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All the populist’s men Robert Penn Warren's 'All the President's Men'

Eternally fooled (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Eternally fooled (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)


December 21, 2022   7 mins

All The King’s Men is the 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about an enormously vulgar, crudely powerful and grossly corrupt Southern politician loosely inspired by Louisiana Democrat Huey P. Long. It is an epic portrait of a demagogue who is, by turns, likeable, comical, riveting, loathsome, heroic, and human. The main characters are said demagogue (Willie Talos), and a journalist (Jack Burden) who first covers him, then comes to work for him as an all-purpose go-to guy, followed by a rich secondary cast, including the crew of vital schemers and obsequious creepers that make up Talos’s retinue.

The plot is, of course, thick with political machinations: back-room deals, betrayals, varieties of patronage (i.e. the many ways people come to be manipulated and finally owned) and power-plays (i.e. the many ways people come to be destroyed, sometimes literally) in order that the Boss may ride high on the hog and win the adoration of the People while he’s at it. And yet Robert Penn Warren wrote, in the introduction to the Modern Library edition of his novel, that: “The book
 was never intended to be about politics. Politics merely provided the framework of the story in which the deeper concerns, whatever their final significance, might work themselves out.” This must have sounded to some like authorial BS, but I think it’s true. For all the juicy complexity and drama of the political story, there is something more raw and mysterious supporting it, like the ocean supports a ship and makes it move.

Thematically, it has been written (on Wikipedia!) that the underlying story of ATKM is about the endless impersonal rippling of consequences and the connectedness of all actions. Or, as Willie Talos says about an underling he’s just brutally humiliated:

“My God, you talk like Byram was human! He’s a thing! You don’t prosecute an adding machine if a spring goes bust and makes a mistake. You fix it. Well, I fixed Byram. I fixed him so his unborn great-grandchildren will wet their pants on this anniversary and not know why. Boy, it will be the shock in the genes, and their teeth will be set on edge.”

So, yeah, that’s there. And then there is the deeper step down into Jack Burden’s completely apolitical idea near the book’s end that life is nothing but instincts and impulses or “the dark heave of the blood and the twitch of the nerve”. This is closer to how I sense the book’s inner workings except that, based as it is on Jack’s experience of heartbreak, his “insight” is too cynical and simple.

To me, the subtle inner “story” of the novel is in the oceanic dimension of Warren’s language, his wide-angle perception of the human and inhuman world where the characters fuss, fight and fuck each other over. To me this “story” is sensed in the outer reaches of this world, the sheer unknowability of it, the mysteriousness of how it reveals itself in faces, voices, the miasma of human personalities and wants, driven by the igneous force that Jack tries to define as the “twitch”.

One of the first things I noticed about the novel is the extremely close and lengthy attention Warren pays to character’s faces, to the set and shape of their lips, the way their hair falls or the colour and expressive quality of their eyes; how they look at each other. This is, of course, on one hand an old-school method of characterisation — in another writer’s hands it might be that only. But Warren uses it in such a way that we are constantly reminded of how we are each formed in physical detail by elements we don’t understand, except by wordless recognition; by extension we are reminded that, however important politics is to us, it too is shaped, through the agency of human hands by these elements which we don’t understand.

The novel opens with a page and a half description of a “good highway and new” (aka the “slab”) running through Willie Talos’s place of origin. Marked here and there with skull-and-crossbones where drivers, hypnotised by the “glitter and gleam” of the slab, spun off it to their deaths, it is an abstraction of the social and material generative force, speed, illusion and death which will continue to run through the story.

On leaving the highway, we are rapidly escorted into the geographic and economic history of Willie’s place where “the bastards got in
 and set up the mills” and “the saws sang soprano and the clerk in the commissary passed out the black-strap molasses and the sow-belly and wrote in his big book, and the Yankee dollar and Confederate dumbness collaborated
”.

And then we meet Wille and Jack, riding with the Boss’s family and Lt. Governor (Tiny Duffy) in “a cross between a hearse and an ocean liner” driven with “muscular coordination and satanic humour” by the barely verbal Sugar Boy who enjoys whipping around a hay-wagon in the face of a gasoline truck, close enough to “wipe the snot off a mule’s nose” with his fender. After a quick trip through a drug store/soda shop, where Talos promises to help the proprietor’s son — a good boy who, through sheer “bad luck” — stabbed another boy to death in a fight, there’s a long salty speech about not making a speech in which Willie declares himself to be “not any worse’n boils” and an adoring fan happily shouts out “Boils on the tail!”

In only the first 100 pages, we witness a great many rapid scenes and time shifts including: The bar room meeting where Jack first meets Willie, then the County Treasurer of back-water Mason City, who is being assessed by Tiny Duffy and an aspiring Sheriff (soon to be stabbed himself) as a naive hick that they can use, a meeting full of savage calculation, woven together with “the profound contemplation of internal stresses and strains and deep geodetic shifts” and the long journey of a fly across the ceiling. And, deep in the future: A family dinner at Talos’s house where we learn of a crucial political betrayal by a judge who is a father figure to Jack, not to mention the psychedelic character of oak leaves and flowers in Talos’ yard. And, somewhere in the past: The story of the collapsed schoolhouse in Mason City which was built by people Talos unsuccessfully campaigned against, causing kids to be crippled and killed. Which turns out to be “a piece of luck for Willie”, who wakes up one day to find himself running for governor as a third candidate at the suggestion of Tiny Duffy.

A sincere reformer at the beginning, Talos campaigns with a long, carefully prepared speech about the facts and figures of his tax-and-road programmes plus “fine sentiments” about honest government, copied out from textbooks he’d read as a young man, a speech he keeps polishing and revising and endlessly practising to the scornful disbelief of Jack Burden who is traveling with him. Because Jack, in the next room of a cheap hotel, can not only hear Willie rehearsing the speech, he hears him tramping back and forth like a nut, all night while he does it:

“
the feet would not stop and they were like a machine, which was not human or animal either, and were tramping on you like pestles or plungers in a big vat and you were the thing in the vat, the thing that just happened to be there. The plungers didn’t care about its being you, in the vat. But they would continue until there wasn’t any you, and afterwards for a long time until the machine wore out or somebody switched off the juice
 you are wondering, with the beginnings of pain and insufficiency, what it is inside that won’t let the feet stop. Maybe he is a half-wit, maybe he won’t be Governor, maybe nobody will listen to his speeches but Lucy, but the feet won’t stop.”

 And nobody does listen. Jack tells Willie not to appeal to voters’ minds, but to “pinch ‘em in the soft place”. Because they aren’t alive and “haven’t been for 20 years”. Because their wives are old and played out and because their stomachs are sour and they don’t believe in God. “So it’s up to you
 to stir ‘em up and make ‘em feel alive again.” This advice dispirits Willie. But that is nothing compared to what happens when he learns, by mistake, that he’s been set up by Tiny Duffy and Co. to run as a distraction, in the hopes of splitting votes away from the candidate running opposite their man. He roars and rears around the room and threatens to kill ‘em all with his hands while the woman who let the truth slip laughs in his face; he gets so drunk he passes out and then gets sick.

The next day he gets up in front of voters and goes off-script, cutting loose the force of the relentless machine that Jack heard through the wall, the pestles and plungers who don’t care what they are crushing, just that they crush. He tells them they don’t need a speech. He tells them they already know more than what is in the speech, about rotten crops and bad roads and empty stomachs. He tells them about how he was set up and sweet-talked as a dumb hick by “hired hands and lickspittles”. Horrified, Duffy tries to get the band to play The Star-Spangled Banner; Talos screams that he is a “lickspittle and a nose-wiper”, waving his speech in Duffy’s face until Duffy is driven to the edge of the stage and then over it, Talos screaming “Let the hog lie!” and throwing sheets of his speech into the wind.

And the story goes from there, pestles and plungers running buck wild over everything and everyone, Southern style. Duffy is punished by being rewarded with the Lt. Governorship — that is, living in a perpetual state of obeisance; like Byram he is made into a “thing”. I am reminded of Simone Weil’s essay on the Iliad, in which she says that the true hero of the epic poem is force — and then defines force as “that x that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing”. It seems to me that All the King’s Men is also about force, a life-force for which politics can be a quite congenial container — but which is bigger than politics.

It must be plain by now that when I say this novel is “timely”, what I mean is that it is timeless. Willie Talos, though he’s a fictional Democrat, can be seen as a Trumpian figure because he is a loud-mouthed American populist, a politician who can’t be controlled. But the fictional Talos is more real than Trump. Can anyone imagine Trump having the wherewithal to actually physically force a large adversary off-stage? It isn’t by itself an admirable action, but it suggests a person who can physically channel and control the brute reality that his constituents have come up against all their lives.

Unlike Trump, Talos has come from poverty; when he talks to his audience about getting up at dawn to “slop and milk before breakfast” with cow dung between his toes, or breaking his wagon axle on “gully-washed” roads, or working the fields, he is speaking from experience. He has felt the force of the land in his body — force the elites have forgotten or never known — and he can wield it as his followers wish they could. And he means to do right by them, at least in the beginning. Trump was an imitation of this, and the most relatable thing about his constituents was their longing for that vital life-force that they thought he embodied — hope so great it is readily and eternally fooled.


Mary Gaitskill is an American novelist, essayist, and short story writer. Her Substack is called Out Of It.


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Chuck Burns
Chuck Burns
1 year ago

Trump, Booming economy.
Trump, Fours years of No war!
Trump, Southern border under control.
Trump, NATO and the EU under control and paying their share.
Trump, Energy independence.
Trump, America First
Trump, Moved Israel’s Embassy to recognize Jerusalem
Trump, China under control
Trump, North Korea under control.
Trump. Russia under control.
Trump, no war in Ukraine
Trump, And much much more.
You RINO’s, academic’s, elitists, Democrats, and OTHER anti-America leftist’s got the antithesis of Trump and all he did for us in the deep state far Left Marxist controlled puppet of Biden. If we don’t get Trump back or someone who will continue the idea of America First then we are on track to become the Orwellian Police State described in1984.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

Your comment is so idiotic as to not warrant a response, but your comment is so idiotic I can’t not respond. That’s all.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

You must be thrilled with the Jan. 6 committee’s findings. Enjoy.

Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

You talk as if anyone with a brain is actually fooled by the pre-ordained findings of a partisan show trial.

Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

You talk as if anyone with a brain is actually fooled by the pre-ordained findings of a partisan show trial.

Cheryl Benard
Cheryl Benard
1 year ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

He in fact did accomplish many of the things you list. I would add: he facilitated the very speedy development of a covid vaccine that ended up being a game-changer. And then he went off the deep end, and since has become a damaging and arguably, a crazy force in the Republican party and in US politics, one who is likely to hand another victory to the almost equally crazy delusional Left. Trump today: Selling Superman cards of himself. Trying to sell out Ukraine. Questioning the Constitution. We can’t have him back, and he’s going to do his best to block any of the other Republican contenders. What a trajectory.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Cheryl Benard

Many ? Of the things listed ? No … ALL … plus the covid response as you point out. The darkness that set in late in his administration was in fact the darkness of election manipulation and the back-stabbing he endured. The darkness of 2 phoney impeachments and the wasted energy he must have had to use to fight off the smear campaign waged by the media. President Trump not only showed us the greatness of what we could be, and what was and still is in danger, he also showed us the corruption of party politics and the electoral system in some states at the hands of the Democrat Party. The Confession of the Democrat Party was published in TIME Magazine.
His enemies like to bring up “60 lawsuits” that he lost, and now the defeat of Kari Lake and her court case as well. Americans will continue to learn about what a legal vote or ballot consists of, thanks to the Trump GOP. 40,000 ballots delivered at the last minute with no chain of custody, accepted by a self-serving Democratic Elections Commissioner, Katie Hobbs, is a travesty and a perhaps a crime. Where are the statutory remedies for elections sloppiness ? Even God could not tell you where the dishonest “human intention” was in the Kari Lake election. The standard needs to be a different one. Do your job or the results are thrown out.
President Trump is a true patriot. I didn’t vote for him in the primaries in 2016 but I voted for him ever since, and I’ll vote for him again. He has earned reelection to his second term.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Cheryl Benard

Many ? Of the things listed ? No … ALL … plus the covid response as you point out. The darkness that set in late in his administration was in fact the darkness of election manipulation and the back-stabbing he endured. The darkness of 2 phoney impeachments and the wasted energy he must have had to use to fight off the smear campaign waged by the media. President Trump not only showed us the greatness of what we could be, and what was and still is in danger, he also showed us the corruption of party politics and the electoral system in some states at the hands of the Democrat Party. The Confession of the Democrat Party was published in TIME Magazine.
His enemies like to bring up “60 lawsuits” that he lost, and now the defeat of Kari Lake and her court case as well. Americans will continue to learn about what a legal vote or ballot consists of, thanks to the Trump GOP. 40,000 ballots delivered at the last minute with no chain of custody, accepted by a self-serving Democratic Elections Commissioner, Katie Hobbs, is a travesty and a perhaps a crime. Where are the statutory remedies for elections sloppiness ? Even God could not tell you where the dishonest “human intention” was in the Kari Lake election. The standard needs to be a different one. Do your job or the results are thrown out.
President Trump is a true patriot. I didn’t vote for him in the primaries in 2016 but I voted for him ever since, and I’ll vote for him again. He has earned reelection to his second term.

Giovanni Descartes
Giovanni Descartes
1 year ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

Headed off by this absurd comment, I’ve scanned the clump of trump-defender thoughts from a few seemingly intelligent (emphasis on seemingly) men whose skills will never approach the literary talent, the moral investigations of a Mary Gaitskill. The mysteries a writer of Gaitskill’s caliber continues to examine are beyond the scope of the trumpian lunkheads gathering online to beat up on women intellectuals. Strong men, aren’t you all? Cowards, actually, who’d rather stone a brave and brilliant woman in our new ‘public square’ because she dares to present a criticism of your criminal hero, a man with fewer morals than a slug. Worshipper of Hitler and Mussolini. The most shameful irony is that many of your ancestors, real men, fought and gave their lives in WWII in the fight against fascism. May their ghosts rise up and wring your morally bankrupt necks.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

Yup – the author is inflicted with TDS

Chris McPeak
Chris McPeak
1 year ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

Chuck, if you would, would you please share your definition of “under control”.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

Your comment is so idiotic as to not warrant a response, but your comment is so idiotic I can’t not respond. That’s all.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

You must be thrilled with the Jan. 6 committee’s findings. Enjoy.

Cheryl Benard
Cheryl Benard
1 year ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

He in fact did accomplish many of the things you list. I would add: he facilitated the very speedy development of a covid vaccine that ended up being a game-changer. And then he went off the deep end, and since has become a damaging and arguably, a crazy force in the Republican party and in US politics, one who is likely to hand another victory to the almost equally crazy delusional Left. Trump today: Selling Superman cards of himself. Trying to sell out Ukraine. Questioning the Constitution. We can’t have him back, and he’s going to do his best to block any of the other Republican contenders. What a trajectory.

Giovanni Descartes
Giovanni Descartes
1 year ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

Headed off by this absurd comment, I’ve scanned the clump of trump-defender thoughts from a few seemingly intelligent (emphasis on seemingly) men whose skills will never approach the literary talent, the moral investigations of a Mary Gaitskill. The mysteries a writer of Gaitskill’s caliber continues to examine are beyond the scope of the trumpian lunkheads gathering online to beat up on women intellectuals. Strong men, aren’t you all? Cowards, actually, who’d rather stone a brave and brilliant woman in our new ‘public square’ because she dares to present a criticism of your criminal hero, a man with fewer morals than a slug. Worshipper of Hitler and Mussolini. The most shameful irony is that many of your ancestors, real men, fought and gave their lives in WWII in the fight against fascism. May their ghosts rise up and wring your morally bankrupt necks.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

Yup – the author is inflicted with TDS

Chris McPeak
Chris McPeak
1 year ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

Chuck, if you would, would you please share your definition of “under control”.

Chuck Burns
Chuck Burns
1 year ago

Trump, Booming economy.
Trump, Fours years of No war!
Trump, Southern border under control.
Trump, NATO and the EU under control and paying their share.
Trump, Energy independence.
Trump, America First
Trump, Moved Israel’s Embassy to recognize Jerusalem
Trump, China under control
Trump, North Korea under control.
Trump. Russia under control.
Trump, no war in Ukraine
Trump, And much much more.
You RINO’s, academic’s, elitists, Democrats, and OTHER anti-America leftist’s got the antithesis of Trump and all he did for us in the deep state far Left Marxist controlled puppet of Biden. If we don’t get Trump back or someone who will continue the idea of America First then we are on track to become the Orwellian Police State described in1984.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago

”Trump was an imitation of this, and the most relatable thing about his constituents was their longing for that vital life-force that they thought he embodied — hope so great it is readily and eternally fooled.”

As a Ultra MAGA I have to say this is preposterous. Us MAGA just want America to be Great Again, we do not long for his life force, we just like the way he puts America ahead of the Industry Oligarchs, and foreigners, and is anti-war.

So what character would you use to illustrate Biden and his voters? Maybe Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’ where the miserable little petty spiteful government bureaucrat slowly turns into a Cockroach, and the people around him do not care, because they never cared anyway, because they are all miserable, self interested, nothings themselves.

How about Boris? Maybe he is so depraved (he gave us lockdowns and war destroying so many – for no reason but idiocy and the enjoying of raw Power) yet vain and a total ‘Dandy’ – Oscar Wilde – ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’.

What the world needs is a rolled up newspaper and a bucket of water……and it could be greatly improved.

But anyway, WWG1WGA, haha

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Just a long piece about a fictional bad guy (the left always hates the right’s demagogues but loves their own) with two paragraphs at the end mentioning Trump, but somehow he’s still the headline.

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

Trump tends to have that effect.

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

Trump tends to have that effect.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Trump puts nothing ahead of himself, including and especially the United States of America. Which is very American, when you come to think of it: extremely narcissistic, grandiose, tone-deaf. I could go on, but that would be almost as tedious as the subject. The only reason I read this piece was because I saw Mary Gaitskill’s byline. She could write a phone book and I’d read it.

Rob Keeley
Rob Keeley
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

Then you’re very easily pleased. No doubt you think that Biden’s doing a great job.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rob Keeley
Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob Keeley

I don’t particularly like Biden, but he has not fomented an insurrection. That’s always a plus for me when it comes to Presidents.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

Because the Jan 6 Committee was partisan – the Republicans were not allowed to pick their own representatives – we will never know what happened exactly. Nancy Pelosi held back the National Guard and so-called managed the Capitol police’s’ response but she was never called to testify nor were dozens of her lackeys. Is it no wonder that Trump was upset as well as his 76 million supporters?

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

Nona, let me explain to you what was lost by the riot that Trump did not foment. What was lost was a serious request which was planned by 10 Senators and Congressmen and women to delay the certification of the election to give state legislatures time to look at the dueling electors appointed by a few states. Because Nancy Pelosi failed to secure the Capitol, and because of the ensuing riot, the request was derailed. Nancy Pelosi knew exactly what she was doing. If you will read something other than Mary Gaitskill and the phone book, you might learn a thing or two. Many protests at the certifications have been raised in the past, including by the disgusting Maxine Waters.
Yep …. Nancy Pelosi is to blame for the J6 riot and I hope the Republicans torch her eventually. She is a disgrace.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

Because the Jan 6 Committee was partisan – the Republicans were not allowed to pick their own representatives – we will never know what happened exactly. Nancy Pelosi held back the National Guard and so-called managed the Capitol police’s’ response but she was never called to testify nor were dozens of her lackeys. Is it no wonder that Trump was upset as well as his 76 million supporters?

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

Nona, let me explain to you what was lost by the riot that Trump did not foment. What was lost was a serious request which was planned by 10 Senators and Congressmen and women to delay the certification of the election to give state legislatures time to look at the dueling electors appointed by a few states. Because Nancy Pelosi failed to secure the Capitol, and because of the ensuing riot, the request was derailed. Nancy Pelosi knew exactly what she was doing. If you will read something other than Mary Gaitskill and the phone book, you might learn a thing or two. Many protests at the certifications have been raised in the past, including by the disgusting Maxine Waters.
Yep …. Nancy Pelosi is to blame for the J6 riot and I hope the Republicans torch her eventually. She is a disgrace.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob Keeley

I don’t particularly like Biden, but he has not fomented an insurrection. That’s always a plus for me when it comes to Presidents.

Phyddeaux .
Phyddeaux .
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

“Which is very American …” – An extremely xenophobic remark. I suppose when YOU do racism, it’s OK. No dog-whistle here – just a plain old whistle.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Phyddeaux .

You mean nationalism.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Phyddeaux .

You mean nationalism.

Rob Keeley
Rob Keeley
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

Then you’re very easily pleased. No doubt you think that Biden’s doing a great job.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rob Keeley
Phyddeaux .
Phyddeaux .
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

“Which is very American …” – An extremely xenophobic remark. I suppose when YOU do racism, it’s OK. No dog-whistle here – just a plain old whistle.

Paul Hendricks
Paul Hendricks
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

I recommend Flannery O’Connor’s short story “The Barber” for an acid portrayal of the travails of the self-satisfied “progressive” voter.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

How coincidental ! I don’t ever say it out loud because it’s too “offensive” to my spouse, but in my mind, Biden is President Cockroach.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Just a long piece about a fictional bad guy (the left always hates the right’s demagogues but loves their own) with two paragraphs at the end mentioning Trump, but somehow he’s still the headline.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Trump puts nothing ahead of himself, including and especially the United States of America. Which is very American, when you come to think of it: extremely narcissistic, grandiose, tone-deaf. I could go on, but that would be almost as tedious as the subject. The only reason I read this piece was because I saw Mary Gaitskill’s byline. She could write a phone book and I’d read it.

Paul Hendricks
Paul Hendricks
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

I recommend Flannery O’Connor’s short story “The Barber” for an acid portrayal of the travails of the self-satisfied “progressive” voter.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

How coincidental ! I don’t ever say it out loud because it’s too “offensive” to my spouse, but in my mind, Biden is President Cockroach.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 year ago

”Trump was an imitation of this, and the most relatable thing about his constituents was their longing for that vital life-force that they thought he embodied — hope so great it is readily and eternally fooled.”

As a Ultra MAGA I have to say this is preposterous. Us MAGA just want America to be Great Again, we do not long for his life force, we just like the way he puts America ahead of the Industry Oligarchs, and foreigners, and is anti-war.

So what character would you use to illustrate Biden and his voters? Maybe Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’ where the miserable little petty spiteful government bureaucrat slowly turns into a Cockroach, and the people around him do not care, because they never cared anyway, because they are all miserable, self interested, nothings themselves.

How about Boris? Maybe he is so depraved (he gave us lockdowns and war destroying so many – for no reason but idiocy and the enjoying of raw Power) yet vain and a total ‘Dandy’ – Oscar Wilde – ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’.

What the world needs is a rolled up newspaper and a bucket of water……and it could be greatly improved.

But anyway, WWG1WGA, haha

Gary Cruse
Gary Cruse
1 year ago

tl/dr
And from looking at the last paragraph,
a massive saving of time. Well written
but never-ending. Let me guess…
Orange Man Bad. How’d I do?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Cruse

Eight hours for your comment to appear?

Buena Vista
Buena Vista
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Cruse

I’ll give her this: she got through a thousand or so words before he appeared! But yeah, it’s rubbish.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Cruse

All the King’s Men was written in 1945. I read it decades later in high school. Was this article’s author late with her book report?

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Cruse

Or as Richard Thompson sang,
“My enemy, enemy. How I need my enemy”.
Hatred of ‘the other’ is all that liberals/democrats have to offer.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Cruse

Eight hours for your comment to appear?

Buena Vista
Buena Vista
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Cruse

I’ll give her this: she got through a thousand or so words before he appeared! But yeah, it’s rubbish.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Cruse

All the King’s Men was written in 1945. I read it decades later in high school. Was this article’s author late with her book report?

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Cruse

Or as Richard Thompson sang,
“My enemy, enemy. How I need my enemy”.
Hatred of ‘the other’ is all that liberals/democrats have to offer.

Gary Cruse
Gary Cruse
1 year ago

tl/dr
And from looking at the last paragraph,
a massive saving of time. Well written
but never-ending. Let me guess…
Orange Man Bad. How’d I do?

Rob Keeley
Rob Keeley
1 year ago

And the point of this article is?
Just another liberal-left attempt to bash DT by association and patronise his admirers. When are you going to call out the very real and present dangers of the current moronic incumbent of the White House?

Last edited 1 year ago by Rob Keeley
Rob Keeley
Rob Keeley
1 year ago

And the point of this article is?
Just another liberal-left attempt to bash DT by association and patronise his admirers. When are you going to call out the very real and present dangers of the current moronic incumbent of the White House?

Last edited 1 year ago by Rob Keeley
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

All that just to say Trump is not Willie Talos.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Don P
Don P
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

All that to say Trump is a good facsimilie of Wille Talos but not the genuine article because he didn’t grow up poor.

Phyddeaux .
Phyddeaux .
1 year ago
Reply to  Don P

Trump is not a facsimile of Talos at all. Trump is his own person, warts and all.
What is the point of an article saying who Trump is not a good facsimile of? This article and your comment are pointless.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phyddeaux .
Don P
Don P
1 year ago
Reply to  Phyddeaux .

The article was pointless but the comment wasn’t. The point of the comment sailed right over your head.

Don P
Don P
1 year ago
Reply to  Phyddeaux .

The article was pointless but the comment wasn’t. The point of the comment sailed right over your head.

Phyddeaux .
Phyddeaux .
1 year ago
Reply to  Don P

Trump is not a facsimile of Talos at all. Trump is his own person, warts and all.
What is the point of an article saying who Trump is not a good facsimile of? This article and your comment are pointless.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phyddeaux .
Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

If her point is “don’t get your hopes up” it is surely not rubbish. If her point is to have us accept a Cockroach, it surely is rubbish. Is she pointing to some third option? The truly great leader, virtuosity on the political stage, the ultimate in practical wisdom. An earlier piece suggested that many equate this form of virtue, the highest form, with fascism. Is that equation not the problem? If that were her point, would her piece be saved?

Don P
Don P
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

All that to say Trump is a good facsimilie of Wille Talos but not the genuine article because he didn’t grow up poor.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

If her point is “don’t get your hopes up” it is surely not rubbish. If her point is to have us accept a Cockroach, it surely is rubbish. Is she pointing to some third option? The truly great leader, virtuosity on the political stage, the ultimate in practical wisdom. An earlier piece suggested that many equate this form of virtue, the highest form, with fascism. Is that equation not the problem? If that were her point, would her piece be saved?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

All that just to say Trump is not Willie Talos.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
aaron david
aaron david
1 year ago

Normally I have quite a bit of respect for you as a writer, having massively enjoyed Two Women… But the simple fact that you start of with not knowing the main charaters name shows this faith was missplaced.
STARK, Willie Stark was the politicians name in the actual published novel and later, play and movie. Talos was an early idea for the charactor that did not make the final cut, and was changed.
The fact that you miss this rather major point tells me that you have missed a lot in your haste to get your licks in against the former president. Indeed, it tells me you missed a lot in that whole period, and are thus an unreliable narrator, a concept you shurly know.
Or, like much of those who would be our betters, you probably don’t and assume that your thoughts are enough to carry you past any truth you dislike.

Last edited 1 year ago by aaron david
John Mullen
John Mullen
1 year ago
Reply to  aaron david

Yes. I was confused by that. I’ve read the novel at least twice, and I had never heard of Talos. Thanks for the background.

John Mullen
John Mullen
1 year ago
Reply to  aaron david

Yes. I was confused by that. I’ve read the novel at least twice, and I had never heard of Talos. Thanks for the background.

aaron david
aaron david
1 year ago

Normally I have quite a bit of respect for you as a writer, having massively enjoyed Two Women… But the simple fact that you start of with not knowing the main charaters name shows this faith was missplaced.
STARK, Willie Stark was the politicians name in the actual published novel and later, play and movie. Talos was an early idea for the charactor that did not make the final cut, and was changed.
The fact that you miss this rather major point tells me that you have missed a lot in your haste to get your licks in against the former president. Indeed, it tells me you missed a lot in that whole period, and are thus an unreliable narrator, a concept you shurly know.
Or, like much of those who would be our betters, you probably don’t and assume that your thoughts are enough to carry you past any truth you dislike.

Last edited 1 year ago by aaron david
Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

Was this essay an entry in a contest to come up with a new way to attack Trump? Have leftists gotten bored with all the normal attacks after 6 years of “bombshell” after “bombshell,” and “the walls are closing in?” Try this instead:

With the 2nd special counsel, and the Jan 6 Committee criminal referal, Democrats continue their remake of the hit 1960’s US TV show “The Fugitive” with Donald Trump replacing David Janssen in the title role. Periodically, usually reliable, but anonymous sources close to the investigations reveal that “the walls are closing in” on Trump and a slam-dunk indictment will doom him very soon. Then there’s no indictment. This is quite similar to Janssen’s hair raising escapes from the police during 4 years on the run as Dr. Richard Kimble. At the end of the original TV show, Dr. Kimble proved his innocence by finding the real killer, a one armed man. The remake will probably end in 2024 if Trump loses the nomination or election. If Trump wins in 2024, it will continue until he leaves office, or fires the special counsel. In the meantime, there will be many, many close calls where Trump is almost indicted! So stay tuned to CNN or MSNBC for up to date coverage of this developing situation.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

Was this essay an entry in a contest to come up with a new way to attack Trump? Have leftists gotten bored with all the normal attacks after 6 years of “bombshell” after “bombshell,” and “the walls are closing in?” Try this instead:

With the 2nd special counsel, and the Jan 6 Committee criminal referal, Democrats continue their remake of the hit 1960’s US TV show “The Fugitive” with Donald Trump replacing David Janssen in the title role. Periodically, usually reliable, but anonymous sources close to the investigations reveal that “the walls are closing in” on Trump and a slam-dunk indictment will doom him very soon. Then there’s no indictment. This is quite similar to Janssen’s hair raising escapes from the police during 4 years on the run as Dr. Richard Kimble. At the end of the original TV show, Dr. Kimble proved his innocence by finding the real killer, a one armed man. The remake will probably end in 2024 if Trump loses the nomination or election. If Trump wins in 2024, it will continue until he leaves office, or fires the special counsel. In the meantime, there will be many, many close calls where Trump is almost indicted! So stay tuned to CNN or MSNBC for up to date coverage of this developing situation.

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
1 year ago

Denunciations of Trump have become ritual, a liturgical rite, like devout Christians abjuring Satan.

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
1 year ago

Denunciations of Trump have become ritual, a liturgical rite, like devout Christians abjuring Satan.

Cantab Man
Cantab Man
1 year ago

I’m old enough to remember when Democrats were the populist party in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of these Democrats also came from wealthy backgrounds but they talked the talk. And populism was spoken of with reverence in the same breath as democracy.

Democrats and the populist movement was lionized by the press and Hollywood. Who can forget the virtue-signaling movie “Wall Street” where the little guy won against the Fat Cats of Wall Street who, incidentally, supported Republicans in the 1980s.

Trump and Democrats spun this all around in 2016. Fat Cat-supporting Republicans were picked off early via the Primaries which represented democracy-in-action within the Party.

And during the preceding Obama years, Democrats aligned themselves very closely with the coastal elites in corporate America, journalism, academia, Wall Street, mainstream media and tech companies – they were purchased by the ‘Gordon Gekkos’ of the US as IRS data shows (Forbes reported on this). The American people also kicked them to the curb in 2016 because the Democrat Party is no longer the champion of “power to the people” populism.

So now “populism” is a bad word…when before it was a good word. Merely because of the change in Party wielding the influence within that movement.

To the point that many Journalists, working within the confines of personal confirmation bias, ignore clear evidence that the FBI influenced the 2020 election in favor of Biden as The Twitter Files show.

2020 is the year that democracy died in darkness under the watchful eye of the FBI and journalists patting themselves on the back while saying “it’s okay because, because, because Trump!”

Cantab Man
Cantab Man
1 year ago

I’m old enough to remember when Democrats were the populist party in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of these Democrats also came from wealthy backgrounds but they talked the talk. And populism was spoken of with reverence in the same breath as democracy.

Democrats and the populist movement was lionized by the press and Hollywood. Who can forget the virtue-signaling movie “Wall Street” where the little guy won against the Fat Cats of Wall Street who, incidentally, supported Republicans in the 1980s.

Trump and Democrats spun this all around in 2016. Fat Cat-supporting Republicans were picked off early via the Primaries which represented democracy-in-action within the Party.

And during the preceding Obama years, Democrats aligned themselves very closely with the coastal elites in corporate America, journalism, academia, Wall Street, mainstream media and tech companies – they were purchased by the ‘Gordon Gekkos’ of the US as IRS data shows (Forbes reported on this). The American people also kicked them to the curb in 2016 because the Democrat Party is no longer the champion of “power to the people” populism.

So now “populism” is a bad word…when before it was a good word. Merely because of the change in Party wielding the influence within that movement.

To the point that many Journalists, working within the confines of personal confirmation bias, ignore clear evidence that the FBI influenced the 2020 election in favor of Biden as The Twitter Files show.

2020 is the year that democracy died in darkness under the watchful eye of the FBI and journalists patting themselves on the back while saying “it’s okay because, because, because Trump!”

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

I found this essay compelling for two reasons, neither of which are to do with DT, except very tangentially.
First, the exposition of the novel, which i’d heard about but never had much interest in reading; Gaitskill has saved me the trouble.
Secondly and more importantly, the way in which politics is just a manifestation of “life-force” and the allusions to it as far back as the Iliad.
Forget the DT narrative for once; whilst it’s there in the essay, i don’t consider it central to it. There are more important aspects to how we conduct human affairs than that narrow bandwidth.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Finally, a sensible comment. Thank you.

aaron david
aaron david
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

All The Kings Men is a very good novel, one of the best I have read. It is from the ’40s, and so the language that it uses is rather stilted in comparison to the last several decades books, but don’t let that stop you.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

O Brother Where Art Thou is a much more entertaining way to experience the ways of a southern politician. As a communicator, analyzer, visionary, and entertainer, I’d rather listen to a speech of President Trump any day !

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Finally, a sensible comment. Thank you.

aaron david
aaron david
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

All The Kings Men is a very good novel, one of the best I have read. It is from the ’40s, and so the language that it uses is rather stilted in comparison to the last several decades books, but don’t let that stop you.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

O Brother Where Art Thou is a much more entertaining way to experience the ways of a southern politician. As a communicator, analyzer, visionary, and entertainer, I’d rather listen to a speech of President Trump any day !

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

I found this essay compelling for two reasons, neither of which are to do with DT, except very tangentially.
First, the exposition of the novel, which i’d heard about but never had much interest in reading; Gaitskill has saved me the trouble.
Secondly and more importantly, the way in which politics is just a manifestation of “life-force” and the allusions to it as far back as the Iliad.
Forget the DT narrative for once; whilst it’s there in the essay, i don’t consider it central to it. There are more important aspects to how we conduct human affairs than that narrow bandwidth.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
David Owsley
David Owsley
1 year ago

Hmmm…you’re not the first to use ATKM as a comparison…but you did leave it a bit late: a couple of sentences in the last two paragraphs…and even those a bit pathetic. Your film review is great, maybe just delete the Trump mentions and put the review elsewhere.
Chuck in another comment has said all that needs saying. Or are you part of the ‘running cover’ for the media non-coverage of The Twitter Files?
So many MORE conspiracy theories ‘becoming fact’…

David Owsley
David Owsley
1 year ago

Hmmm…you’re not the first to use ATKM as a comparison…but you did leave it a bit late: a couple of sentences in the last two paragraphs…and even those a bit pathetic. Your film review is great, maybe just delete the Trump mentions and put the review elsewhere.
Chuck in another comment has said all that needs saying. Or are you part of the ‘running cover’ for the media non-coverage of The Twitter Files?
So many MORE conspiracy theories ‘becoming fact’…

Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
1 year ago

I’ll tell you what. Mary is right. Orange Man is bad, and if you don’t get that by now, with his threats to tear up the constitution, you are hopeless. “Yeah but Biden!!!..” It’s not a see-saw. You can push Joe Biden down w/o pushing up the World’s Ultimate Narcissist, the worst president that this republic has ever seen.

Robert Cocco
Robert Cocco
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Donovan

“threats to tear up the constitution”? What he said was dumb, but a”threat”? More like a ridiculous statement from a sore loser. Yes, he let me down with his antics after he lost the election. But for me, even counting a frigging plague, things were a whole lot better during those four years than they are now.

Harry Smithson
Harry Smithson
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Donovan

I agree, there’s something petulant about Trumpists and the like quite reasonably decrying leftist bias in many institutions but then demanding right-wing partisanship from a publication dedicated to a variety of sidelined perspectives. This is an article about unknowable forces that shape political outcomes, it’s not reducible to a left-Liberal attack on Trump, but there’s always a gaggle of MAGA bros desperate to confirm their paranoia and lack of imagination after articles like this.

Phyddeaux .
Phyddeaux .
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Donovan

“threats to tear up the constitution” – really? Just going to parrot the MSM narrative?
I’m fairly sure he said (roughly) wrt voting procedure in Arizona “If you allow the current situation, one may as well tear up the Constitution”. That you think you heard a threat to actually tear up the Constitution says more about you than it does Trump.

aaron david
aaron david
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Donovan

Trump didn’t make any threats to tear up the constitution. He simply referred to the US being in a position that the constitution didn’t cover; namely a stolen election and how to rectify that.
And who is or isn’t the worst president is a matter of opinion. I am in my 50s, and Trump is, by far, the best president of the 21st century, as shown in a list above in the comments here. But, in that selfsame five decades, Obama was the worst, and a huge part of the reason we are in this s*** storm.

Buena Vista
Buena Vista
1 year ago
Reply to  aaron david

Well said! I regret that I have only one upvote to give you.

Buena Vista
Buena Vista
1 year ago
Reply to  aaron david

Well said! I regret that I have only one upvote to give you.

Robert Cocco
Robert Cocco
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Donovan

“threats to tear up the constitution”? What he said was dumb, but a”threat”? More like a ridiculous statement from a sore loser. Yes, he let me down with his antics after he lost the election. But for me, even counting a frigging plague, things were a whole lot better during those four years than they are now.

Harry Smithson
Harry Smithson
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Donovan

I agree, there’s something petulant about Trumpists and the like quite reasonably decrying leftist bias in many institutions but then demanding right-wing partisanship from a publication dedicated to a variety of sidelined perspectives. This is an article about unknowable forces that shape political outcomes, it’s not reducible to a left-Liberal attack on Trump, but there’s always a gaggle of MAGA bros desperate to confirm their paranoia and lack of imagination after articles like this.

Phyddeaux .
Phyddeaux .
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Donovan

“threats to tear up the constitution” – really? Just going to parrot the MSM narrative?
I’m fairly sure he said (roughly) wrt voting procedure in Arizona “If you allow the current situation, one may as well tear up the Constitution”. That you think you heard a threat to actually tear up the Constitution says more about you than it does Trump.

aaron david
aaron david
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Donovan

Trump didn’t make any threats to tear up the constitution. He simply referred to the US being in a position that the constitution didn’t cover; namely a stolen election and how to rectify that.
And who is or isn’t the worst president is a matter of opinion. I am in my 50s, and Trump is, by far, the best president of the 21st century, as shown in a list above in the comments here. But, in that selfsame five decades, Obama was the worst, and a huge part of the reason we are in this s*** storm.

Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
1 year ago

I’ll tell you what. Mary is right. Orange Man is bad, and if you don’t get that by now, with his threats to tear up the constitution, you are hopeless. “Yeah but Biden!!!..” It’s not a see-saw. You can push Joe Biden down w/o pushing up the World’s Ultimate Narcissist, the worst president that this republic has ever seen.