Preview: Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

Preview   Fear and Loathing:  On the Campaign Trail ’72 by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Grand Central Publishing First Paperback Printing 1983 (originally published 1973), 508 pages

Part 1: Kim’s Exploration of the New Journalism Movement.

The following should be considered Part 2.

I am reading this for my John Cusack Reading Challenge (and Kim is reading for the Sophisticated-Dorkiness-Quest to be a well-informed reader/writer/critic of journalism.)

Where I am in the process so far:        Kim and I have not formally set a time table but I’m already on page 129.     I was already starting to jot down a plethora of notes and questions that I thought it might be a good idea to study up on who the main players are and get a grasp of what the political climate was when Mr. Thompson decided to write this book.     To say I started blind, is not an exaggeration.    I was in First Grade in the Fall of 1971 (Kim wasn’t even born, if I assume correctly based on where she is on the educational-path.)     Only a few names are recognizable and I wouldn’t attempt to win any guessing games if pressed for more details.    This is my attempt to give myself a better pre-understanding;  to ‘set the stage’ not only for myself but for Kim and anyone who wasn’t around for the 1972 American Presidential Election.   If you don’t care, believe me – I won’t be offended if you skip this post and wait for something more fun!

But fun, it is – I am most happy to report that the reading is zooming along quite speedily, despite not really knowing who is who and all the times I have to stop and write down a question.

WHO/WHAT – Kim does a great job explaining who Thompson is and why he wrote this, so start there.  I won’t repeat it.

but I will expound a bit:     Thompson wrote on the campaigns of Nixon and the hopeful Democratic challengers for Rolling Stone Magazine and these articles were combined to create this book.    It is chaptered by time, usually by  month, but some months are broken up.   It covers his reasons for joining the various campaign trails, through primary states, the convention, the election and after.      For everything that follows, I referenced Wikipedia almost exclusively – which is to mean that it can’t be trusted?   I don’t intend to go into depth; bear with me.


1963-68:   When President Kennedy was shot and killed in 1963, Lyndon B Johnson assumed the office of US President.    He then won the 1964 Election and served to 1968.    He chose not to run for another term due to turmoil within the Democratic party and the escalating Vietnam War.

June 1968:  Robert Kennedy assassinated.   He possibly would have been the leading Democratic candidate for the US Presidency in the 1968 elections.

1968:  Republican Richard Nixon wins the Election;   Hubert Humphrey (Lyndon’s VP and a Senator from Minnesota) was the Democratic candidate.   George Wallace, Alabama Governor, ran as an Independent.

1972:  Election – Nixon wins second term (to read abt the whole thing, click this line); George McGovern (Senator from South Dakota) was the Democratic candidate.

NIXON, Richard  – Republican.   US President seeking re-election in 1972.    Click here for more on his terms of service posted at the Nixon Library website.

The Dems:
MUSKIE, Edmund – Democrat, Governor and Senator from Maine, candidate for president 1972 – a frontrunner for the nom in August 1971.
McGOVERN, Geo. – When front-runner Muskie didn’t show as hot as expected in the NH primary, McGovern was the next big choice.      He ran on a platform of withdrawing from the Vietnam War.
HUMPHREY, Hubert – Ran in 1968 but just couldn’t pull in enough support to win the 72 Democratic National Convention.
WALLACE, Geo – won 42% of the vote in the Florida Primary, but….   Went back to being Gov.
McCARTHY, Eugene – Challenged Johnson back in 1968 for the Democratic nom which resulted in Johnson bowing out but Robt Kennedy had most support and then he was killed but somehow Humphrey got the nom.     I think.   The sequence and timing of that is off but so shows the political whims of popularity in politics!    (Do not confuse with Joseph who was extremely anti-communist and died in 1957 – different guy)
CHISHOLM, Shirley – NY Congresswoman – First major-party black candidate for the presidency.

Clifford Irving? – an author who wrote a ‘fake’ autobiography of Howard Hughes
Tons and tons of names that I don’t even know if should follow-up on…   So I won’t.


“I feel like I’m reading a Vanity Fair article – tons of references I suppose I should know and the author assumes I do.  But all very playful, sarcastic and somewhat snobbish.”

Most of my scratchings request clarification of the above who and when stuff.   But Thompson does like to use the term ‘waterheads’ which I am unfamiliar with.   It is similar to ‘knucklehead’;  so I get it…

“Objective journalism is a pompous contradiction in terms.”

p. 48

We are in for a wild ride.   I intend to enjoy it and not get too upset with what I don’t know.   But if it strikes me, I will jot down notes and collect them here – or will if they continue to interest me at that time I finish the book.

AND, for your musical enjoyment, I thought it might be fun to find a hit song from 1972 – I thought I would see a few more political ones but perhaps they weren’t pop or HIT enough to claim the billboard top spots, so I choose this:  LEAN ON ME.

I have a memory where I met the songwriter of this song at a Lutheran Youth Convention;  I would have been in High School.  HOWEVER, the research is telling me that Bill Withers authored and performed this and yet, I recall the guy saying he was a Kindergarten teacher!   I can’t verify this…


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5 thoughts on “Preview: Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

  1. This is awesome! And you’re right, I wasn’t born in 1971, so I had pretty much no idea about these guys, even though I’ve heard of Humphrey (he’s a Minnesotan!). I’m glad to hear you like the book so much — I’m so excited to get started!

  2. I was saying over at Kim’s blog, I’m reading a book right now that was gonzo journalism about the 2000 election. I’m curious to see what the differences will be between reading about the 2000 election, which I was paying A LOT of attention to, and about the 1972 election, about which I know virtually nothing.

    1. I didn’t pay as much attn to the 2000 election as a good citizen probably should but I do see the parallels and remember others making similarities. I hope you join us for our read-along and if not, do stop by and give us your insight and comments.

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