Two Weeks Out

We are now within two weeks of an American election where, to borrow and mangle a phrase of Nate Silver’s, the signal is hidden by the noise. I’ve long thought that Barack Obama had a good chance of being a one-term president, and in a year when the Republicans had a good candidate, he would probably be buying retirement property. The American economy has not improved and will not until the foreclosure crisis, the federal debt and deficit, the triffin-style dollar and trade problem, and the peculiar mix of banking and ethical crisis in financial markets is resolved. In turn, these problems reflect both a global collapse in ethics and a real world collapse in sustainable raw material supplies, which could only be displaced in the long run by a radical drop in demand—and population—or a change in technology. Since such a resolution would be the work of Sisyphus, Tantalus, and more than one nutter with a missile, the only conclusion is that Obama, as with a slew of Japanese and European leaders before him, will slip out of office on the icy, glasslike surface which emerges when false gold is covered with bile. Rightly, he has prevented the war which could have destroyed demand; but he has failed to initiate the renaissance of fear-based ethics that could have emerged if just one bank had been allowed to fail, or one banker had been put in jail. As things stand, the administration has gaoled fewer malefactors than any in recent history.

Obama may yet be saved, however, by the contortions of what Mark Shea calls The Thing That Used To Be Conservatism. The Grand Old Party has tied itself in knots over the past four years, culpably holding back the American economy, blocking the business of government, and arrogating to itself the title of Patriot whilst being led by people who outsource jobs and short American bonds on the back of insider knowledge. Its primary process has been a disgrace, but at least did throw up the most competent candidate—Romney—at the expense of any of his credibility. Mr Romney has now been saddled with what appears to be a criminal enterprise to deregister, fail to register, or fraudulently prevent from registering, large swathes of voters in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Virginia. He has also acquired a family interest in the infamous voting machines of Ohio. The cumulative effect of the primaries and the appearance of duplicity which now hangs around his campaign is such that, if he ended up in a situation where the electoral college was lost narrowly but the popular vote was won, he would not have the moral credibility to claim to have been elected President, despite the fact that he faces a group of Chicago operatives who deserve to lose. Frankly, though he may do it, neither he nor his running mate deserve to win.

 It is an oddity that it is only the most sweeping victories in presidential history which have thrown up prosecutions linked to electoral fraud (the epitome of this being the 1972 campaign of Richard Nixon, which led to Watergate). In close elections, like 1960, 1968, 2000, and 2004, it has arguably been the long and rococo tradition of American fraud and sneaky tactics, once called ‘heresthetic’ by an obscure professor, which has delivered the presidency. I want to write a book about it someday. I know what the chapter headings would be; (i) using dead people (ii) impersonating people (iii) stealing registrations (iv) messing about with voting machines (v) gerrymandering (vi) attaching dog whistle referenda (vii) setting up false voting stations (viii) post-ballot thefts and fraud (ix) using primaries and legislatures to discount elections (x) the courts (xi) felony laws and captured State officials and (xii) How to spend money without being caught. There would be an introduction and conclusion, and if anyone out there wants to give me a bag of gold to write it in between long bouts of lazing about mooching and blogging, I’d be happy to oblige.

You may, if you have an interest in politics, wish to read up on these tactical matters, because the election in a few days’ time promises to be close and the talking heads who will emerge after it will become immediate experts—mini James the firsts, even—on matters of what you might call naughtiness if there is any hint of dispute. What should, of course, happen is that everyone should end up with egg on their face. Obama, with an electoral college mandate but a popular smack; Romney with a could-have been majority of votes, deprived by Gary Johnson of key electors; the media punished for their determined ignoral, right from the start, of any non-sanctioned candidate, from big or small parties; and the rich for wasting so much money encouraging two Wall Street facilitators. Those inclined to tedious moral rhetoric about how elections are fought could also find themselves better educated about the reality of things.

Somehow, though, I can’t see it happening.