Election 2020

P.J. O'Rourke: 'This Is the End of the World for Classical Liberalism'

The 72-year-old political commentator says Biden's platform is "full of unicorns and flying ponies" but is better than "having the inmates run the asylum."


"This is the end of the world for classical liberalism," writes P.J. O'Rourke in his new collection of essays, A Cry from the Far Middle: Dispatches from a Divided Land. The 72-year-old political commentator, who cut his teeth writing for National Lampoon and is the author of Parliament of Whores and other bestsellers, is pessimistic about the future of American politics.

"I'm appalled by the choice that we've been delivered," says O'Rourke, referencing the 2020 presidential election. "I am worried."

"I have always belonged to the pessimistic wing of the libertarian attitude," explains O'Rourke. "There are many libertarians who believe that people are ultimately rational. I am not among them. This is probably because I spent 20 years as a foreign correspondent, largely covering wars, insurrections, social upheavals, and disturbances of all sorts….We have a rational side, thank God. And I hope we are appealing to that rational side. But it isn't the only side in our multifaceted—and sometimes pretty ugly—little personalities."

A Biden presidency would be bad, O'Rourke says, but a Trump second term would be even worse.

"Biden's campaign platform is 564 pages long. It promises everything to everybody. It's full of unicorns and flying ponies and candy-flavored rainbows and pixie dust. And when those flying ponies glide with the marzipan rainbows and pixie dust starts to gum up the works of society … we're going to be in for a mess … But on the other hand, I think we're done with this experiment of having the inmates run the asylum."

"There's wrong and there's damn wrong."

Either way, America should get ready for an "expensive couple of years."

Produced and edited by Meredith Bragg. 

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