“We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president…We live in a time where we have a man who's sending us to war for fictitious reasons…we like non-fiction, and we are living in fictitious times.”
This is how Michael Moore put it during his acceptance speech for Best Documentary for Bowling for Columbine at the Academy Awards in March of 2003. He was right, of course. But did he even know the level of fiction our political process could become when a foolish, clown-like, thoroughly corrupt, carrot-colored man with cotton candy hair made of piss (thanks Penn Gillette) became the Republican nominee? Probably not.
That is why, in a strange way, we need good fiction today. Written by progressives who've gone up against the corruption. Seen the disgustingly dirty-underbelly of the worst of corporate America and the white nationalist party once known as Republicans.
Luckily, there are two great books out there right now that give you more insight into our broken political system than our careerist, crap-store elite media ever will.
In Law And Disorder, Mike Papantonio, early investor and show host on Air America, president of the National Trial Lawyers and current host of the nationally syndicated Ring of Fire radio show, gives us a peek into his world of mass tort lawsuits taking on the likes of big tobacco, large pharmaceutical companies and Big Oil.
In the book, main protagonist Nicholas “Deke” Deketomis has to take on a cabal of forces that will look familiar to anyone who’s read the news the past decade. There is Bekmeyer Pharmaceuticals and their dangerous product Randol, S.I. Oil, which is run by the wealthy, right-wing Swanson Brothers, who’ve never met a body of water or breathable air they couldn’t pollute.
There’s also country prosecutor Darl Dixon and Pentecostal Pastor Rodney Morgan, rounding out the “tea party” supporters who form a rich cast of characters. With this story, as in real life, Papantonio is not only unafraid to challenge these forces, but indeed seems to go after them with relish. The book will remind you of some of the better works of John Grisham, one of those reads you pick up with the intention of skimming for an hour at 11 p.m., but find yourself going over line after line until 2:30 a.m., and only then turning in reluctantly.
Meanwhile, in his debut novel, The People’s House, David Pepper, former Hamilton County, Ohio Commissioner and Chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, does what Law & Order once achieved, ripping his storyline from the headlines (but with a twist). A worn down journalist at the Youngstown Vindicator, Jack Sharpe, comes across a story initially hard for him to believe, which a threat to the very fabric of our democracy. In this clever plot, which has been compared to Joe Klein’s Primary Colors, Pepper invites us into a world where those who game the system have figured out a new way to corrupt American democracy.
Why does one need to attempt the higher profile takeover of the presidency when, in a gerrymandered Congress, you need only control the 30 or so swing seats to ensure legislation you like passes and gets its day in the Senate and on the president’s desk for his signature. Sharpe, in one of those districts, notices the irregularities, and then the plot really takes off, with congressman Lee Kelly getting his hands on proof of what occurred in this Northeast, Ohio district, and Monroe Country Democratic Ernie Rogers also questioning vote tabulations.
As with Papantonio’s oeuvre, Pepper isn’t looking for the false balance of the New York Times political page, he reminds us who is the party of Big Energy (Republicans), who has recently tampered with elections via voter suppression (Republicans) and/or re-routing large gobs of dark money through charitable organizations (take your pick, Donald Trump and Pam Bondi? Scott Walker and the Koch Bros?). In this election, calling out regressive forces without subtlety or “both sides do it” is refreshing to say the least.
The pulse-pounding thrill of what will happen next, as the congressman with evidence of wrongdoing becomes a victim of not just this national, but international conspiracy, keeps you turning pages until the very end. We even come up against a Russian oligarch’s involvement in these nefarious activities, which Pepper created before the recent hacking shenanigans, making the novel that much more timely.
Need a break from all that is unholy in this election? Need to learn more about what is really going on behind the scenes than power-humping harlots like Chris Cillizza or Joe Scarborough can ever provide. Read Law & Disorder and The People's House.
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis