Winners and Losers: Kurt Vonnegut on Imaginary Political Parties

On October 13, 2019, I was in agony about my country. I wrote a post called “Does Voting Matter? One Can But Hope.”

I said,

I have felt increasingly ambivalent about the power of my vote. That is to say, I feel powerless. I elected precisely two politicians in the last election (2016). The state has gone red, and my vote no longer counts….

[But] I will vote next year, whether I like it or not.  The world is a mess.   I no longer have the option of not voting.  One votes in case it counts.

And now look what has happened this time! I did vote. And it’s chaos, though my state at least promptly counted the votes. Very late deadlines for some state mail ballots (surely a way of sabotaging voting by mail ), results from some states not expected till next week or later, Biden keeping his cool, Trump not, and the rest of us either eating cookies for three meals a day or trying to breathe deeply (“Be grateful for this moment…”)…

Let me leave you with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s essay,  “In a Manner That Must Shame God Himself,” from Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons, a brilliant collection of essays, magazine pieces, and speeches. Vonnegut imagines the thoughts of visitor from another planet on  the American people in 1972.


“The two real political parties in America are the Winners and the Losers. The people do not acknowledge this. They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, instead.

“Both imaginary parties are bossed by Winners. When Republicans battle Democrats, this much is certain: Winners will win.

“The Democrats have been the larger party in the past–because their leaders have not been as openly contemptuous of Losers as the Republicans have.

“Losers can join imaginary parties. Losers can vote.”

Have a happily bookish weekend!

Why We Dread the Election

A few weeks ago my husband sat down for breakfast and told me the latest gloomy bullshit. “Trump might not leave if Biden wins.”

“Where did you hear THAT?”

It was in one or perhaps a dozen of our nation’s venerable newspapers.

Naturally, we were appalled, and we voted for Biden as soon we received our ballots in the mail. We would have voted for him as soon as the ballots came anyway. But I slowly realized the hysteria about Trump’s not leaving office is probably bullshit. He may have said it in a tweet–that’s what I heard–but who in her right mind is on Twitter these days? And on Twitter it’s one thing today, another the next. I could get behind a law that forbids tweeting, period. It is one of the most hysterical super-spreader media of all time.

The truth is, there is a lot of bullshit before a presidential election. Not just before an election–for years before an election. The polls said Howard Dean would be a shoo-in in 2004. No, he did poorly at caucuses and primaries. We all thought Hillary would win in 2016. I had reservations about the candidacy of the always-unpopular Hillary, but I am hardly a pundit. Guess what? Hillary didn’t win.

When the whole rat race for the 2020 nomination began (two years ago?), journalists had many favorites. They loved Sherrod Brown, an experienced, pro-Labor, progressive, and yet not radical senator. Since he has a degree in Russian Studies (which probably includes literature), I would have voted for him! And surely he would have gone to a humanities festival and participated in a reading of the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation of War and Peace. (Such marathon readings are popular, and support the humanities.)

Biden, too, has a liberal arts background. He has a B.A. from the University of Delaware (not too fancy, so I can relate), with a double major in history and political science, and a minor in English. Then he went to law school–which so many of them do. But forget that. Let’s concentrate on the liberal arts!

We do not know the future. Really, we do not. Get the vote out, then worry.

And skip the more hysterical editorials that will reduce you to tears and may or may not be based in reality.

The bottom line: Vote!

Read the editorials after the election!

Meanwhile, carpe diem!

I Voted for the Environment!

I used to have hippie-dippie ideas about voting.  The politicians were all fools, so why vote?

The  office where I worked, however,  was next-door to Democratic headquarters.  One of the Dems offered  me a ride to the polls the first year I was eligible to vote.  After that I realized it was my duty.

Did I vote today?  Naturally.  There are many important issues, but I am  concerned mostly about the environment.  The  UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported last month that we have only 12 years before  environmental damage like global warming is irreversible.  That’s 2030, people!

I did not, however, like waking up to see a Google doodle on the computer commanding me to vote.  I do not care for computer programs using the imperative mood.  It’s an intrusion.

Google doodle

Nonetheless, I made my way to the polls.  And I wore my Jesse Jackson for President ’84  button  because it seemed as good a way as any to protest conservative Republican politics.   Anyway, it is 1984!

I do hope the Democrats are  voting today.  Let’s get out all our liberal political buttons and wear them!