Spoiler Alert: There’s an election this year.  Did I surprise you? I’m sure that since it’s never in the news you probably forgot that we’ll be picking a new president this year. Note: There is no sarcasm font, so I want you to read the preceding sentences in a voice fairly dripping with it.

For some of you I’m sure the last thing you want to do is think about the candidates, their positions, and the seemingly daily news items of epic proportions that keep flooding your in-box/news feed/Twitter feed/Facebook posts. So today, let’s be a little old-fashioned. Let’s look at some new books about the electoral process that don’t actually name check either of the current candidates. In other words, bliss.

The Carnival Campaign: How the Rollicking 1840 Campaign of “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” Changed Presidential Elections Forever
There is a strange comfort in knowing that as crazy as this year’s election is, it’s not as if “carnivals” of this sort are unprecedented. And why are they so kooky? Blame 1840. They called this election “the mother of modern presidential contests” and “the beginning of presidential campaigning as entertainment.” Mud, suffice to say, was slung.

Off Script: An Advance Man’s Guide to White House Stagecraft, Campaign Spectacle, and Political Suicide by Josh King
Much along the same lines, this book examines how the methods of show business took over presidential election campaigns – and how political candidates have paid the price. As Kirkus said of this book in their review, “If you enjoy the TV show Veep, you’ll enjoy this book.”

Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections by Richard L. Hasen
Fun with campaign finance reform. Whee!

Five Dollars and a Pork Chop Sandwich: Vote Buying and the Corruption of Democracy by Mary Frances Berry
An alternate take on the same topic.  The advantage of this title being, obviously, the fact that it tends to make me hungry for pork chop sandwiches.

I just had the pleasure of watching this documentary recently.  In terms of looking behind-the-scenes at campaign headquarters, this movie offers an unprecedented glimpse at a successful mayoral campaign done in by its candidate’s personal failings. It is strange and funny and sad all at once. Particularly when you know the true ending of the story, as we do now.

Well, why not? It’s a great movie and a wonderful palate cleanser for our current times. And heck, there’s even a book to go with it.

Betsy Bird

Betsy Bird is the Collection Development Manager of Evanston Public Library. She has been writing for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.