Matt Taibbi is one of our decade's best observers of corruption and abuses of power, combining careful research with flamboyant, HS Thompson-esque verbal pyrotechnics, an absolute gift for coinages (Goldman Sachs will never fully shed his description of the firm as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money"), matched by real insight into the American political psyche.
His Rolling Stone piece on Donald Trump's rise and rise reads like the opening chapter out of a modern, much-improved Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, cutting through the easy explanations of Trump's ascendancy ("Americans are all secretly racist," "Americans are just stupid") to get at the real political truth: after decades of being taken for fools by both parties — conservatives counting on right wingers to vote for candidates who offshore their jobs; liberals counting on trade-union rank-and-file members to vote for the job-offshoring, banker-loving candidates their leaders choose — Americans have had enough. Paragraphs like this one bullseye the point:
The triumvirate of big media, big donors and big political parties has until now successfully excluded every challenge to its authority. But like every aristocracy, it eventually got lazy and profligate, too sure it was loved by the people. It's now shocked that voters in depressed ex-factory towns won't keep pulling the lever for "conservative principles," or that union members bitten a dozen times over by a trade deal won't just keep voting Democratic on cue.
What's more, though Trump's racist, sexist posturing gets most of the attention, it's a small fraction of his campaign. Much of the rest of what Trump says is true, if overstated: Jeb Bush really is beholden to big money; all the Republican establishment has achieved in the past 30 years is "two failed presidencies, the sweeping loss of manufacturing jobs, and a pair of pitiable Middle Eastern military adventures – the second one achieving nothing but dead American kids and Junior's re-election."
He really did buy so much of Hillary Clinton's loyalty that she attended his wedding.
On the way to making these significant points, Taibbi is fabulously entertaining, which makes this a longread that's likely to reach a wider audience than most. It's why Taibbi books like The Divide are so important: they bridge serious subject matter with viciously funny writing. He's a John Oliver or Samantha Bee in prose form.
President Donald Trump.
A thousand ridiculous accidents needed to happen in the unlikeliest of sequences for it to be possible, but absent a dramatic turn of events – an early primary catastrophe, Mike Bloomberg ego-crashing the race, etc. – this boorish, monosyllabic TV tyrant with the attention span of an Xbox-playing 11-year-old really is set to lay waste to the most impenetrable oligarchy the Western world ever devised.
It turns out we let our electoral process devolve into something so fake and dysfunctional that any half-bright con man with the stones to try it could walk right through the front door and tear it to shreds on the first go.
And Trump is no half-bright con man, either. He's way better than average.
It's been well-documented that Trump surged last summer when he openly embraced the ugly race politics that, according to the Beltway custom of 50-plus years, is supposed to stay at the dog-whistle level. No doubt, that's been a huge factor in his rise. But racism isn't the only ugly thing he's dragged out into the open.
How America Made Donald Trump Unstoppable
[Matt Taibbi/Rolling Stone]