The Early Days of a Better Nation

Monday, November 03, 2008


From over here it looks scarily close. I don't believe the polls for a second. There's the Bradley effect thing. There's the Nader-under-the-radar thing. There's the far-left anyone-but-Obama thing. (There must be some college students who are swayed by that.) There's the whole voter suppression and Diebold machines thing.

And then of course there's all the people who said they'd vote for Obama, see the polls showing him in the lead, and figure they don't need to vote. Young voters? I'd rely on young voters to hit the snooze button.

Most of all, though, there's the paradox that while nearly all the Americans I know personally are Obama supporters, and the sort of America Obama projects is very much the America I've seen when I've visited, I know that's only a fraction of America, and that the America I know from the outside is reflected perfectly in McCain-Palin. I can't help feeling it's out there, lurking. It's true that a reverse between opinion polls and actual votes on this scale would be unprecedented, but this is an unprecedented election.

Still, I'm not going to obsess about it. It's no skin off my nose. I don't live in the US, and I'm a science-fiction writer. If McCain-Palin win, I can look forward to a good decade or more of easy money from cheap gloom and cheap laughs. The rise of Nehemiah Scudder in a skirt and the devolution of the US into Gilead or some other dystopia would score me a fair few mainstream press pieces ('Can you do us 800 words on how you, as a science fiction writer, see ..?' Kaa-ching!) Sure, I have family in America, but by the same token they have family over here. We can put them up if necessary. Really, we can.

But if you live there and you want Obama to win, it might be a good idea to vote for him. That's all I'm saying.


Voted for him two weeks ago. I'm a conservative, but the worst government the US gets is a crooked party Congress with a stupid party beard Executive.
Besides, first black president- even if he's just another Shy-town outfit guy.


Heh. The last time my State voted for a Republican, it was Reagan the first time, and before that it was Ike, and before -that- it was Hoover's first term and Socialists could expect to get hundreds of thousands of votes... all of whom swept states in a way that McCain most certainly won't... so I'm not too ashamed about planning to vote for someone who's okay with gay marriage and who is against bombing nominal allies.

The McCain/Palin axis is a minority, but as Robert Heinlein put it when inventing Nehemiah Scudder (I think I was one of the first persons to describe Palin as Scudder in a skirt, BTW) "a combination of a dynamic evangelist, television, enough money, and modern techniques of advertising and propaganda might make [earlier] efforts look like a corner store compared to Sears Roebuck. Throw in a depression for good measure, promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Negroism, and a good large dose of anti-'furriners' in general and anti-intellectuals here at home and the result might be something quite frightening--particularly when one recalls that our voting system is such that a minority distributed as pluralities in enough states can constitute a working majority in Washington."

Ken, that's a really dumb anti-Nader screed you linked. There are much better arguments out there.

It's substance-free, providing no evidence whatsoever for its bits of vitriol and attacks on Nader's motivations. It accepts no fault or blame whatsoever on the part of Gore for losing to Bush or the Democratic Party for losing Nader voters, to whom it is apparently entitled. The arrogance exemplified by its idiotic claim that Nader supporters are motivated by "nihilism" leaves it zero chance of persuading an on-the-fence lefty or neutral observer. It's an exercise in pure, red-meat in-group motivation, not too far removed from a Bill O'Reilly sermon on secular humanism.

Srsly folks, I don't think Obama will change the world. I don't even think he'll change the USA.

BUT - as I only realised a few days ago I very much want to see him win tomorrow.

Not because that will make America a better place but because that will show that America is already a better place than some of us thought it was.

And I want that to be the case. Rank sentimentality I suppose.

People get ready...

I'll be voting for Obama in less than twelve hours now, at my polling place in Obama's very own neighborhood. I have my quibbles with Obama, but he represents a much better choice than McCain. As to the Nader option, I refused to sign a ballot access petition here in Illinois for the first time ever when I was approached this year by a Nader volunteer. For crying out loud, just what do they think they are working towards? What human good can it amount to?

In an unrelated aside, I thought The Execution Channel was a really important novel, and I have The Night Sessions on my to-read pile at home thanks to the library where I work proving to have the wisdom to order it. I hope it enters a US publication schedule soon--please trumpet it here on the blog when it does--so I can snap up that edition.

I'm glad you seem to be more at peace with the possibility of a Republican Presidency than you once were, because I think it's very, very likely that the americans'll get one for all the reasons you mentioned.

I also know, through a handful of friends who work at Ipsos-Reid (the survey company), that people living in the bible-belt do not answer surveys or polls. It throws the results because the people who answer polls are the type of people who want to answer polls.

Whatever happens, though, we have until January 20th to come to terms with the results... At least there's that.

I'm glad to have you saying this, though it doesn't affect me personally; I decided to vote for Obama months ago, and McCain's picking Palin nailed the coffin of his candidacy shut as far as I was concerned. Though my vote won't make much difference, because I'm in California, which has a vanishingly small chance of going for McCain. I'm more personally concerned with Proposition 8, which Charles Stross has just blogged about in his "go out and vote, dammit!" post.

Ironically, I believe in most of the things the Republicans traditionally stood for: individualism, personal freedom of choice, the rule of law, strict Constitutionalism, balanced budgets, low taxes, fiscal conservatism generally, sound money, and free markets and free trade. And the Republicans have systematically raped nearly all of those, while whoring after the Bible thumpers's votes. A few years back, I surprised myself by referring, at dinner, to a friend who had moved out of state as living in "the civilized part of Kansas"—and then realizing that I think of Lawrence as civilized because they're the only part of Kansas that votes Democratic, and by implication that I class the Republicans as barbarians. These days, the Democrats are even more likely to give us fiscal conservatism than the Republicans, who have figured out that tax cuts can buy popularity (panem et circenses, you know) even if they create unbalanced budgets that wreck the country's capital structure.

Of course, I could sit this one out, and say, "A plague on both your houses." But tomorrow night I'll be watching the returns and hoping for Obama to win (and for Proposition 8 to lose, for reasons that Stross does a great job of explaining). And if I care enough to cheer for one side (or boo the other), I care enough to vote for it.

Besides, Obama isn't just running against ignorant barbarians; he himself looks very civilized.

On the other hand, with computers increasingly involved in voting, I fear that Heinlein's scenario for stealing an election in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress may be played out (or, perhaps, played out again).

Wish us luck, and thanks for caring.

The far left is incredibly insignificant in America, even among college students. It's not going to have any impact on the election.

I also hope to see Irish-American candidate Barack O'Bama win today. As for who really speaks for the 'other America' - the one that was captured by the she-Devil of Wasilla and her satanic minions - I recommend you beg, borrow, or steal (or even buy) a copy of John Bageant's _Deer Hunting with Jesus_. Bageant is a proud redneck, but it's not only his neck that's red, the same is true of his politics. He is very very hard on both the Republicans who have organised brutal exploitation of the American workers, and denied them adequate health care and equally hard on the smug middle-class pseudo-liberals who abandoned the US working classes to their fate long ago. Those of you keen on second amendment rights will also enjoy his stirring defence of same.

And no, I'm not related to Mr. Bageant, nor do I own shares in his publishing company.

Finally, a question for Cadre MacLeod; like others who write on the US (and closer to home, 'the occupied six counties') Bageant identifies the 'Scots-Irish' calvinist roots of US culture as the source of much of contemporary American conservatism. What's the historical materialist answer to this one?

What's the historical materialist answer to this one?

Firing squads?

Lenin enjoyed hunting in the woods with rifles and he got married in church (to a woman!)

Vote Lenin, rednecks.

I saw several blog and other posts last week with nice graphs showing that the Bradley effect disappeared through the 90's and now doesn't exist. Therefore it should not be worried about. Unfortunately I can't now find said posts.

I'm British, but the way I put it is that so far it is more likely that a McCain win would lead to lots more people dying unecessarily and avoidably. This is because of his tax plan and healthcare plans, and the way he looks to be more interested in bombing the shit out of anyone who annoys him.

Kal, you remind me a Nader voter I overheard in a pub here in Central Europe. He was, he loudly proclaimed, one of those... people... who voted for Nader in Florida. The (English) bloke who was with him gasped as this was revealed to the entire pub. The Nader-wit said something like 'it's important that the left not be forgotten'.

Well, if all the idealists vote for Nader - it will be. No, the Democrats don't have a right to your vote, but decent human beings have a right to live in a better world. And that means voting realistically, and not for some utopia where Ralph is gonna make it all better.

Brian, I'm talking to you too. You really wanted to take the risk that McCain and Palin win, just to make a point no one will notice? By voting for _Nader_, of all people?

I voted for McKinney, not Nader, and I live in Massachusetts...

... I'll make you a deal.

If Massachusetts goes to the Republicans in this election, and they don't immediately call for a formal investigation and straighten that out... and it is because of the difference in votes attributable to McKinney voters... hell, to third-party voters left of Obama in general...

Then I will chop off my d*ck and mail it to you, Tim.

It isn't going to happen.

Tim - I don't think Nader has been forgotten, exactly. But congrats to you, unlike Bernstein, for at least gesturing towards an actual argument.

I want a world where the US doesn't occupy Iraq & Afghanistan, threaten to bomb Iran & Pakistan, throw arms & cash at Israel & Colombia, etc etc. I want lots of other things too, but let's start there.

There's no realistic hope of such a world in the short term, which leaves two questions. First, should I just give up - decide that I'll accept anything slightly better than what we have now, and that Afghanis and Palestinians don't have the right to live in a better world after all? One could make that argument, but on historical & ethical grounds I would disagree.

So, second question, is the long-run goal of a minimally acceptable world more likely to be brought about by a vote for Obama, who can win and who is marginally better than the other guy who can win but who is nevertheless fundamentally on the wrong side, or by a vote for Nader, who can't win but whose relative success might contribute towards the day when those who are on the right side can finally take power? Again, one could make an argument for Obama, but on historical & theoretical grounds I would disagree.

Kal, don't neglect the null hypothesis.

b - I am not sure what you mean by the null hypothesis. If you mean that a world where the US is not an empire is simply impossible, then, well, as I said, on historical grounds I would disagree. Empires fall. Social systems are revolutionized. On the scale of decades and centuries these things happen fairly often. It hasn't been twenty years since the last collapse of a superpower.

I meant that the probability of either having an impact might be zero.

Eh. I think the impact will be pretty minimal, particularly given the situation this year (Nader, McKinney et al running unexciting campaigns and McCain with a ~2% chance of victory), but it doesn't have to be much to be greater than zero. And filling out an absentee ballot is easy.

But I do have to admit that I can't get very worked up about how anyone's voting today. Note that I got into this conversation by commenting on the stupidity of a particular anti-Nader article, not by making a case for a Nader or Green Party vote.

Well, the networks have just called it for Obama, and reported McCain's concession. Let's hope this will be the early days of a better nation.

I remember talking to a friend of mine who voted for Nader in the Bush/Gore race, because he thought there was no real difference between the major party candidates. As soon as Bush won, however, he admitted that he regretted his decision, as well as that of all of his fellow Nader supporters, because as unappealing as "the lesser of the two evils" sounds, it's still an important distinction. All that to say that regardless of the problems associated with our two party system, I'm very happy that I voted for Obama... especially as I'm currently living in a battleground state!

Ken- Sorry about your loss of low hanging literary fodder, but I'm quite confident that you'll manage continue to find material to fuel your art despite this happy turn of events. On that note, I just read LIGHTING OUT in the 25th "year's best science fiction" anthology and enjoyed it greatly.

The SF writer can have it both ways. He'll just write alternate history instead.

... and my duck is safe.

And let the record show that Vanderburgh County, Indiana, delivered for Obama. Thanks doubtless to the 180 doors that me and my buddies knocked on in the last four hours of election day!

Early Days of a Better Indiana - you bet. And maybe the end of the Civil War - or at least, in churchill's words, the end of the beginning. Maybe!
Thanks for the offer to put us up; hopefully we'll not need it now though.

New cartoons up on the blog....

James, I only found out today that Iniana had swung (I've been away from the internets) and I've been thinking how delighted you must be.

I'm almost saddened by the Obama win, if only because I was looking forward to another rant like "Like a Death; or, Altogether Elsewhere, Vast" (Nov. 9th, 2004) this time around.

Anyway, back to the Scots.

One reason adduced for the strength of right-wing evangelical conservative politics in the US (and amidst the dreary steeples of Armagh and points north) is the preponderance of Scottish immigrants/settlers and their descendants in the populations of those benighted areas.

Yet Scotland itself appears to have evaded such a fate. Ken, why do you think that is?

Randolph, sorry I forgot the phrase was your coinage (I must have seen it on Making Light). That Heinlein quote is remarkably apt.

Cde O'Kane, I don't have a historical materialist explanation for the Scots-Irish thing in the US. About Scotland, I refer you to one of my better posts: Islands, Funerals, and the footnotes of Buckle and to my comments on Neil Davidson's Discovering the Scottish Revolution.

I can't recall "If This Goes On" though I did read a lot of Heinlein at one time, though I did see a review of his work by Charles Platt once that suggested that it's not surpising that Charles Manson was reading "Stranger In A Strange Land" at the time of his arrest.

John Wyndham's "The Chyrsalids" springs to mind as another novel in which the krazy khristians have taken over, Michael Bishop's "Philip K.Dick Is Dead,Alas" set in an alternate 1982 where Richard Nixon had been elected for the fourth time one where the horror of a right-run state is memorable, not least for the scene where the protagonist as a child has to watch his parents being stoned as traitors in glass-panelled trucks driving through town as if in a parade.

Redfag, thanks for the kind words. Steve, I'm happy to trade the chance for a rant against an actual positive development ...

I mean, Redag. Sorry. Getting used to a new machine and keyboard.

Personally I think The One with "a combination of a dynamic evangelist, television, enough money, and modern techniques of advertising" is rather closer to the inspirational Nehemiah Scudder & Palin to the Jeffersonian ideal of small town democracy, but we shall see.

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