John Dickerson: Have We Really Never Seen a Presidential Election Like This One?


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Jul 08 2016 44 mins   1

We’re in the middle of a political campaign that everyone says is unprecedented. There’s never been a candidate like Donald Trump. There’s never been a candidate like Hillary Clinton. There’s never been a campaign like this one. Never more negative. Never more disorganized. Never more off the cuff. Never, never, never. Well, how truly “never before” is this campaign? Are we really in totally unchartered territory? His history in fact no guide at all? Does context matter? John Dickerson just might be the perfect person to discuss this with. You know his bio: He’s Moderator of CBS’s Face the Nation. He’s a Slate political columnist. But he also hosts an incredible podcast called Whistlestop, Slate’s podcast about presidential campaign history. And now he has published a new book of the same name: “Whistlestop: My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History.” Dickerson goes through “the stories behind the stories of the most memorable moments in American presidential campaign history.” You can order it now at Amazon or your local bookstore or wherever fine books are sold. What’s great about this conversation – and what’s genius about Dickerson’s podcast and his book – is that we’re constantly told that we’re at this “End of Political History” moment, this time where nothing that’s happened before matters and we can’t possibly make sense of today’s political realities. Now some of that makes sense to me. I mean, it’s factual: Trump would be the first elected president with no political or military experience. Clinton, of course, is the first woman presidential nominee of a major party. We’ve never had a presidential nominee who tweets like Trump does. The list goes on. So is there nothing to learn from the past? Is EVERYTHING about this election new ground? Personally, I doubt that, and Dickerson is a perfect person for that discussion. It’s not just all of his current roles. Dickerson grew up in a house where politics and news were central – his mother, Nancy Dickerson, was TV News’ First Woman Star, as John wrote about in his outstanding memoir about his mother. This guy is an incredible source to help us try to make sense of this most incomprehensible election.