Friday, October 25, 2013

"Bad Writing is More Than a Matter of Shit Syntax and Faulty Observation;" (UPDATE)

“...bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do― to face the fact, let us say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street.”
― Stephen King, On Writing
Ever since David Brooks firmly staked out the genre of Republican Alternate History for himself with his award-ready series of  "Whig Fan Fiction Revisionist Adventures for the Young and Non-Very-Bright Conservative", the question political science fiction fans have asked themselves has been,"Whither the future?"

Where is the lean and hungry young wingnut with the chops to make up fake Republican tomorrows with the same fact-free, devil-take-the-hindmost gusto with which Mr. Brooks has remade its yesterdays?

And because there was apparently literally nothing else to write about, Mr. "Axis-of-Evil" took his his shot at that title with, "How Teddy WreckSpin Became Preznit Because Dirty Hippies."

No kidding.
How Ted Cruz Can Win in 2016

by David Frum Oct 25, 2013 5:45 AM EDT
Forget what you think you know about the next presidential election. David Frum details how the junior senator from Texas can take the White House.

In a frantic effort to mobilize supporters, the Democrats abruptly veered toward more populist economics. Senator Elizabeth Warren began to demand not just fines on JP Morgan, but the actual breakup of too-big-to-fail financial institutions. Too little, too late: instead of the gains they’d been counting on in 2013, the Democrats lost 15 House seats and control of the Senate in November 2014.

That defeat galvanized something in progressive Democrats...

In the painful aftermath of 2014, many Democrats were ready to hear that the party had been defeated because President Obama had been too cautious in his policies and too remote in his style...

The Clinton-Warren fight divided and weakened Democrats. Many pundits compared the contest to the Humphrey vs. Kennedy fight of 1968...

Clinton Democrats took for granted that Cruz was unelectable. They had not appreciated how badly the 2014 recession would hurt them. Disenchanted Latinos and young people stayed home. So did down-market white males, who seemed to react to Clinton with almost visceral dislike. In the presidential election of 2008, almost 58% of eligible voters had turned out, the highest level since the extension of the vote to 18-year-olds. In 2016, turnout dropped below 50% for the first time since 1996.

Republicans turned back the clock on the Obama election map. They recaptured Florida and Virginia, North Carolina and Nevada, Ohio and Iowa: moving back into the red column all the states won by George W. Bush in 2004. It was a desperately narrow victory, but it was enough.
Science fiction works when readers are convinced by the author's command of the material to take that leap of "poetic faith" that Coleridge called a "willing suspension of disbelief".

It does not work when the author's obsessive need to slap around imaginary hippies overrides every other consideration.

It is also worth noting that less than two weeks ago over at his other, other writing gig the same David Frum was wringing his hands over how teddible, teddible it was that Ted Cruz and his Army of Stupid were destroying the good name and future prospects of the Party of Bush and Cheney and Palin and Limbaugh:
Right now, tea party extremism contaminates the whole Republican brand. It's a very interesting question whether a tea party bolt from the GOP might not just liberate the party to slide back to the political center -- and liberate Republicans from identification with the Sarah Palins and the Ted Cruzes who have done so much harm to their hopes over the past three election cycles.

It's worth repeating over and over again. Add Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana, Sharron Angle in Nevada and Ken Buck in Colorado, Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and Joe Miller in Alaska -- and you have half a dozen Senate races lost to the GOP by extremist nominations.
On the other hand, whatever some obscure tin-cup Liberal blogger may think of Mr. Frum's efforts, he remains a very well-paid "...contributing editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast and a CNN contributor" who glides almost effortlessly from one gig to the next.  

And that counts for a lot.


Commentor asks how I would predict the near-term political future.

My answer is that, as a fiction writer, I am irresistibly drawn to a scenario which keeps the House barely under the control of the GOP by 2-3 seats (thus making poor health and threats to change parties consequential plot points), and/or the Senate dead-even with Joe Biden taking up permanent residence there because he has to break every tie for the next 2 years.

If 2014 ends (as I think it will) with the GOP still able to hang onto enough power to obstruct everything, we can expect nothing but deadlock, show trials and Fox-induced wingnut hysteria over fake scandals like "Benghaaazi!" and the IRS.

Then, once the 2016 race kicks in hard, I believe Obama will use his last two years to consolidate his legacy, sharpen his attacks on GOP nihilism and sabotage and (if I were writing this as a West Wing episode and I wanted to lock down the youth vote and get some Libertarian-Lites to give my party a second look) use his executive power to pardon every single person doing time for a non-violent marijuana crime.


FYI, in the scant few hours since Mr. Frum hit "Publish", his article has garnered over 1000 1100 1200 1300 comments.


bowtiejack said...

Science fiction doesn't really work unless it has a frame of realism and mastery of the material. Which does not include things like magic ray guns, tractor beams, or this stuff - "Disenchanted Latinos and young people stayed home. ".

Yeah, that would do it. Well, disenchantment coupled with "caging", bullshit voter ID requirements, purging voter lists (as Cuccinelli is trying in Virginia) and the rest of the suppress-black-poor-young-Latino-Democratic-votes toolbox. Frum must have been on a really tight deadline or he wouldn't have left that out.

And while we're at it, there is something really creepy about Ted's eyes. I could totally see him in the role of evil alien assuming almost-human form.

Anonymous said...


Nice post. I am curious about your prognostication for 2014 elections and what to expect from the last two years of Obama administration under the following scenarios.

* Dems take over the House and hold on to the Senate majority

* Dems keep the Senate majority but do not take over the House

* Repubs take over the Senate majority and keep the House

driftglass said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

David Frum's a joke for writing that bullshit. You shouldn't even use Newsweak for a birdcage.


jollyroger said...

"use his executive pardoning power to pardon every single person doing time for non-violent marijuana crimes."

As if...have you forgotten that his vision of a legacy is chained cpi, not stoners unchained? Why would he suddenly discover the pardon pen when to date he can't even cut Siegelman loose?

ChiefD said...

About Cruz--" I could totally see him in the role of evil alien assuming almost-human form."
To me, he's the embodiment of Greg Stillson from Stephen King's Dead Zone.

JerryB said...

It never ceases to amaze me how you can take anything the GOP are doing or going through and someone will either claim, with a straight face, that the democrats are the ones doing it or going through it. It gets run through the wurlitzer and before you can say Oxycontin is a hell of a drug, it's become conventional wisdom. The Dems with their "what's all this then" look on their faces and us out here in the waste lands screaming.

Life in America at the end of empire.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, folks, the commentariat here and in other places has discovered the REAL problem with America. It's not the continued careers of talentless, shameless fucks like Frum, as DG posits; no, it's because Grand-Bargain O'Worse-Than-Ten-Bushes is still President.

Go back to bed, America, your government-haters have everything under control.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your predictions on 2014 and beyond. It is very realistic except for the part about pardon for marijuana crimes.

steeve said...

"the Senate dead-even with Joe Biden taking up permanent residence there because he has to break every tie for the next 2 years"

That would be maybe five ties. Not too taxing. A single raised index finger anywhere in the chamber is apparently enough to stop a vote from happening at all.

Professor fate said...

so 1st assumption is that there is a horrible resssion in 2014 that makes people vote GOP. Second that GOP does not continue to make utter fools of themselves by oh trying to Impeach Obama or some other lunatic wingtuttery like trying to delacre war on Iran, Third that things will not get better after the 2014 recession and the folks controlling both houses of congress are not going to be blamed for that. One Harry Truman managed to win an election doing just that if memory serves. fourth that hate speckeled frothing at the mouth about the poor hispanics blacks young people and women (espeically with Hilary as the Democratic nommine - I notice that Frum is slient on that bit) won't cause a massive push back from those very groups. And oh yes Down Market White Males hated obama too yes so how is that different?
To call his reasoning absurd is an insult to the absurd. He really needs cut back on the mushrooms.

Anonymous said...

My favorite bit of alternate history is Walter Jon Williams' "No spot of Ground" - EA Poe as a confederate general near the end of the war. The South still loses, a rebuke of the sort of "Great Man" alternative history so beloved by conservatives (John Galt holding back the forces of liberalism by himself.)

It may be that Frum doesn't believe his own nonsense. One hears whispers of the great conservative media sages and their "pay no attention to that little man behind the curtain" moments in private. Perhaps though that's just bedtime stories to tell liberals ("they secretly know better and we can convince them" and boats beating on against the sea and so forth) negated by what seems to be Bill O'Rielly's genuine confusion as to the fact that we know why the sky is blue. Maybe they really don't know better.

It is why this particular fan fiction is so appealing to conservatives - Ted Cruz can win! the story is about how it is the fault of liberals - they back Warren, they underestimate Ted, they don't work hard enough. Somehow in Mr Frum's world, liberals are responsible for an economic crisis while not being in control. Ted does nothing more in this story than wait for the liberals to ruin their chances. It is a shame we can't look at an early draft before the full doc replacement of "Jindal"

Frum really doesn't understand liberals or the modern world. Once, liberals were worried that Hillary would run for president in 2008. Now they're worried that she won't run in 2016. And the magic flip of the Obama states won't be accomplished by running like it's 1999.