle, the abdication of labor's role in the Democratic Party, why Muskie failed miserably, the use of drugs by candidates, and a thousand other things you would never have thought about unless you are active in political campaigns.
Overall, the book is a scintillating picture of America at the closing of the Vietnam era, and the effect this had on politics. I recommend the book very highly to anyone interested in the political process, INCLUDING professors, students, political operatives, and the person in the street. Thompson was out there. He saw the campaign in action and reports his views with great passion and by never being dull. I loved the book.
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on April 25, 2003
When Hunter S. Thompson gets going there's no stopping. His insights are cutting, his remarks are wild and he's got some of the fiercest intellect in the land. Writing as an outsider he manages to make this campaign 30 years in the past into a vibrant and exciting epic. You might know anything about Muskie or McGovern or even Gary Hart but the sheer excitement of the campaign trail as described by Thompson beats any sports show out there.
From December 1971 until the election Thompson wrote monthly synopsises of what was happening in the Democratic party. Early on he began backing McGovern uncertain that McGovern could win, but noting that people would rather vote for someone rather than vote for the candidate most likely to beat the other guy. This book captures the excitement from when it looks like McGovern might have a chance to the despair when McGovern loses big in November (with unknowing hints at what was to come including Watergate mentions and dismissal of Jimmy Carter as a redneck)
If you tried reading Primary Colors and All The King's Men and felt left out in the cold, read this book and understand the electoral process in all its glory.
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This book pretty much got me through a degree in Poly Sci. Written while Thompson was still at the top of his game, Hunter reveals all in a slash and burn book about what goes on during a presidential campaign.

For those who haven't done a Thompson book, the concept is simple: strap on a .357, get a head full of really dangerous chemicals, and GET THE STORY; even if you have to create it yourself along the way. While this might seem a bizarre way to conduct journalism, it produces brilliant insights into whatever he chooses to study at the time.

Hunter is so weird and stoned that he isn't a member of society anymore and has no givens. Everything he sees must be tested with the eyes and mind of the outsider because that is what his chemically distorted perceptions make him.

And it also makes him one of the funniest modern writers to ever put pen to paper.
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