Friday, November 7, 2008

Guest blogger David Drake on the Republican party

I'm not a Republican and never have been. That said, for many years when someone asked me my political leanings, I would say that I was a social Democrat and a fiscal Republican. The latter description began to lose meaning under Reagan, and George W. Bush demolished any sense the words might have managed to retain. I mention this by way of an intentionally roundabout introduction to today's entry, a piece by guest blogger, friend, and leading SF writer, David Drake. Dave wrote the piece below, showed it to a few friends, and wondered in email about where to post it. I think it deserves exposure and offered to post it here. Dave decided to go for it, and for your consideration, here it is.


The title comes from the question plaintively asked some months before the 2008 presidential election by a friend who's a businessman. Like me he's well on the wrong side of Fifty, and like me he was raised a Republican. I think we'd both describe ourselves as conservatives (note the small c).

Max Hastings, a right-wing British journalist, put it in a slightly different fashion when he noted during the campaign (I'm paraphrasing) that the Republicans had become the party of the poorly educated, superstitious, and rural. You only have to listen to one of Sarah Palin's campaign speeches to see that he has a point.

The Republican Party my friend and I identified with was the party of business. Republicans were neither exciting nor cuddly, but you could trust the economy to them and expect them to avoid foreign military adventures. We liked Ike.

In 1983 I became rewrite man for Newt Gingrich on the book which became Window of Opportunity. Newt is a very smart, very dynamic man; working with him was both an honor and an education.

In the course of our first meeting, Newt told me that he was going to engineer a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Thank goodness I didn't say, "Right, and pigs will fly," but I certainly thought it. I was colossally ignorant, though in 1983 most people would have agreed with me. The only smart thing I did during the exchange was to keep my mouth shut.

Newt continued to work from within to change the Republicans from a party of the elite and privileged (people like me, not to put too fine a point on it) into a real populist movement. In 1994 he achieved his end: Republicans took control of the House.

There has been quite a lot of movement since then, but not--from the vantage of hindsight--a great deal of progress. The House Republicans didn't seem to know what to do with their victory. Newt himself left the House and elective politics. His economic mantra had been, "Reduce the national debt." His majority spiraled into a wasteland of tax cuts and deficit spending.

The populist majority fell away, not so much in anger as boredom. Quite a lot of people dislike Bill Clinton, but very few would say that it was worth shutting down the government of the United States to delve into his sex life.

What remained isn't the Republican Party of Eisenhower (or Dewey and Taft): it's a populist fringe. It certainly represents a significant portion of the citizens of the United States, just as the Taliban represents a significant portion of the citizens of Afghanistan, but it isn't the business party, the Safe Hands party.

It's a party which has turned away from people like me and my businessman friend. And, though he worked with the fringes too in putting together his majority, I believe it's a party which is equally alien to Newt Gingrich.

It's a shame. I still like Ike.

Dave Drake

Thursday, November 6, 2008

How awesome is this:

Go to right now; I'll wait. Please do come back, though.

Back? Good. How awesome is that?

I know, I know: It could all just be a tech-savvy publicity stunt. But, even if it is, it's a huge turning point in the use of the Web by candidates, because it's putting in front of the public a ton of information, all of which will end up on Google (and other) archives and be forever searchable, about what they plan to do, the transition process, and so on. You can even apply for a job in their administration. (No, I don't expect that to work for anyone, but I like the token nod they make by putting up a form.) Sure, the site is a way for them to put out their spin on key topics, but the mere fact that so much data is easily accessible and easily commented upon by anyone who feels like it (such as myself) is, to me, deeply cool.

I couldn't afford the likely pay cut, and I am probably one of the most unemployable men any administration could contemplate, and I have no relevant experience, but if I could be a speechwriter for Obama, I might just have to go for it.

And now, for no good reason other than that you can never have enough wild nights, let me close by suggesting you go enjoy the Wild Nights song/video by John Mellencamp and Me'Shell NdegeOcello.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Maybe it won't suck - and a guest reminder from Lincoln

I'm chugging along in Overthrowing Heaven, rewriting as I go, sprucing it up, making sure everything works together, and I have to admit that there is a tiny chance the book won't suck.

The reason I feel this way is that I'm actually enjoying what I'm reading. Of course, I'm more than a little afraid that this enjoyment is the kiss of death, but I have no rational reason for that fear; it's just how I feel.

Last night left me exhausted, so I'm going to keep this short and go back to work. I have a book to make better and PT work to do.

Before I sign off, though, I want to remind everyone, whether you voted for McCain or Obama, whether you're still ecstatic or fearful of what's to come, that we are all Americans, we are all in this together, and it's now time for us all to behave as such. I considered making this point at greater length, but I thought it appropriate to let the end of President Lincoln's first inaugural address do the job instead.

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Damn, Abe could write.

If you missed Obama's speech, go see it or read it now

You can watch it here on CNN.

You can read it here on CNN.

Consider doing both. An articulate President, one who can write and who works on his own speeches. What a thrill.

Consider this bit:

It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

He doesn't tell us who first used that phrasing; he assumes we know, as we should, as he should assume.

I'm still so wound up I can hardly stand it.

For now, for tonight, maybe for a little while, I simply refuse to be cynical.

Tonight, I don't just want to believe. I do believe. I believe.

President-Elect Barak Obama: Yes we can

Not once in my memory have I believed in a candidate for President--until now.

Not once in my memory have I heard a speech from a President or a President-Elect that was as powerful, as unifying, or as moving as the best Aaron Sorkin wrote for The West Wing--until now.

I grew up somewhere between poor and middle class, depending on the year. I started working when I was ten, right after my father died. I grew up believing that America was a great country where anyone, anyone, could through hard work and sacrifice make a great life for himself or herself. I've since come on many an occasion to doubt that dream, but at least tonight I believe again. With a President-Elect who realized that dream, a man with a name like Barack Hussein Obama in a post 9/11 world, a man who, like me, grew up without a father, worked hard, got a great education, pursued his dreams, and will now be our President, that dream seems real and powerful again. I'd lost some of that belief--until now.

Obama didn't squeak in. He won it going away.

His opponent, John McCain, gave a gracious concession speech that reminded me of why I had liked him in the past. Good for him.

Obama didn't gloat in his speech. He didn't take the easy route of rousing the already excited crowd to new emotional heights. Instead, he focused on unity, on the dream of what America can be, on the challenges facing us all. I could not have been prouder to have voted for him.

All of us in the U.S. now have the opportunity to unite behind this new President, to take on these huge challenges, and to overcome them, as Americans have for over two centuries. I truly believe we can, and I truly believe Obama is the right man to lead us forward.

He can do it.

We can do it.

Yes we can.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On the road again: World Fantasy Con, day 6

As I wind my way home--I’m writing this on the plane from DFW to RDU--I thought I’d share with you the top five things I learned while in Calgary.

5. Fig compote has a strange allure to Canadian chefs.

Most of the restaurants in which we ate featured it in some way. Maybe it reminds Canadians of warmer places, places with large bodies of water, places folks staring at a prairie winter might want to be.

4. The Hyatt staff knows how to arrange your life.

I’ve explained this already, but the degree to which they would move around and order my possessions was higher than I’ve ever seen. I said you should fear them, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe you should embrace their leadership. Maybe I should.

3. Canadian television runs as many stupid shows as ours.

I like the Barenaked Ladies, and I like Ed Robertson, one of its lead singers. But, does he really need a show in which they put him in a different job each week? From talk shows to reality shows, from bad comedy sketches to overwrought news anchors, at least in my flip-speed surveys of Canada’s TV offerings, it was dumb American TV re-broadcast or original Canadian content that looked for all the world like reheated bad American TV.

2. As much as they might try to deny it, Canadians really are nice.

One commented, “No, we’re not; we’re just sneaky when we’re not nice.” I didn’t and don’t believe him. All of my experiences with Canadians support their essential niceness. In queues, holding doors, bumping into one another on the street--over and over, people behaved politely and nicely. I wish we could transfuse that trait into more Americans.

1. Even the Canadians know Barack Obama should be the next President of the United States.

They’re right; he should. I voted for him last week. I hope to be celebrating for him tomorrow night. I strongly believe he’s the best candidate to lead our country forward, and I think he even has a little bit of his soul left--which is quite an achievement for anyone playing in politics at his level.

UPDATE: I wrote the above, walked into the other room to unpack, and immediately felt guilty. I'm unfairly picking on the Canadians. Of course the Canadians know Obama should be President; most people outside the U.S. do. I'm hoping the majority of us within its borders prove tomorrow to share that knowledge.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

On the road again: World Fantasy Con, day 5

Much of the afternoon today went to the World Fantasy Awards banquet. The food was surprisingly good for a hotel banquet, our tablemates were pleasant company, and Toastmaster Tad Williams' speech was fun. You can read the list of winners at the Locus site.

My only real complaint was the presentation. I would probably feel otherwise were I one of the nominees, but I thought it was rushed and lacked a bit of the pomp that normally attends such things. Nonetheless, I look forward to attending next year's WFC, as well as those thereafter.

On the Overthrowing Heaven front, I rewrote only the first chapter last night, which though satisfying my half hour of writing goal nonetheless was entirely too slack. Call it a celebration. Wow, do I know how to party!

Because I'm still in Canada, and because you can never have enough Blue Rodeo, I'll leave you with this, one of the band's slow but sad songs. Greg Keelor's vocals explore the many sides of loss. Enjoy. Sometimes it's okay to hurt.


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