Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics

drawing of a donkey is art on cover of "Primary Colors"Primary Colors is a fictional backroom account of a current—1996—presidential bid by Jack Stanton, the Democratic governor of a southern state.

Henry Burton tells the story. Stanton doesn’t offer Henry a job; he absorbs him into his staff.

The grandson of a famed civil rights leader, Henry had worked for a congressman after college before abandoning the Beltway for a teaching gig. Henry thinks he’s being used as “racial cover,” but he’s very impressed by Stanton’s ability to connect with ordinary people.

He’s less favorably impressed with Stanton’s truth-stretching facility, nevertheless he finds a comfortable perch where he can observe the internal operations of the campaign while “working the phones, doing stuff.”

The novel is packed with historical and political trivia from FDR’s presidency forward: who ran, what made them good candidates, what brought them down.

Primary Colors captures the aspirations and intensity of Stanton’s political campaign as well as the idealism, audacity, dedication, duplicity, and stupidity of the campaigners.

The negativity with which the Democrats regard news organizations like The Washington Post and NPR, which today are trashed by Republicans seems odd, but as I write this in January 2020, the rest of Primary Colors feels very contemporary.

Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics
by Anonymous
Random House. ©1996. 366 p.
1996 bestseller #8; my grade: A-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni