Friday, November 03, 2006

Praising Billmon

This is already a second post on the subject, but I just can't stop marvelling that there is to be found in these sad, all accepting, all ignoring times a political commentator that really is reaching the levels of Mencken and Orwell. Billmon is easily as savage as Mencken (though without Mencken's Nietzschean amusement) and as politically radical as Orwell (without Orwell's grim optimism or his English sentimentalism - this latter really a weakness rather than strength, it was this eccentric warmth that elevated Orwell into greatness). Even if you would not agree with his politics (I by and large do) the mercilessly hardhitting language itself is joy to read although it doesn't yet quite reach up to Orwell's personal majesty or Mencken's steely intricacy. Strange that the Internet these days really does beat the mainstream media hands down as regards political criticism and satire. The centralization of the media into giant corporations and news merging into a branch of the entertainment industry plays a role here no doubt. Luckily we still have these fiercely independent voices, hopefully amplified in the future - talking of which: a book of political essays by Billmon would be treasured, an instant classic surely if it would have the same quality as his blog.


helsinkian said...

I think Billmon's latest (November 5) post "The Idiocracy Vote" is right about the very strong possibility of a last-minute shift toward Republicans in the electorate.

Tomorrow will be very exciting to see which party wins.

My feeling is the Democrats will get control of the House but not by very many seats. Republicans will keep control of the Senate and there will be many Senate races that the Democrats will wonder how they could lose them.

Republicans winning in Texas and Florida gubernatorial races will also shock the Democrats. This is the year the Republicans were beatable in both states, Texas and Florida Republicans have shown an unlimited tendency toward bungling and they came up with uninspiring candidates, yet they seem to win both key gubernatorial contests.

Whereas the Democrats will win by a landslide in New York state (in House, Senate and Gubernatorial elections), their joy of recapturing the NY Governor's office will be somewhat diminished by Arnold Schwarzenegger's re-election in California. I always thought Schwarzenegger would win but losing the gubernatorial contest in California in otherwise such a good year for them, the Democrats will not be too happy about those results.

We'll see tomorrow what happens, this was my hunch.

stockholm slender said...

Well, I quite fervently hope that it would be a Democratic landslide. If even the current utter disaster isn't enough for the electorate, what is? I used to think that (admittedly in a very messy and unsatisfactory way) incompetence and mendacity are really punished by the voters. If this mechanism stops working a society is in grave danger.

helsinkian said...

But US democracy usually works better in presidential elections. The voters don't care about the congress and they're pretty apathetic. Remember that most races aren't competitive at all, America is divided in red and blue states and these are divided in red and blue districts. Outcomes in most of these races are given and incumbency is still very important.

We're talking about a handful of competitive races that may decide the outcome of the election. Maybe the turnout could get high in those, I don't know. The overall turnout will certainly stay low, as always, and this helps the GOP to stay in control. Only a third of the Senate is in play and this means the voter sentiment of one particular election year will never have a great impact on the upper house. The impact will show on the House of Representatives and a switch there to a Democratic majority is likely. It depends on the voters today, though.

Don't consider Americans stupid, though. Just think about any municipality that is dominated by Keskusta in Finland. No matter how disjointed the folks there could get about Keskusta leadership, they'd still want their party in power in their territory. They couldn't imagine voting for another party. Many places in America are like that, either Democratic or Republican but not easily switchable to the other party. Of course, in the long run anything is possible. Some decades ago, in mid 20th Century most currently Democratic states used to be Republican and vice versa. But after that big realignment the map has become remarkably stable. Democratic victories in Senate races in Missouri and Tennessee would send strong signals that something is happening. Yet the Republicans are still the favorites in those states. In only a matter of hours we'll be wiser.

helsinkian said...

This result is a Democratic landslide, getting both Houses of Congress and more governors than the Republicans is just that. Schwarzenegger did win but it was thanks to his green views and spirit of bipartisanship.

Democratic victory in the Missouri Senate race was a huge upset and a blow to the religious right.

helsinkian said...

And indeed, it's Karl Rove, who's wondering how his strategies lost all those Senate seats.

stockholm slender said...

Yes, very satisfactory. I would term it also restoring some degree of faith in the rationality of the democratic process. It is not self-evident that we will continue to share common enlightenment values. In the US there is a growing part of voters who specifically do not share enlightenment values - when this is connected with shortsighted capital and overly monetized and corrupt elite politics, the last few years have been very frightening. I suppose we will see whether this a beginning of healthy counter reaction or a false dawn.