Fear and loathing on the campaign trail ’72

I was saddened to hear about the death of George McGovern at the weekend. Although I am English, and I wasn’t even alive when he ran for the American presidency, he seemed to be one of the good guys.

The only reason it felt like I knew him a little was from repeatedly reading Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 by Hunter S Thompson. The book covers McGovern’s run at the Whitehouse. In between various drug-fuelled adventures, HST follows McGovern’s nomination as Democratic representative and then through the election itself against Nixon.

It is a fantastic book, full of insight and adventure and shocking behaviour as HST immerses himself in the adrenalin rush of trying to win an election to become the most powerful man in the world. As Thompson says in the introduction, “What I would like to preserve here is a kind of high-speed cinematic reel-record of what the campaign was like at the time, not what the whole thing boiled down to or how it fits into history.”

HST comes to believe strongly in McGovern – he has very little interest in objectivity – and is crushed by the result. Nixon wins by a landslide. McGovern has since been painted, I think, as a liberal loser. It was the election that was tainted by the tricks and buggings that were eventually revealled through the Watergate scandal, though as this article discusses, McGovern’s campaign seemed to self destruct on it’s own.

But the main character of Hunter S Thompson’s book, is Hunter S Thompson himself. McGovern can therefore only be a supporting part. So, whilst I felt like I knew him a little, and have tried to write a little something about him here, all I can really say is, I don’t know enough.

George McGovern Obituary – Washington Post

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