The Voice of the People

I mocked this a bit on Twitter already, but I want to mock it some more here, and also, make a somewhat more serious point. This, found on Facebook, is in reference to my post yesterday about voting for Kasich in the Ohio primary (poster anonymized to avoid the appearance of me maliciously pointing people toward some random schmuck):

So, a few points here.

1. Democrat: Nope.

2. Socialist: Bwa ha ha ha hah ha! No.

3. Disdain for uneducated and “unwashed” whites: Folks, we all know I was the first person in my immediate family to graduate from high school (not to mention college), yes? And that I’m white? When you describe the uneducated and “unwashed,” you’re describing my family and where I come from. I can be called many things, but “self-hating” isn’t one of them. It’s certainly true that I am neither uneducated nor “unwashed” now, but you never do forget your past. At least I don’t.

4. Self-designated elite: You know, generally speaking, the “self-designated elite” is better described as Republicans than Democrats (or independents), especially if one is speaking economically. Demographically speaking (white, bachelor’s degree, heterosexually married, well-off), it’s certainly true that someone like me is more likely to be a Republican than a Democrat. I don’t know that I would call folks in my general demographic “elite”; they’re just white, college-educated, heterosexually married and well-off.

Be that as it may, given that someone like me is generally more likely to be an “establishment Republican” than not, and Kasich is pretty well what passes for an establishment Republican these days, then someone like me voting for Kasich is actually fairly unexceptional.

5. Ohio law allows me (or anyone else) to ask for a ballot from either party when I vote in the primary, so I’m confused as to how my asking for the GOP ballot would “take away the voice of the people.” When I asked for the Democratic ballot in the primary eight years ago, was I taking away from the voice of the people then as well? Or is it different when it’s the GOP ballot? If so, how so? And if in both cases the State of Ohio allowed me to ask for either, and the State of Ohio’s government is elected by the people, then is not the ability to ask for either ballot also the will of the people?

6. Who the fuck died and put this petty little ignorant shitbird in charge of determining who “the people” are? Even if I were a Democrat and a socialist who self-designated myself as the elite and hated uneducated and unwashed white people, I would still be “the people.” This petty little ignorant shitbird is also “the people,” as personally depressing as I may find that fact. On election day, if he wanted to vote and had a flat tire, I would drive this asshole to the polling station myself so that he could pull the proverbial lever and possibly cancel out my vote.

Why? Because this petty little ignorant shitbird should vote, and so should I, and so should you, provided you are legally able to. We are all “the people” and the people — as many as possible — should decide who leads them, and who should not.

Now, this petty little ignorant shitbird may stamp his feet and whine that I didn’t vote the way he wanted, waaaaaaaaaaaaah, but one, fuck this dude, I’ll vote how I want, and two, sometimes we don’t get our way and that’s life. I’ve voted in seven presidential elections to date; I didn’t get what I wanted in three of them. In the entire time I’ve lived in the OH-8 congressional district I’ve never voted for a winner for the House of Representatives; it’s unlikely I ever will, in point of fact. Should I mewl like a petulant child about that fact, querulously complaining that the “voice of the people” has somehow been blocked because I didn’t get what I want? No, I should probably suck it up and move on.

Why did John Kasich win in Ohio? Because the voice of the people spoke, and what it said was “We want John Kasich (oh, and also Hillary Clinton, kthxbye).” What comprised the voice of the people? In the case of the Ohio GOP primary, lots of folks, including me, presumably him and 1,952,683 others. That’s a lot of voices in “the voice of the people.”

I get this dude is sad that the voice of the people didn’t tell him what he wanted to hear. No one likes to hear the word “no.” But it doesn’t mean the voice of the people was wrong in what it said, or not actually the voice of the people. How wonderful for us.

Clinton and Sanders and Trump and Kasich and Also a Bit About Cruz and Rubio

Well, that was an interesting Tuesday night in American politics, wasn’t it? A few thoughts about it.

1. First, sympathy for Sanders supporters out there, who after last week’s emotionally satisfying win in Michigan — even if Clinton ended the night with a net gain of delegates thanks to Mississippi — had to deal with their candidate going 0-5 in state results last night. To be fair, there’s still a small possibility that Sanders might pull ahead in Missouri once absentee votes are tallied in, but after the other results of the evening, winning by the thinnest possible margin in a single state is the political equivalent of “playing for pride.”

However and more importantly, Clinton yet again expanded her pledged delegate lead. Leaving out Missouri for the moment, Clinton netted more than 100 delegates over Sanders in the other four states voting last night. Given the closeness of the Missouri race, and the proportional nature of delegate allocation in Democratic primaries, it doesn’t matter if Sanders eventually squeaks out a win there — Clinton still ends the night with a triple-digit delegate gain.

2. I had someone on Twitter last night say, yes, well, but Florida is a closed primary state where Clinton was favored; okay, but she also took Ohio by 13 points, and that’s an effectively open primary (technically “semi-open”). I do see some Sanders supporters pinning hopes of victories based on whether a particular state has caucuses or open primaries, which is fine, but it’s a bit of fetish thinking. There are four types of primaries and caucuses: Open, closed, semi-open and semi-closed. Leaving out semi-closed caucuses (only one state has that and hasn’t voted yet) Clinton has won contests in every format but open caucuses; Sanders has won contests in every format but closed primaries. I’m not sure Sanders can rely on voting format to save him.

Even if he did, a) the next set of contests features a closed primary (Arizona) with the largest delegate count of the evening, and Sanders hasn’t won any of those yet, and there are nine more of those including New York and Pennsylvania, b) there are only two more open caucus contests left (that being the format Clinton hasn’t won in yet). So, uh, yeah. That math doesn’t look great for Sanders.

Ultimately Sanders’ problem isn’t format, it’s that he doesn’t win enough contests (nine to Clinton’s nineteen), doesn’t win enough big states (he’s won only one contest with more than a hundred delegates; Clinton’s won six), and the one big contest he won, he won by a slim margin (49.8% to 48.2%) meaning he netted only a few pledged delegates over Clinton (four). Meanwhile Clinton’s pledged delegate net in the large state contests she’s won is 218 over Sanders.

3. But Sanders can still take it! Well, as a matter of pure mathematics, sure. As a practical matter involving real voters in real states and territories going to actual polling stations or caucuses, it’s pretty much over at this point. It’s not to say that Sanders can’t or won’t win more states; I suspect he will. But the question is will he ever catch up in the pledged delegate count, and the answer is, that’s going to be a hard row for him to hoe. Someone on Twitter last night suggested that they said the same thing about Obama in 2008, and look where he is now. But on March 16, 2008, one, Obama was ahead of Clinton in the pledged delegate count, not the other way around, and two, as a matter of percentages, Obama and Clinton were substantially closer than Clinton and Sanders are now — Clinton had 92% of the pledged delegates Obama had then; Sanders has 72% of the pledged delegates Clinton has now.

And while we’re considering this, bear in mind we’re only talking about pledged candidates here, not superdelegates. With superdelegates, Clinton is already two thirds of the way to the magic number of 2,383 delegates needed for the nomination. Adding in Sanders’ superdelegates, he’s 35% of the way there. Superdelegates can change their mind between now and the election, but if I were a Sanders supporter I wouldn’t be holding my breath. Again, it’s not impossible for Sanders to win the nomination, but at this point it’s gone from “unlikely” to “really goddamned difficult.”

If my Twitter feed is any indication, I suspect a number of Sanders supporters have begun the grieving process — the disbelief that Sanders lost Ohio (it was supposed to be like Michigan!), the glumness of looking at the Florida result, the glimmer of hope in Missouri, extinguished as Clinton ground out a .2% victory. As I noted before, I have sympathy for Sanders supporters. It was not a good night for them. Clinton supporters, on the other hand, have to be feeling pretty good.

4. On the other side of things, oh, hey, look, John Kasich won Ohio! Which is nice, and deprived Trump of its 66 delegates, which means for the first time since early February, Trump is below his Fivethirtyeight delegate tracker number, that being the number of delegates he needs to clinch the GOP nomination ahead of the convention. He was at 104% of that number going into the evening; now he’s at 96% of that number. As someone who voted for Kasich basically to achieve this very goal, I feel I had a vote well cast (note well, this number may not include his Missouri delegates).

Not, mind you, that I think Kasich can win the nomination; some folks have suggested that he would have to win 110% of the currently available GOP delegates from here on out to do so, and, well. That would be a stretch, wouldn’t it. Nor do I think Cruz will get it either; Fivethirtyeight has him at 54% of his delegate goal. At this point, and despite Cruz’s self-lathering nonsense suggesting he could win the nomination outright, Cruz and Kasich are in the race to keep Trump from hitting his delegate number, forcing a contested convention.

At which Trump is already hinting there will be riots if he isn’t given the nomination! One, bless his heart. Two, he’s not wrong, especially if Trump is close to the number of delegates he needs going in. The sort of folks willing to cold-cock protesters at rallies aren’t folks who will be willing to let some back-room bureaucrats snatch their man’s rightful nomination out of his famously not-short fingers. It’s of course keeping with Trump’s personal idiom to give a speech last night about the party needing to come together, and then this morning strongly hint that his people are going to wreck shit if they don’t get their way. Congratulations, GOP! Your frontrunner is a classy dude.

5. That said, let me go out on a limb and suggest Trump is going to hit his number. Why? Because Ohio was a semi-open primary, which meant people like me, who don’t normally vote in the GOP primary, were able to cross the line and do so, and it appears that a lot did — there were 1.6 times as many voters in the Ohio GOP primary last night than in the Democratic primary, at least some of which were folks like me voting against Trump. Which is nice, but there’s only two more open primaries on the GOP docket (Indiana and Wisconsin) and one open caucus (American Samoa). The rest of the contests are closed or semi-closed, limiting the number of people willing to save the GOP from itself. From here on out it’s up to GOP voters to do it.

And will they? Unclear. There have been four closed primaries so far, and they’ve split half for Trump and half for Ted Cruz (who, to be clear, is not exactly an optimal alternative). The closed caucuses have also split between Trump and Cruz (and Minnesota and DC for Rubio). As most of the upcoming contests are winner-take-all, Trump wouldn’t have to share most of his delegates when he wins, so if he wins, even by a tiny margin, he still leaps ahead.

Trump is going to win more, and it seems likely to me that Cruz and Kasich, the other guys in the race, will probably eat each others’ lunch to Trump’s benefit. One of them should probably drop out if at this point they really aim to stop Trump. Kasich is the obvious one to drop, since he has no chance to win the nomination outright, and because Cruz won’t, no matter what; he’d rather push an entire troop of Girl Scouts under a bus than give up his run. Also there’s the matter of who are Kasich’s supporters at this point. He presumably would pick up whoever was still voting for poor Marco Rubio. Those three people won’t help him.

On the other hand, Cruz is an overripe pustule of hateful need who deserves to be dropkicked into historical oblivion, and the rest of the GOP primary schedule doesn’t really match his political strengths, so maybe he should drop and let Kasich roll as the sane alternative to Trump. But again, Cruz has no intention of leaving the race until the race leaves him. So onward Trump will likely go, to the nomination.

6. And what about Marco Rubio, who exited the race last night? Honestly, I can’t be bothered to think of him any further. He was always underready, and the fact that the GOP ever seriously considered him as their answer to Obama is a reminder that the GOP neither understands Obama nor understands anyone who isn’t white as paste. Look! A young ethnic person! The kids love that! Surely we shall win the White House now! Meanwhile, Rubio’s politics were those of a conservative 73-year-old white dude shaking his cane in the yard at the kids riding their bikes in the road (Cruz’s politics are the same, except the 73-year-old is also praying for God to send a bear to rip the children to shreds). Dear GOP: Voters do pay attention to policies and positions, not just packaging. Which is why (among other things) an old white man is more popular with under-30 Democratic voters than his opponent.

But now Rubio is gone, and good riddance. He’ll soon be gone from the Senate as well, and where he goes from here I have a complete lack of interest, so long as it is in the private sector and I never have to deal with him again. I’m sad for the GOP that he was their Great Establishment Hope for ’16, and that what we have left is Kasich, who has no chance, Cruz, who should have “well, actually” in blinking neon over his head, and of course Trump, the walking embodiment of political nihilism and sub-standard cuts of beef. The GOP deserves no better than this, but our nation certainly does.

The Big Idea: Lavie Tidhar

World Fantasy Award-winning author Lavie Tidar came up with a awful, terrible, no-good idea for a novel — and then wrote it anyway, resulting in A Man Lies Dreaming, which then went on to garner starred reviews in the trades, award nominations and wins, and the sort of glowing praise writers dream of. What’s this awful, terrible, no-good idea, and why did Tidhar decide to write it anyway? The answers await you below.

LAVIE TIDHAR:

The idea is simple: what if a disgraced Adolf Hitler was working as a lowly private eye in 1939’s London?

But I should backtrack.

Ideas are easy. Bad ideas are easier still. And as far as ideas go, this must be one of the worst. This was certainly the reaction of my agent, when I mentioned it to him – a slightly shocked expression followed by genuine laughter. That’s the thing I like about my agent – he gets it, even when it sounds (as my work often does to him) ridiculous.

“Write it!” he said. “No one will buy it, but you should write it!”

So let me backtrack a bit more. . .

Around 2011, I was living back in London. It was a cold winter. My novel Osama, which had been rejected by more publishers than I could count, was finally coming out from a small publisher in the UK. My Bookman Histories trilogy was finished and delivered, and I was out of contract, out of cash, and I didn’t have a coat. A lot of this, I suspect, would feed into the book later. . .

I was figuring out what to write next. At the time, I was trying to work on a difficult book which would eventually become The Violent Century. It was an act of faith, since no one was lining up to buy it, but it felt worthwhile, and so I struggled on. I don’t actually know why some books are so hard to write, while others feel natural, easy. But I remember the moment when A Man Lies Dreaming came. It was around one o’clock at night. I was reading one of Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther novels. They’re excellent crime thrillers about a private detective in Nazi Germany, sometimes difficult to read but generally brilliant. In the novel (I forget which one), Kerr makes a throwaway mention to the idea that Adolf Hitler could have himself become a private eye. A light pinged in my head.

It was the very ridiculousness of the idea that I liked. It was the sort of idea that is so offensive, so tasteless, that I would be terribly offended if anyone ever did it…

Which is why it appealed to me, I think. I thought, if anyone might actually get away with something like this, it could be me. I don’t mean this in a hubristic sense. But the Holocaust features large in my life. My family died in Auschwitz. My mother was born in a refugee camp in Germany, after the war. If anyone could do this – and I didn’t know if I could! – then it just might be me.

I remember being very excited about it. Then I tried to forget all about it.

Of course I didn’t want to write it. It was a ridiculous idea, an unsellable idea, and moreover it would require me to walk down a pretty dark path to reach it. So I put it away.

I worked on The Violent Century. In the meantime, to my surprise, Osama had picked up a few award nominations. It ended up winning a World Fantasy Award a year later, just a week after I’d finally finished the manuscript of The Violent Century – which quickly sold to Hodder & Stoughton in the UK.

All of this was pretty unexpected.

I tried not to work on “the Hitler book”. Occasionally the subject would come up, and people would laugh, and shake their heads. I tried to work on the next novel, but nothing worked. Meanwhile, on the sly, I was acquiring books. Hitler’s childhood. Hitler and women. Mein Kampf (my God, is there a book more unreadable than Mein Kampf?). Then the manga version of Mein Kampf. . . Hitler became a constant presence – Hitler the abused child, Hitler the starving artist in Vienna, living in an attic with his friend Gustl, Hitler the young soldier suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. . . Hitler, in fact, before he became Hitler.

Hitler was not a monster. None of us are. He was a person who had become monstrous by his actions, and I felt it was imperative for me to understand Hitler, to get into his head.

Let me say this: it’s not a particularly pleasant way of spending a year of your life, living with Adolf Hitler.

I didn’t want to write the book, but nothing else was working, and Hitler was everywhere, staring at me from the shadows, a fedora over his head: a bitter, unknown, raging Hitler, a man who history had passed by, a loser now eking a meagre living on the mean streets of London.

So I gave in.

It was late one night. The entire first draft was written at night, between midnight and 3am, very quickly and intensely. I remember that night, sitting at the computer, itching to get rid of him. I thought, I’ll only write the first line. It’s been stuck in my head for a long time, so long that it’s become a mantra. It was a line in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, in fact, whose casual anti-Semitism had arrested me for years.

No one would have to know, I figured. I’d just write it and then… move on.

So I wrote: She had the face of an intelligent Jewess.

And I couldn’t stop.

It’s been bottled up for so long that it all came out. My hero, “Wolf”, sitting in his office above the Jew baker’s shop. Outside the prostitutes are gathering in Berwick Street. The night is full of eyes, watching. And a glamorous Jewish woman, Isabella Rubinstein, comes waltzing into Wolf’s office with the offer of a job, to find her missing sister…

I couldn’t stop. I’m not sure I spoke to anyone much during this time. Hitler’s picture stared at me from the desk. The story unfolded, a dark comedy, a detective noir novel, an alternate history… take your pick. And all this while, grounding this lurid tale of shund, or pulp, was its possible narrator – Shomer, a Jewish pulp writer trapped in Auschwitz, the dreaming man of the title – a man seeking an impossible escape.

A Man Lies Dreaming, it seems to me, is several things. It is an argument about escape, about the power or futility of fantasy. It’s an argument began in Osama, continued in The Violent Century, and concluded here. Is escape possible – for any of us?

It is also, I think, a dark comedy. Humour underlines the horror, and humour has been an important part of survival, even during the worst times of the Holocaust. I loved writing Wolf – his impotent rage, his increasing hysteria, his endless rants. There is nothing funnier, after all, than a Hitler without power. “Do you not know who I am?” Wolf rages, at some point – and of course, by then, no one does.

At the same time, A Man Lies Dreaming is grounded in the contemporary. It is written at a time when Europe’s anti-immigrant rhetoric terrifyingly echoes the 1930s. Wolf’s London does not welcome immigrants, and Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts are marching in the streets, chanting slogans that eerily echo today’s. . .

. . . in the event, I did manage to get A Man Lies Dreaming published. It wasn’t particularly easy, but my editor at Hodder was incredibly supportive, and the book came out in late 2014, was nominated for a British Fantasy Award, and won me my first literary fiction prize, the £5k Jerwood Fiction Uncovered. It’s just come out in Italy, where they seem to like it. . . and it’s out now in the US from Melville House. The bad joke that was “Hitler: P.I.” had turned into the book I am most proud of having written – even if it’s damaged me in the process.

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A Man Lies Dreaming: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s 

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