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 journalist.
The 2016 presidential contest as told by Matt Taibbi, from its tragicomic beginnings to its apocalyptic conclusion, is in fact the story of Western civilization’s very own train wreck. 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 society.
Taibbi 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 movement.
Taibbi 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, unique, and essential experience of seeing the future in hindsight.
Praise for Matt Taibbi
“Matt Taibbi is one of the few journalists in America who speaks truth to power.”—Senator Bernie Sanders
Taibbi (The Divide) collects his writings on the 2016 presidential election published in Rolling Stone, providing a cohesive narrative arc for the upset electoral college victory of Donald Trump. Taibbi opens the book with an annotated excerpt from his 2008 book, The Great Derangement, to highlight its prescience. This gambit doesn't quite pay off: the footnotes distract the reader from making their own connections and at times make points of startling superficiality. When the book moves to his original reporting, from August 2015 through post-election analysis in November 2016, the book sparks. Taibbi, a writer of striking intelligence and bold ideas, is as hilarious as he is scathing. The book is strikingly partisan, and the left-of-center readers most likely to laugh out loud will find their mirth tinged with chagrin that's hard to digest so soon after the recounted events. The one weakness of the essays themselves lies in their criticisms of the news media, which never fully grapple with Taibbi's own role in that group. As opinion journalism, this book will infuriate as many as it will amuse. Readers new to Taibbi will regret not reading his reporting as events unfolded, as his analysis is equal parts entertaining and enlightening.