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Looking Forward to It: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the American Electoral Process Paperback – September 23, 2004
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The Republican Right is in control, U.S. troops are fighting in a quagmire overseas, the presidential race is on, and recreational drugs are involved. The year, though, is not 1972 but 2004. And our Gonzo correspondent is not Hunter S. Thompson, but novelist Elliott, who appears to be more broke, more disenfranchised, more self-doubting, and probably less talented than his iconic predecessor. With paper-thin credentials from the Believer magazine, Elliott starts his coverage in Iowa in July 2003. From there he follows the Democratic candidates through, mostly, the swing states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, and points beyond, taking his narrative all the way through John Kerry's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. This is a book for political junkies, who will have to get through the author's distractions--loneliness, women problems, a troubled childhood. But Elliott gives us a fresh, ground-level read on the candidates, the media coverage, and the election process itself. Admirably, Elliott--as alienated from the process as he might seem--gets what's at stake here when he says simply, "People have a responsibility to pay attention." Alan Moores
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“Stephen Elliott is one of the most versatile and gifted young writers we have. His fiction is wrenching, raw, and unsafe. His political writing, on the other hand, is savvy, loose, very funny and -- truly full of rare insights. Also: he is quite hairy.” ―Dave Eggers
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I'm not on the same end of the political spectrum as Elliott, but I still enjoyed this book's insights. What I didn't enjoy was the sloppy editing, no doubt resulting from Picador rushing the book out the door in two and a half months. (See misspellings of "Mineta", "signal corps", even the arcade game Pole Position, thought the last is at least understandable.)
Elliott has some great analysis of the PA senatorial race, the youth vote, and more, but shows a strangely innocent naivete on occasion. A few cases in point: 1) He repeatedly calls Bush a liar, without ever specifically naming the lie. Perhaps he means the lack of Iraqi WMDs? But every intelligence agency in the world unanimously believed Iraq had WMDs, meaning Bush was mistaken, not intentionally lying. Sloppy. 2) He shows a fundamental ignorance of how the free market works by not understanding why rents go down when property taxes are cut. 3) He incorrectly states that the NORC analysis showed Gore should have won Florida if all votes were counted, under any standard. Actually, Bush would have won under certain standards where all 3 ballot viewers had to agree on voter intent. At least he correctly lets the Supreme Court off the hook, something many Democrats will never do. 4) He really, really wants universal health insurance, to the point where he says silly things like "Switching to a public system would save a whopping 10 percent in administrative costs, more than enough to offset the expense of universal coverage." Uh huh.
All in all, lots of fun, whether you are a Bush-hating liberal, or just a conservative looking for a tasty bit of schadenfreude.
I loved this book for the sound byte it isn't.