...as when I try to be an educated, involved citizen and follow the primaries as they follow their state-by-state path to elect our next President.* Anyone who's read Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 will know what I'm talking about. And anyone who hasn't read it should stop reading and come back when you have. In this election, so far, we've had a TV actor, a mayor of New York who's been photographed in drag, an evangelical minister who recently discovered the joys of not going barefoot, a woman who didn't leave her husband after he took a sweet, sweet present from an intern, and a black man who admitted straight up that he'd used drugs. Any one of those should've been the launching pads for journalism you couldn't look away from.**
People, there is so much rich material here, and so many crazed characters working for each of these candidates, that the writing of this campaign should've grabbed the f&^$!# jugular and never let go. Can you imagine how Thompson would've crowed that a candidate was finally honest about drugs? Or the glee that would've gone into skewering Huckabee, or laughing at Giuliani, or maiming Fred Thompson in print for punching above his weight?
Or going after that underreported tempest when Patti Solis Doyle left Hillary Clinton's campaign. Most outlets released the canned pablum that passes for political press releases these days, barely hinting at what must have been some serious turmoil. (Yes, I'm speculating, but we cynics usually assume the worst. And we're usually right.)
Or my personal favorite example, the Nevada caucus from last January. The offbeat and the unhinged and the glamorous and the formerly glamorous all manage to find work in Las Vegas's casino industry, so there should've been some serious anthropological reporting going on, some bizarre moments that could barely have been believed. Yet the published reports, like this one from the Times, have all the color of a church social. "Men with rumpled hair, just off their bar shifts, wore their sunglasses inside." Rumpled hair! Sunglasses worn indoors! Call the hall monitor! (It's not the Times' place to provide the surreal coverage I'm looking for, I know, but this example couldn't be passed over. I also know that Rolling Stone and other papers went out of their way to provide outlets to people like Hunter Thompson. Ah, the '70s.)
You'd think that blogs would provide what I'm looking for, given that there are 500,000,000,000,000 of them today,*** but no. I go to Talking Points Memo, I go to Two Blowhards, I go to Slate's blogs, and it's the same nit-picking coverage following the dailies.
The closest thing I've found to someone following a dirty hunch is in this footnote to this article in the New York Review of Books by Michael Tomaskey. He's writing about how it seems odd that Clinton and her team only decided to count the delegates from Michigan and Florida after her candidacy learned it would need them. Instead of endorsing the decision not to count those delegates, Tomaskey writes, he thinks the Clinton campaign would've been more likely "to issue a statement of agreement that still tried to allow her future wiggle room," had she followed her and her husband's previous history of scheming and wordplay. But I had to read a bloody footnote to find this! There must be someone out there who could've described how the disappointments of the Romney campaign wore on that easily twisted candidate.
I care about counting delegates, and I really do care how seriously we take the projections of voters in southeastern Pennsylvania, but really, I just want it to be interesting. Because there are some serious weirdos out there. You wouldn't know it from the coverage so far of the campaign...but that's kind of why I had to vent today. If there is someone out there who's writing about the races with ferocity and flair and tenacity, please tell me, because my glazed eyeballs have almost lost all focus.
*What I'm asking for calls for all sorts of journalistic conflicts to be ignored. Adjust for that as you read.
**These are clearly pejorative caricatures and not what I actually would like to see the candidates reduced to.
***I made this up.