In December 2015, 17 Republicans were competing for the party’s nomination, including eight governors, five senators, a neurosurgeon and a reality TV star. From the get-go, it was clear the GOP was suffering an identity crisis—one MSNBC news anchor Rachel Maddow summed up three months later in her March 2016 Playboy Interview: “Far-right politics is a laugh a minute. There’s no statis. You never know who’s going to come along.”
Maddow was right, and that astute observation about the volatile state of modern-day politics in America was the first of many from a range of subjects to appear in Playboy this year. Ta-Nehisi Coates, the women behind Broad City, Don Cheadle, Trevor Noah and Michael Hayden followed suit, each offering intelligent insights on the range of policy issues that have defined this year’s presidential candidates and their campaigns, from race and gender to income inequality and national security. Collectively, the insights offer a micro-analysis of democracy at work. What’s more, these interviews will surely endure in their historical significance and relevancy, joining the ranks of Playboy’s now-prescient interviews with Donald Trump, in 1990, and Bernie Sanders, in 2013.
Below, we’ve gathered nine perceptive quotes from those conversations. One thing is clear: the extent to which they so succinctly summarize this year’s election is uncanny.