Subj: Re: politics
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My mood swings on this are so violent. I was sure at the end of the third debate that Kerry would sweep the nation. But watching five minutes of the Sunday morning talk shows this weekend, while we were staying with my in-laws, convinced me that we were going to lose by just as much. Debates, I realized, are a 19th—no, actually, an 18th-century political format that has, wonderfully, survived. But they’re not the dominant form today. The dominant form is the 5 second soundbite, and the vacuous even-handedness of the TV pundit, who has neither facts nor political theory at his disposal. So the memory of how utterly Kerry trounced Bush, when they went head to head in a format that privileged logic, fact, and argument, will be snowed under by the many thousands of TV minutes that will accumulate between now and November 2. The people won’t watch re-runs of the debates—as, in an earlier era, they might have re-read the transcripts of them—and so they’ll forget.
Subj: re: politics
Yes, so many news cycles to go before we sleep. And the way they fill them—it’s like the more outlandish a statement, the likelier it is to become a headline. What about the fact that Bush has sex with animals? Why isn’t that being reported more, the Bush-animal-sex story? Puzzling.
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Thought you’d be interested in a reader’s opinion—a reader, importantly enough, from Ohio. It is a land bombarded by political advertisements and candidates preaching to crowds in cornfields. Polls throughout these plains shoot up and down. Yard signs sprout anew every day. If Bush is the mean kid and Kerry the smart kid, that other kid—the one who torched a closet in school to get back at a minor teacher infraction—is off the ballots, at least at this point. So there’s good news, but it’s always off-set by other news. Living in Ohio today is like being in a relationship with a lover who is unstable; you get a manic phone call at night that depresses you and then you make up the next morning and feel good for a few hours. And then the phone rings.
Let me agree about doubting polls. There’s something that flies below the radar of polling. Our side has done an excellent job at registering voters and talking with people. The polls don’t capture the amount of sweat and agony people have put into this process.
I’ve been calling registered voters in Ohio. There are some people who seem quite sensible. They’ll talk about the issues in a way that makes you feel happy to live in a democracy. But then you strike the crackpot. During one phone calling session, a friend of mine reached a drunk Vietnam vet who rambled on about how Kerry took medals from “the North Vietnam.” Kerry, you see, had gone to Paris in a secret meeting and all this. My friend asked about his veterans’ benefits under Bush’s presidency. The man wanted to talk about Kerry’s medals. My friend asked about health care in general and the war in Iraq. The man continued to talk about Kerry’s medals.
My intellectual affinities run towards John Dewey and his faith in democracy, but occasionally I am struck by the cynical insights of Walter Lippmann and H.L. Mencken. To paraphrase an old saying I’ve heard a lot during this election, no one ever went poor fooling the American public. You could change the “no one ever went poor” to “no one ever lost an election.” In the end, though, what can you do but make phone calls and knock on doors and talk to your neighbors? And, as one previous writer put it, pray.
Subj: civil wars
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So we have two civil wars coming up. That leaked national intelligence estimate promised civil war in Iraq. The other is the “civil war within the Republican Party” that ex-Reagan wonk Bruce Bartlett promises after a Bush victory. Wouldn’t such a struggle commence anyway, in the wake of a legally contested defeat, with the Republicans resigned to a sort of Babylonian captivity of war-profiteering in the private sector? Wouldn’t it culminate in the 2008 Republican primaries? What if W. ran again? Or will he go back to drinking if he loses this thing?
So who do we root for? Not the fundamentalists. They want to outlaw abortion, gay marriage, gay sex, and maybe even all pre- and extramarital sex. They want Jesus in the schools and the courts. In their future we will be governed by the graduates of Patrick Henry College, where the curriculum mandates dogmatic instruction of evolution theory.
But then there’s the “modernizers” or “pragmatists.” I sense pragmatism here means something like, We are not going to let silly issues like abortion, guns, or gays obstruct our greed.
I can’t imagine that the GOP would remain electable under the full control of the evangelicals. But then again I have only ever personally visited one red state—Indiana. I thought it was a foreign country. I was a 25-year-old on a business trip to a printing press (it specializes in Bibles). Over waffles on a Sunday morning, after church, the customer service rep and the press foreman told me I ought to hurry up and get married, have some kids. I told them I could use a date.
When I look at Slate‘s Election Scorecard, which tipped in favor of Kerry Monday, I can see in that mosaic of red, blue, light red, light blue, and gray a solution to the prospect of 50-50 decisions resolved in the courts every four years: Dissolve the Union.
No more electoral college; no more red, blue, swing; no more U.S.A. I don’t mean to sound alarmist but this thing isn’t working. I propose 7 new states carved from the existing Republic. They can maintain a loose alliance, though without the obligation to support each other in foreign entanglements. Global dominance can now be ceded to the EU—it hasn’t gone that well for us anyway. The borders of our new states should be porous. After age 18 adults have the option of crossing the border to pursue their happiness as their political and cultural leanings compel them (how it is right now more or less, minus a failed experiment called the federal government). So, the new states:
Red Sox Nation
Composite states: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland (including Washington, D.C.), Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin
Form of government: Social democracy
First head of state: Howard Dean
Sox fans enjoy state-provided healthcare, free higher education, the option of gay marriage, abortion on demand, without apology, and continue to serve as the world’s leading providers of financial and media services. Budget caps are imposed on the Yankees of New York. The sanest of the new states (despite its sometimes shrill executive), Sox Nation boasts no standing armed forces of its own but controls the former American nuclear arsenal by remote control. Also, Pedro still throws pitches at people’s heads.
Composite states: California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington
Form of government: Narco-syndicalism
First head of state: Arnold Schwartzenegger
Free of the burdens of national political ambitions, Arnold legalizes marijuana, and the cash crop revitalizes Pacifica’s economy, as the new dealers synergize with Silicon Alley to sell their grass globally.
CRINGE (Christian Republic in God’s Embrace)
Composite states: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, and all those other currently red ones in the South and the middle, plus Alaska.
Form of government: Democratic theocracy (everybody votes for God)
First head of state: God, as told to George W. Bush
We been praying a lot and working hard. Just us folks down here, believe in God, and don’t have sex if we ain’t married. Laying off the booze, dried out the whole Republic. Damn that moonshine. Devil’s concoction. Overturned that Dred Scott decision, we did. Got ourselves a culture of life and an ownership society in these parts. How can you have a culture or a society anyway if nobody’s alive and nobody owns nothin’? Got ourselves a damn big Army too. It’s very lethal. Gonna do some drillin’ in Alaska. No harm done, just a little pinch. Need some more jobs. Workin’ on that. Real hard. Amen. (Sponsored by the people of Saudi Arabia.)
Composite state: Florida
Form of government: Gerontocracy
First head of state: Bob Graham
Populated by retirees from Sox Nation and CRINGE, Florida is a welfare state offering a free medicinal prescription drug benefit subsidized by its neighbors to the North.
SWEAT (Southwestern Esteemed Aged Territory)
Composite states: Arizona, New Mexico
Form of government: Straighttalkocracy
First head of state: John McCain
Much like Florida, but with more of a cowboy aesthetic. And free drugs.
Composite state: Nevada
Capital: Las Vegas
Form of government: Casino
First head of state: Donald Trump