In the weeks since the election, “Analyzing the Trump voter” has become the whip we Democrats use to flagellate each other. There have been thousands of articles analyzing The Trump Voter – they voted for Trump because they were afraid for their jobs, except studies show The Trump Voter was well-off and hence racist! The Trump Voter slavishly believed what Donald had to say about building the wall, except no, The Trump Voter took what Donald had to say figuratively and not literally! The Trump Voter wants to build a plan, but The Trump Voter wants to tear everything down, The Trump Voter would be dismayed and/or enthused when Obamacare’s benefits are repealed without replacement…
And Jesus, no wonder The Trump Voter is terrifying. The Trump Voter is this terrifyingly contradictory amalgam of stories that no Democrat can make sense of.
Because there’s not one unified Trump Voter.
The Trump Voter is an uneasy coalition, like any Presidential voting bloc. There wasn’t The Obama Voter in 2008 either – there were uneasy conservatives who couldn’t quite pull the lever for a ticket that included Sarah Palin, and heartbroken, and shaky racists who still thought Obama would give them the best hope for their business, and sick people who hoped Obama would deliver on his promises of health care, and cults of personality who just loved the way Obama talked.
There was never an Obama Voter – just endless, loosely-affiliated groups who happened to pull the same lever.
And when we Democrats talk about The Trump Voter, we talk about it like there’s only one reason someone could vote for Trump, and we must find it or die.
Which is a one-way ticket to absolute despair if your asshole Uncle at Thanksgiving is the worst kind of Trump voter who voted out of pure spite.
Truth is, there’s a hundred reasons people voted for Trump. Some stemmed from “I don’t trust Hillary.” Some stemmed from the fact that people in rural countries felt like the Democrats were ignoring them – and even then, the reasons they felt ignored varied from group to group. Some stemmed from the belief that Trump would bring back manufacturing, some stemmed from a despairing nihilism to try anything other than what we’ve been doing, some stemmed from pure-D-fucking racism, some stemmed from the delight of hearing a politician say the impolitic, some stemmed from the idea that Trump was less war-crazy than Hillary….
And everyone has a pet theory as to Why Trump Won, and most of them seem to involve The Trump Voter – almost half the electorate swayed by a single issue.
You know why that line of thinking sucks?
Because that implies we have to find an idea that sways 48% of the country, as opposed to 2%.
Because if 2% of the country had voted differently, Hillary would be in charge. And the poisonous rhetoric of The Trump Voter means that if your asshole uncle wore his MAGA cap at the Thanksgiving table and flung mashed potatoes at you while yelling “SUCK IT LIBTARD,” well, then that voter represents all Trump voters and we might as well give up.
Look. The honest truth is that 49 out of 50 Trump voters can be utterly unreachable. They can be cloistered in their Fox News bubble, reading fake news on Facebook, completely unswayable.
All you have to do is find the 1 out of 50 who might listen to reason.
And you’re not gonna find that voter if you’re thinking everyone who voted for Trump is the same as the worst of them. The truth is, there were Trump voters who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. There were black and hispanic voters who voted for Trump – and they did so in greater numbers than they did for Romney.
There are Trump voters who might be persuaded back, with the right efforts. But you have to find their reason! You can’t just one-size-fits all The Trump Voter and go, “Your reason for voting Trump is *spins the Trump Voter wheel* RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA LET ME EDUCATE YOU” and move forward –
– no, you actually have to do the hard work of listening instead of shoehorning.
(Even though, it should be said that I firmly subscribe to the Cinemax Theory of Racism.)
And yes. It’s exhausting. Because the truth is, a conversion rate of 1 out of 50 feels more like hunting for a job than it does engaging in political rhetoric. And it’s probably more like 1 out of 200, because the people who are enthusiastic enough to go engage online in politics in these are pretty set in their ways; I’d bet dollars to delicious donuts that most of the reachable Trump voters are going to be converted, if at all, in quiet conversations away from the thundrous trash-fire arguments of the Internet.
But to have a hope of converting them, you have to give up the idea that 47.5% of the country went crazy in the exact same way. They didn’t. They had a hundred different reasons for voting, and if you assume that every Trump voter pulled that lever out of KKK-style racism, or redneck job-terror, or Russian propaganda brainwashing, then you’re quietly buying into that idea that politics is all about reaching everyone and if that one Trump voter is an asshole than you might just as well give up.
But we can be smart enough to hold two truths up at the same time:
- Yes, most Trump voters won’t change their minds no matter what we do. There are unreachable voters, and it’s a waste of time to try to talk to the people who’ve proven hostile to our best intents.
- Yet if we could have persuaded one out of fifty of them, we would have won the election. And we can win the next election.
And yes, there’s the alternate theory that if we Democrats had rallied our base better in red states, we also would have won. Again, that’s not a contradiction of the “one in fifty” theory; that’s another tactic we can use. Because just like there’s not one mythical Trump Voter, there’s not one mythical Path to Victory.
Smart people can fight on multiple fronts. And God, in this dark time, we Democrats need to be smarter.
Alas, I am slightly late with my Annual Greed List – the large (and, yes, uncut) list of things I desire for Christmas. Why do I do this? If you’re really interested, here’s a brief history of the Greed List.
The briefer version, however, is that I think “What you want” is a reflection of “Who you are” at this moment – your music, your hobbies, your fandoms, help define who you are as a person. I find it fascinating as a history, watching how what I’ve desired has mutated – for example, the list used to be heavy on physical Things, which then changed slowly into digital objects as MP3s and iTunes became big, and this year thanks to the gigantic television we bought, I’m back to wanting Things again.
(And it allows me to chronicle strange bumps in my desires; for example, this list contains not one single book. Why? Is it because I stopped loving books? No! It is because I just got off a book tour for Fix, and I am so overflowing with books I need to run down my pile.)
And while I guess I could just shove my Amazon Wishlist at you and run, why bother? I want you to know who I am in this moment, and so I not only list what I want, but explain why I want it.
So. Here’s what I’d like for this gallumphing holiday season.
Review My Books.
So as of today, I have officially written three books:
If you haven’t bought them yet, obviously buying them is a good thing for me. But if you have, and you haven’t left a review somewhere – whether that’s at Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes and Noble –
Well, authors are hungry for reviews. Every review helps shape the retailers’ recommendation engines, and enough reviews (even negative ones) makes it far more likely that Amazon or Barnes and Noble will recommend that author’s book to someone else. So even if it’s a two-star review of “Didn’t hook me,” well, actually, that helps.
So you wanna get me a gift that costs you nothing aside from five minutes of time? If you’ve read my book, rate my book somewhere. Which you can do for literally any other author you like!
PlayStation 4 Charging Station ($15.99)
It’s rare that my top money-gift is so affordable and so practical, but here’s how it is:
The charging station we have for our current PS4 controllers is crap. They’re two little balls you have to a) plug into the controller, and b) seat in the charging station, which means the balls inevitably aren’t seated right and it doesn’t charge.
Which would be a hassle just for gaming, but alas, our DVD player is also our PS4 which means that we’re continually going to watch a movie and finding the “remote” dead. We need a design for charging that isn’t frickin’ stupid, which this is, so I want this. Or something very much like it that doesn’t suck.
iTunes $30 Gift Card To Buy In The Heights ($15.99) and Weird Romance ($9.99)
So anyone who’s been following me this year will know of my great affection for Hamilton – the best thing that happened in 2016 was winning the Hamilton lottery and getting front-row seats to see the original cast performing.
And the guy who wrote Hamilton is called Lin-Manuel Miranda, and he’s had a hell of a year. He also wrote the soundtrack to Disney’s new film Moana, which is ridiculously hummable.
But the trick is that Disney hired Lin-Manual before Hamilton even debuted on Broadway! And normally, “Disney hires a Broadway writer” would be a step up in your career, but Hamilton had hit so big that most people assumed they’d hired him because “the writer of Hamilton” would help promote their film.
Which brings us to our grand conclusion – which is to say Disney hired Lin-Manuel based solely on the strength of his first Broadway musical, “In The Heights,” which I could use on my iTunes, stat.
In addition! The directors of Moana are famed for filming The Little Mermaid – which was the debut of Disney’s greatest songwriters Ashman and Mencken, who wrote Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. And their first Broadway musical, Weird Romance, is finally available on iTunes, which I would also love to hear.
So basically, a bunch of debut musicals from people I love.
Craaaaaazy Socks ($10 or less)
My current “Wacky Socks” collection includes Spock socks, Bacon socks, Fallout socks, Apollo 13 socks, and Reindeer socks.
You wanna get me crazy socks? You go right ahead.
The Last Guardian on PS4 ($59.99)
The annoying thing about being locked into one gaming platform for years is that you miss the classics that appear only on one game system. And for years, people have raved about games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, which were supposedly these great moody experiences that people remembered forever – but they were on the PlayStation, and I am an Xbox kid.
But now the guys who did Ico and Shadow of the Colossus have a game out for the new PS4! And it’s supposedly awesome, with you breaking out of a prison to find a gigantic barn-sized bird, and you have to befriend and train the bird to survive, and it’s weird and crazy and lovely from the previews. Apparently, you basically find a mega-dog and try to make it your friend.
I would like this game.
Dungeon World ($18.99)
This is a pen-and-paper RPG that’s kind of like Dungeons and Dragons, but is focused on roleplaying instead of hack-and-slashing, which is what the latest D&D hammers on. In most RPGs the Dungeon Master sets up the adventure – mapping out the castle you’ll be storming, all the people you’ll be talking to, et cetera.
In Dungeon World, you cooperatively get together to create a campaign together, agreeing on what the coolest thing that could happen is. And that requires people to move away from “I beat what the DM throws at us” and towards “We create a story with triumphs and dramatic setbacks.”
How do they do that? I do not know. ButI wish to find out.
Corner Gas: The Movie ($16.99)
This is the conclusion to the Canadian Seinfeld, a gloriously goofy show set in Dog River which I adore. This is a national treasure of a show about nothing – and while I know there’s no great storyline to conclude (Corner Gas was infamously hostile to running storylines), I’d like to spend one last ninety minutes in the company with these absolutely lovable dorks.
Final Fantasy XV, PS4 ($59.99)
Here’s an interesting fact: Aside from Final Fantasy X, I haven’t really liked any Final Fantasy Games. They’re all beautiful, and complicated in all the ways I want them simple (five million ways to configure a character!) and simple in all the ways I want them complicated (you’re stuck on a linear story and can’t deviate from it!).
But the reviews say that FFXV isn’t quite a normal Final Fantasy game; apparently, it’s four guys driving around on a big fantasy road trip, doing errands and becoming closer friends. I’m willing to take a chance on that – especially because even if the game isn’t such great shakes, it’ll look great on my big TV.
Avatar on Blu-Ray ($19.96)
Speaking of dumb things that look beautiful, one of the joys of our massive hi-def TV is that movies really pop when you show them on Blu-Ray. And Avatar is a movie that isn’t very good, but it is absolutely visually stunning, I want to see how it looks on The Magnificence.
Router Table ($159.99)
Yes, I’m still doing woodworking! Though not in November, alas, thanks to a whole bunch of hideous news. But we hope to keep wooding things up, and to do that we’ll need a table to stick my new router in. Which I am very much happy with.
Gone With The Wind Blu-Ray ($12.11)
So this is one of the greatest visual spectacles ever filmed, and we have one of the greatest screens ever created. We need to see the Burning of Atlanta on our big screen.
The Godfather Blu-Ray ($22.00)
Again, another visually spectacular movie. I only really need the first movie (my shameful cinema opinion is that Godfather II is severely overrated), but damn will this look nice on my gigantor TV.
Dr. Strangelove Blu-Ray ($22.49)
I have been on such a Stanley Kubrick kick lately, it’s ridiculous. And this isn’t my favorite of his films, but it is beautiful and I want to rewatch it with all the extras that only come with the Criterion collections (which do phenomenal behind-the-scenes restorations with loads of interviews).
Watch Dogs 2 for PS4 ($59.99)
This is getting decent reviews – basically, “Hi, this is a clone of Grand Theft Auto with a few tweaks.” But that’s not a bad thing! In Grand Theft Auto, you run around a city and cause mayhem with guns and cars, and that is a fun formula on a day when you’re pissed off about things. It doesn’t have to be genius – it just has to have a few running firefights.
All good readers will know the problem: You’re talking to your friends, and there is That Embarrassed Pause in the conversation. And you realize you just used a word you’ve read often, but never heard spoken out loud.
“…is that the way it’s pronounced?” you ask.
“Nope,” they say.
Which, for us bookworms, is a constant peril. We know how the words sound in our head. But that’s stupidly not the way words should be.
My personal nightmare? “Bouquet.” That word is the sole reason I do not speak French to this day, because it is a stupid word that I still maintain should be pronounced “boo-kwet.” I was in fifth grade, and they expected me to know foreign vowels? Unfair.
But I had my friend Jim who staunchly pronounced it “annie-hill-ate” because, confoundingly, Star Trek had an episode with a cool title – “Operation: Annihilate!” – yet nobody in the episode actually spoke of annihilating anything.
So, beloved readers, share your embarrassment: What word did you stumble over?
So Christmas is coming up, and so is my Annual Greed List, where I make a list of everything that I currently want to find in my stocking. Which started out as a way for my family to help understand their terminally-nerdy son, and actually has evolved into a interesting tracking of my habits over the years.
(For example, I can look back over past Greed Lists and chart the demise of physical music CDs, see how the roleplaying market crashed and was revived through Kickstarter, see the hobbies I started and got bored by. It’s great.)
Which leads me to ask: What cool-yet-affordable things should be on my Greed List this year? Which RPGs are cannot-miss, which videogames are so cool that I cannot live without them, which geeky trinkets are so stellar that I must have them beneath my tree this year?
What has escaped my nerdy eye? Please! Tell me, so I can compile The List properly.
So life’s been a series of body blows lately, and I’m not doing particularly well.
Which is to say my wife’s been having medical issues for two months, a cascade of problems that started with serious pneumonia and now has her bouncing from doctor’s appointment to doctor’s appointment as they collect more data to find out what’s wrong. And my Dad has been having some issues, and my sweeties have been suffering from profound depression and worsening chronic illnesses, and a friend of mine has been in and out of the hospital.
I’m starting to cringe when I pick up the phone.
And my resilience is slipping. I pride myself on being there for people when they need me, but even mildly bad news is putting me into a state of shock. I’m drinking more than I should be – which is not a lot, but I know myself well enough to know when I’m itching for the bottle – and the thought of being with people I like is sending me into spirals of self-loathing because I should want to be with friends and yet I can’t bear the company.
I’m trying to retreat. The problem is, there’s nowhere to retreat to. The only way to retreat right now is to abandon, and I can’t do that – well, I can’t do that and respect myself come the morning.
It’s foolish, because I shouldn’t freeze like a deer in the headlights. But even mild conflicts are making me panic, forcing me to fight past my own sluggish instincts, and getting anything done involves me staring at the computer screen for an hour before I finally, desperately, put my fingers on the keyboard.
I have a lot to say politically, too.
I feel like I’m letting people down by being silenced.
And what I don’t want to hear is how I should be easier on myself, because as much as I’d like it, that’s not happening and frankly I wouldn’t want it to happen. My ambition has always exceeded my grasp. I have big dreams and work long hours to make them happen. That’s a part of me that’s brought me to good places, and I don’t want that to be neutered. I *should* have broad goals.
Yet as I was driving to pick up food for dinner last night, I felt this burning urge to call my mother. I didn’t. Because I realized what I was going to beg my mother to promise me was that it was all going to be all right.
She can’t promise that.
You don’t have to help. But if you do, well, just realize I’m being flaky right now to my real-life friends because everything since September has been a chaotic shitstorm and I am not coping well. Bearing with me as I get overwhelmed and shut down would help. I miss you but every time I think about reaching out another diagnosis drops through the door.
And if you’re not a real-life friend, gentle kindnesses are good. Sending pictures of smiling faces are good. Flirts are good, assuming you understand that sometimes I’m flirting and then Gini comes back from the doctor and I just forget everything.
Good news is good. If you’re happy about something, telling me that is good. I’m tired of cynicism, I’m tired of despair, I’m drained to redline by so many things going wrong that honestly, every time someone tells me of progress in their life it reminds me that progress can be made.
Progress has not been made around here in a few months. Or so it feels. There are good moments, and I cling to them, but they feel swallowed up in a sea of turbulent news that’s all terror and no firm way to fight.
Hearing your untrammeled happiness helps me fight. So I hope you’re doing well.
So I am absolutely enamored with Westworld, the new HBO show. I’ve been watching it since the second episode, and with each week the mysteries have been revealed – the show obscures events but doesn’t hide the clues, and it’s been playing fair. Some of the fan theories that people gave in Episode Two have panned out to be true, and last night’s episode confirmed not one but several popular theories.
That said, I don’t know if you’d like it.
It’s sort of like reading the Harry Potter books when they came out – there was something delicious about waiting years for the next book, for watching kids grow up with Harry Potter, their emotional age deepening as the books handled increasingly complex concepts.
You could read them all in a summer now, but I’m not sure it’ll ever be as satisfying for any as for, say, my daughter, who started reading Harry Potter at age 6 and finished the last book when she was 14. She grew up with Harry, as Harry grew up with her.
Likewise, I’d say only about 40% of my enjoyment of Westworld comes from the show. The rest comes from that week between the shows when my wife and I are listening to podcast, finding crazy fan theories on Reddit, talking with my friends about ZOMG DID YOU HEAR.
And the reason this show is so intensely satisfying is that we’re paying close attention to every detail on the screen – and sure enough, all of them mattered. There was a moment that could have been clumsy blocking, with a character appearing out of nowhere, but nope – that was a clue. There was a weird composition to a photograph, but nope – that too was a clue.
At this point, the show is turning into a reward for all the hard work the fans have put into it. They gave the clues to the mystery, and by and large we’ve solved it. (Though predictably, some of the fans are complaining that the show is predictable now that they’ve spent all this time analyzing it. THAT’S ON YOU BUDDY.)
And I was talking to my Dad, and I told him I loved the show but I don’t know if I could get him to love the show. Because when he watched it, I’d give him a DVD for his birthday and he’d spend a week or two watching it all, and if he went to look at fan theories he’d see everything summarized and encapsulated.
Whereas we’ve been scrutinizing every scrap of information they gave us. We’ve been dealing with incompletes. And we’re pretty sure how it’s going to end at this point, but that’s because we’re active participants, not just inhaling the narrative but digesting, dissecting, unraveling.
The first season ends this Sunday. And though over time, millions of other people will watch that finale, they’ll never watch it in the same way that Gini and I will – as a climax not just to the story, but of our analysis of the story.
I can’t wait.
It’s Black Friday, which is pretty much Cyber Friday at this point, and lots of y’all will be logging on to Amazon/Barnes and Nobles/iTunes/et cetera to purchase gifts for all your loved ones.
This will be my final reminder that my book FLEX is currently on a big ol’ sale, and can be purchased for a third of the price you’d normally get it at. Maybe you’ve read FLEX, and you’re going, “My Gosh, I know Uncle Festus would love a tale featuring sexy plump videogamemancers and noble bureaucrat-magicians who work to make the world better!” Maybe you’re splurging for yourself, and you’ve said, “My, that Ferrett fellow is fascinating, I’ve been meaning to put his fiction on my e-book and leave it there for literally months until I get around to it!”
Well, FLEX is $1.99 in America and 99 pence in the UK, and by gosh it’s not only less than a Starbucks coffee but it also has a lot more discussion of magical drugs.
So anyway! Here’s the list of places it is, at least for now, on sale:
And if you purchase it, well, you’ll have also gotten me a Christmas gift as well, so you’ve struck two ferrets with one stone. What could be better than hitting me with a rock?