The politics of writing

Published February 14, 2020

Three years ago – in February 2017 – I released my book The Great Divide: Story of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Race. The book was a play-by-play account, written in real time, of the 2016 election. The story began in June 2015 when Donald Trump threw his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination and ended in November 2016 after his surprising victory.

“An avowed liberal Democrat, Harrison … manages to get the facts straight while charting a clear path through the chaos,” said Kirkus Reviews. “Not everyone will agree with Harrison’s political take, but his entertaining re-creation of the campaign makes for an absorbing read.” Kirkus called the book “lucid, well-paced and evocative.”

I ended the book with the following three sentences, on the last page of the Epilogue, page 398: “In a country as divided as this one, half of us will be happy and the other half sad every four years. That’s the good thing: there’s another election in 2020. If I’m still around, maybe I’ll write about that one too.”

Well, I’m still around. But no way I’m writing a book on the 2020 election.

Ironically, the polarization of the electorate that was the main theme of The Great Divide is the main reason I won’t write another political book. I was called vile names by total strangers in response to views I expressed in the book, in political articles I wrote for other publications, and in interviews I did for radio, TV and podcasts promoting the book. Who needs that? I also have friends and relatives on the other side of the divide, and I value these relationships.

This has created a dilemma for me, however. As a writer, I need passion to write. I need angst. And about the only thing that causes me angst these days is the political situation in this country.

No one’s life is perfect but mine’s pretty close. My wife and I recently moved to southern California. We are surrounded by mountains, wineries and blue sky. We have a yard where our dog can play, and I can grill year-round. We see our baby granddaughter every weekend. I can even order legal pot online and have it delivered to my door in an hour like a pizza. I’m finding it hard to feel angst here.

Our politics, on the other hand, makes my blood boil. So, while I won’t write a book on the 2020 election, I also won’t be able to restrain myself from commenting when the angst runs deep. I’ll keep it to my blog, which few people see anyway. It will be mostly to vent, to get things off my chest in an attempt to maintain my sanity – or as Kirkus said of The Great Divide, “to get the facts straight while charting a clear path through the chaos.”

Because there will be a lot of chaos, my friends. And a lot of angst.