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!