Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Insider Baseball by Joan Didion Review

Insider Baseball is a selection of pieces from Joan Didion’s book Political Fictions. It’s about her time on the 1988 campaign trail as she followed the Democratic nomination battle which led to Michael Dukakis becoming the candidate to lose against George HW Bush. 

Didion reveals – Shock! Horror! – that the American political process is contrived! The press and the parties are in cahoots, fictionalising the election narrative for consumption by the general public in a sleazy symbiosis. She writes about candidates staging “spontaneous” moments like when Dukakis and an aide threw a baseball around on an airstrip – the first time he did it, there were no cameras around so they set it up again once the press were filming. 

Didion’s observations still hold up today. During the Democratic nomination battle this year, Hillary Clinton was always going to be the de facto candidate thanks to a wholly corrupt party process and the backing of the mainstream press, even though a significant number of Democratic voters were far more excited by Bernie Sanders’ candidacy – but that wasn’t the scripted Democratic narrative so Bernie never stood a chance.

It’s also amusing to note that Jesse Jackson was the Donald Trump of his day, a firebrand candidate who excited the people but the establishment feared him as an unqualified demagogue. 

As someone quite cynical about politics in general, the “revelations” in this short book didn’t surprise me – it’s why I ignore newspapers and TV news totally as too often objectivism isn’t even considered, let alone realised. But Insider Baseball is still a somewhat intriguing peek behind the curtain even though it’s dispiriting to observe how little American elections have changed in nearly 30 years – it’s as fake and grimy as it ever was. “Democracy” my foot!

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