Camelot revisited: John F Kennedy on the campaign trail

Look back to a time when the President of the United States was genuinely the most powerful man on the planet with the reissue of Norman Mailer's Superman Comes to the Supermarket 

God bless America? God help it, first.

In the year of our Trump 2017, US citizens are burdened with a president flouncing towards impeachment faster than a speeding Nixon heading to the Watergate complex.

‘The worst-treated world leader in history?’ Diddums to you, Donald. Like Star Wars’ Emperor Palpatine, our very own yellow-haired Sith Lord is dismantling the Senate from within and wrangling greater power for himself. Simply put, Capitol Hill and the White House have fallen to the Dark Side – and either James Comey, Sally Yates, the FBI, the CIA and British intelligence are all involved in a political conspiracy on an unfathomably large scale or this POTUS is bogus. Even a gaggle of Republicans, keen to be on the right side of history, are clearing their throats to dispute, while Ladbrokes’ slashed odds (4/5 as of 1 June) of impeachment in Trump’s first term tell their own story. There’s a disturbance in the Force…

Roll back to 1960 and political power had a very different face. John F Kennedy – all Hollywood good looks and optimism for a brighter American future – was on the campaign trail to transform the totalitarianism of 1950s USA into a free republic. Unlike Trump’s pledge to ‘Make America Great Again’, he saw a nation that was ready to embrace change for the better – for social progression, space exploration and power to the people. His 1960 campaign slogan says it all: ‘A Time for Greatness’. He was A New Hope to Trump’s The Empire Strikes Back.

Norman Mailer, renowned American novelist and journalist, followed Kennedy in the final months of his campaign. Mailer hadn’t voted in 12 years, but seeing how the presidential hopeful reached the people convinced him to hand in his ballot paper once again. Weeks before the polls opened in November 1960, Esquire published the writer’s pro-Kennedy treatise, ‘Superman Comes to the Supermarket’. The essay redefined political reporting with Mailer’s frank, first-person voice identifying Kennedy as the “existential hero” who could awaken the nation from its postwar slumber and conformist Eisenhower years.

Mailer’s early example of New Journalism, republished by Taschen on the centennial of President Kennedy’s birth, comes alive in this illustrated edition. In the coming images, follow in Mailer’s footsteps en route to Kennedy’s iconic victory. History awaits. 

Order the book at taschen.com