Fever Swamp: A Journey Through the Strange Neverland of the 2016 Presidential Race, by Richard North Patterson

Nine stars

I have long been a fan of the fiction work of Richard North Patterson, which mixes the strength of wonderful narrative style with an attention to detail. When I first discovered that Patterson had written this book, I was sceptical and worried that one of my favourite authors had decided to kick out a soapbox to bemoan the political system in his own country. However, after reading the preface and early chapters, I remembered how detailed his books were on issues of politics, law, and elections. By the end of the first part, I was completely won over, as he retold many of the interesting stories from the eternal campaign Americans have to elect their leaders. These are not simply musings of a writer, looking back after the dust has settled, but actual opinion pieces published along the way in The Huffington Post. Patterson was asked to pen these articles and they were published at the time—dates included at the beginning of each chapter—to provide the reader insights into what was going on and his reactions. From the early bandying around of a slew of GOP candidates, to the ideological schism within the Democrats, through to the rise of xenophobia and racism in the latter portion of the primaries, Patterson offers the reader a front-row seat and foundational political commentary. Then, with the gloves off, Patterson takes the reader into the heart of the actual presidential election of 2016, with some of the key issues before the electorate. Patterson tried his best to lay out the issues for those with the power of the ballot box, contrasting and comparing the two behemoths, and meticulously documenting what he so aptly calls America’s slide in the fever swamp of a four-year miasma. Expressed well through his eyes and detailed to the point that the reader can almost feel they are back on the campaign trail, Patterson is to be applauded for his work. Recommended for those who want to take a walk down memory lane and see how America slid from greatness to the laughing stock of the United Nations.

This is a brilliant idea and I am glad to have taken the time to reading it. Had I known Patterson was writing along the campaign trail, I might have sought him out, but reading this collection did help bring me back to the months of racial epithets and accusations, all of which drowned out the policy speeches and attempts to keep America great. Patterson lays out his bias early on, that he is a strong-minded liberal, which will surely flavour the writings in such a way that some may not be willing to stomach all that is on the written page. I do not deny that the writing is tipped to one side, nor do I deny that I can see a number of parallels in the way Patterson thinks with my own views. The blunt style of Patterson’s writing is wonderfully sobering, especially as he touches on key issues of importance during the campaign and to be considered long-term for the voter: healthcare, the future of economic viability on the world stage, and even the choice of the next few Supreme Court justices. This latter topic weighs in most heavily, as laws and legal interpretation was sure to be be shaped in strongly ideological ways, depending who is in the White House. Generations of decisions rested on who made the picks that would shape the Court, which is sobering in a very un-Judge Kavanaugh manner. Patterson uses his well-grounded arguments to make poignant points that the electorate ought to have considered, if not provide help to sway them before they walked in to cast their choice for POTUS. That Patterson does not hide his bias will trouble some, though I am happy to hear a substantiated defence, rather than simply add a hashtag and troll reviews for the sake of doing so. Fact is an essential part of the argument and I am always up for a fact-driven discussion. Politics brings out the passions in us all, even those who choose not to play in the game. It is how we explain our sentiments that separates the informed voter from the bandwagon rider. Both parties—all ideologies—have them and so I cannot toss mud at any group. Patterson has tried to stick to the facts, even if he has a position on their presentation. From the fever swamp, Patterson leaves us all to wonder what will come in the lead-up to 2020. For now, we need to see how hard the political hammer will come down during the mid-terms. The spin from the Oval ought to be something for the ages. I’ll make the popcorn, you bring the drinks!

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for an enlightening and thorough exploration of all things presidential in the 2016 campaign, even though much of it was defecating in the sandbox!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons