Skip to navigationSkip to content
READ ALL ABOUT IT

Terrifying literary predictions of our current political predicament

Peter Knapp, a supporter of Republican candidate Donald Trump, waves American flags as he stands outside his home on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in Miami.
AP/Lynne Sladky
He’s been out there all along.
  • Tim Fernholz
By Tim Fernholz

Senior reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

The shock of Donald Trump’s election and the need to explain it has led to an informal contest: Who can find the most terrifying premonition of the US political cataclysm, establishing once and for all that we shoulda seen it coming?

Was it legendary Washington reporter David Broder, writing in the Atlantic ahead of Richard Nixon’s reelection?

How about Sam Huntington, the Harvard political theorist with a tendency toward nativism, in 2004?

Maybe it was the philosopher Richard Rorty, in 1998?

The full quote helpfully advises that “The left should…ask the public to consider how the country of Lincoln and Whitman might be achieved.”

However, we think the most appropriate premonition comes (naturally) from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, shared by a reader on Instagram this morning. A USA in the not-too-distant future is suddenly led by a germophobic celebrity named Johnny Gentle and his third party, called C.U.S.P:

The signs were all there.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.