Political vs. Personal Priorities

(Another in the continuing “Monday Morning Insight” series of quotes to start the week.)

It’s been said that “politics makes strange bedfellows,” and over the last few years we’ve been treated to some evidence of that. It’s also been said that “power tends to corrupt,” or (if you prefer) that power “is magnetic to the corruptible,” and I daresay that’s been evident from time to time as well — on both ends of the political spectrum.

But no matter where we are on that spectrum — left, right, or center — it seems prudent to remind ourselves that politicians’ priorities rarely match ours. As Thomas Sowell said,

No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems — of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind.

Can you think of very many politicians who pursue causes that are independent of their reelection prospects? How many would risk losing their positions in order to achieve something on behalf of someone else?

(Not The Anti-Candidate, that’s for sure.)

Political Guide
Instead of “new ideas,” I think “different ideas” would be more fitting, but in general this seems to hold true for many people, much of the time. (Image: “Political Guide,” by Jason Nelms, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

If Mr. Sowell is correct, and the evidence suggests that he is, maybe we’re better off taking care of our own priorities ourselves, and helping our friends and neighbors with their priorities when we can, instead of entrusting them to and relying on politicians who clearly have priorities of their own.

Something to think about. Hope you have a great week!

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A Wish, in Iambic Pentameter

I wrote this quatrain on Tuesday evening, before the election results were known, because I knew whatever the result many people would blow up in either indignation or celebration and, as a consequence, drive even bigger wedges between us. I shared the little verse on the Book of Faces, and thought I’d inscribe it (virtually, that is) here as well:

I Wish …

That we might preen and posture somewhat less,
Account ourselves without regard to pride,
Fret not upon disaster or distress –
A humble, hopeful star our constant guide.

(Image: “Wish,” by Jessica Tam, on Wikimedia Commons.)

 

And as always, I wish you the best.

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Monday Morning Insight: My Country, Right or Wrong

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

Since the week starts with Election Day Eve, I thought this 1872 quote from U.S. Senator Carl Schurz (2 March 1829 – 14 May 1906) would be appropriate:

My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.

When we vote, we either vote to keep the country right or to set the country right. It depends on our point of view, whether we think the country is or isn’t moving in the right direction.

But the work goes on after we vote, too.

(Image: “2016,” by Gordon Johnson, on Pixabay under Creative Commons.)

 

Every day we have the chance to keep our little corner of the country right, or to set it right if it begins to go wrong. It’s harder work than voting (when we vote, we delegate the work to others), but it’s more direct.

And if more of us did the work, it would be far more effective.

The trouble is, recently so many people have put so much effort into tearing down each other, a lot of work needs to be done no matter who wins the election. I hope we’re up to it.

But, have a great week, no matter what happens tomorrow!

___
P.S. Don’t forget, if you’re not already sure who you want to vote for, you’re welcome to write in yours truly for any office, anywhere.

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Third-Party Voting, and Baseball

Or, more precisely, third-party voting and the World Series.

I get it: a lot of us are sick of politics, and in particular of one or the other or both of the major party candidates. As a result, many of us who would normally vote along with one of the major parties are thinking and talking about voting for a third-party candidate.

I’m not sure I can do that.

The way I see it, a usually reliably major-party voter opting for a third-party candidate is equivalent to pulling for the White Sox or the Reds in this year’s World Series.

(In case you missed last night’s Game 1, or you’re not much of a sports fan, only the Cubs and the Indians are actually playing in the Series.)

In other words, I feel that if I voted third-party, it would be like cheering for a team — any team — that’s not even on the field. It certainly wouldn’t be cheering on the winner, helping them to victory, and it wouldn’t even effectively be cheering against whichever of the two teams I’d rather see lose.

Image: “The great national game — last match of the season to be decided Nov. 11th 1884.” Macbrair & Sons Lithograph, from the Library of Congress online collection, showing “a sandlot baseball game of presidential hopefuls with James G. Blaine pitching to Chester A. Arthur, with Samuel J. Tilden behind the plate and Roscoe Conkling as umpire, at first base is Benjamin F. Butler with a handgun in his belt, at second base is John A. Logan holding Ulysses S. Grant close to the bag, at shortstop is John Kelly, and at third base is Sereno E. Payne, in left field is John Sherman and in centerfield is Samuel J. Randall. They are playing on a field labeled “Potomac Flats” with the Potomac River in the background.” (Click here for a larger image.)

 

Maybe your third-party vote is more clear-cut. Maybe you believe in the values represented by the Libertarian Party or the Green Party or whatever, and consider yourself affiliated with them. Maybe you’re an Independent, and have no history with either the Democrats or the Republicans (and certainly no loyalty to either). If so, more power to you on your third-party selection.

But maybe, like me, you usually vote for a particular party. (If it matters that you know, I usually vote primarily Republican, though I don’t recall ever voting a straight ticket.) And since I usually ally with one of the major parties, I see voting third-party as a de-facto vote against my usual party.

If I vote third-party, it will not send any kind of message to the Republican leadership. It might clear my conscience or assuage my guilt by giving me the ability to say “I didn’t vote for X” when they try to implement some ill-considered policy. (Talk about self-interest in politics. I could achieve the same result by simply not voting.)

Heinlein had it right when he pointed out that if we have nothing or no one we want to vote for we can surely find something to vote against. Voting third-party may feel good, as if I’m voting against both of the major parties, but it seems like a damn ineffective way of doing so because it cannot prevent the side I find most disagreeable from winning.

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Some ‘Anti-Candidate’ Post-Debate Thoughts

First, a confession: I didn’t watch all of Monday night’s debate. I missed about the last half hour, I think.

Second, an evaluation: Mrs. Clinton looked poised and was better prepared than Mr. Trump, though that seems a fairly low bar to clear. Mr. Trump’s failure to take what would have been some fairly easy shots at Mrs. Clinton seemed almost deliberately contradictory to his usual “attack dog” style. (Yes, people have pointed out Mr. Trump’s interrupting Mrs. Clinton and the unfortunate moderator, but Mr. Trump seemed mild-mannered and deferential compared to his performances in the primary debates. Whether that was intentional, I cannot say, though I have seen speculation that it was calculated to make him seem less intimidating to voters.)

Now, some more specific observations:

  • Both candidates talked a bit about the National Debt. Mr. Trump made the point about how large it is now, without driving home the point that it is much larger now than it was eight years ago. Mrs. Clinton made the point that Mr. Trump’s proposed tax cuts would add to the debt, without explaining whether her proposed tax increases would actually reduce it. But the moderator missed an opportunity to ask them one simple question: Are you going to balance the Federal budget every year? Because if not, then you’re not going to reduce the National Debt.
  • Mrs. Clinton scored some points with the “Trumped Up Trickle-Down” phrase, and she praised her husband with respect to the booming economy we enjoyed during his Presidency. Then, however, she made the curious statement that trickle-down economics led to or was responsible for the recent recession. I found that curious because trickle-down economics was not a hallmark of George W. Bush’s 2001-09 term; it was a hallmark of Ronald Reagan’s 1981-89 term. If trickle-down economics lasted until the 2008 recession, then, that would imply that the economic policies of the intermediate terms didn’t count for much.
  • Mrs. Clinton also scored points by pressing Mr. Trump about his company’s failure to pay suppliers for services rendered. I would like to know the story behind that, and the terms of the agreements that were violated — or that were negotiated so strongly in favor of the Trump conglomerate.
  • Just once I would like to see a debate in which one of the candidates actually takes a moment to explain what is and is not the President’s job. With respect to economics, for instance, to explain a bit how the budget process works (I’m not sure Mr. Trump knows very much about that). With respect to military matters, instead of sniping at each other about who has a plan to defeat ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/whatever the Islamofascist quasi-Caliphate is calling itself today, it would be refreshing to have a candidate say, “No, I don’t have a plan because that’s not the Commander-in-Chief’s job. That’s why we have a Secretary of Defense; that’s why we have Combatant Commanders; that’s why we have the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I will give them direction, they will recommend courses of action, and I will make the decision. Next question.”
  • The two of them had a lot to say about policing, but policing is a local issue rather than a Federal one. It would have been nice to have them discuss whether they think the Executive Branch has a role in local matters, and if so what that particular role might be, rather than hearing about whether “stop and frisk” was or was not effective when it was in place in New York City.
  • The crime and gun control portion was one of Mr. Trump’s missed opportunities. A simple question that he could have asked: How many criminals and gang members have ever gone through a background check in order to purchase a firearm legally?
  • The question about cybersecurity was another missed opportunity. Mr. Trump certainly did not display any sort of killer instinct, or he would’ve pointed out the irony of someone trying to come across as knowledgeable about security who could not recognize that paragraph markings in a message denoted classified content; alternately, he could’ve asked about how increased cybersecurity might have protected mishandled emails that, it turns out, included very highly classified information.
  • Also on my list of things I wish Presidential candidates would talk about in order to show that they understand or at least appreciate National Security and military-related issues: the DIME: the instruments of National power.

Prepping the debate

(Image: “Prepping the debate,” by Leigh Blackall, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

In the end, I was disappointed that the smaller-party candidates had not crossed the threshold of making it onto the debate stage. That might have been more entertaining, and almost certainly more enlightening.

It is easier, of course, to talk about playing the game than it is to play the game: to analyze the debate afterward than to participate in it in real time. It may be that if I had the chance to debate I would not have fared any better. Then again … I think if I had a team of people to help prepare me and quiz me, I would be able to hold my own.

Put me in, Coach. I’d love to take a swing at it.

___
P.S. I’m the Anti-Candidate, and I approved this blog post.

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Monday Morning Insight: the Educated Electorate

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

It may do little to improve your Monday to remind you that tonight is the first Presidential debate of the 2016 election. Here’s something to think about as the debate looms, from a letter written this week in 1820 by Thomas Jefferson:

I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.

undecided

A photographer spotted this bus in Australia. I feel as if I’m riding it to the end of the line. (Image: “undecided,” by Vanessa Pike-Russell, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

In other words, YOU and I are the “safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society” in which we live. Our government is not, because everyone can point to one or another excess of the government in which it abused its power and curtailed citizens’ liberties. As individuals, we have much less power and inclination to interfere in the lives of our fellow citizens; our government, on the other hand, seems to have little better to do than to interfere in all our lives.

For us to exercise our control over the government and the powers we grant to it — “with wholesome discretion,” as Jefferson wrote — we need to educate ourselves. And if we fail to do so, and allow the government to abuse its power further and so erode ours, then we have ourselves to blame.

Enjoy the debate!

___
P.S. If anyone is interested, I’ll try to compile a post or two about how I would answer tonight’s debate questions.

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There, but for the Grace of God …

I found myself thinking, as the second major party convention came to a close, about the twists and turns our lives take, about how remarkable it is that anyone rises to fame or prominence, and about how the major party candidates got started on their journeys.

Athletes, for instance, may be gifted physically but they put in long hours of training and practice and preparation before competing, and the competition at higher and higher levels is so fierce that only a tiny fraction of all who ever played the game — whatever game it might be — will make it to the professional ranks. Artistic pursuits are much the same — whatever natural gifts we may have still need to be nurtured and developed, and only a very few professional (as in, making a living from the pursuit) writers, painters, actors, or musicians will ever emerge from the vast numbers of people who have dabbled from time to time in the creative arts.

In each case, the transition from amateur to professional to world-renowned is based on the performance, the output of all the work, as evaluated by the audience.

Can the same be said for politics?

Some politicians have natural gifts of charisma, charm, and attractiveness, and many of them “train” long and hard by networking, developing positions on issues, communicating with partisans (and opponents), and raising money. But political performance seems to be measured by intentions rather than results, promises rather than productivity, and politics is a game in which the influence of others plays a much bigger role than in other areas of life.

The influence of others may be natural to the political game. The intent for the candidate is not to appeal to everyone but to just enough people to get elected — for the party, not to attract everyone but to attract enough to get enough of its candidates elected to enact its preferred policies — so patrons and pathfinders and big-time players who can lend their own influence to a potential candidate become very important to success. Not so in other fields, where a player touted by a superstar must still perform on the court or an artist mentored by a master must still paint something worthy of recognition: in politics, notoriety and the right connections seem to be far more important than doing the actual work of governing or legislating. (Were actual voting records and accomplishments important, ineffective incumbents would be voted out far more often and certainly not be advanced to higher offices.)

Presidential Election Results 2016

Seems reasonable. (Image: “Presidential Election Results 2016,” by KAZ Vorpal, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

With that in mind, I can’t help but wonder if we would ever have heard of Hillary Rodham — if she would ever have been on a trajectory to being a candidate for the presidency — had she not married Bill Clinton, or had he been satisfied with remaining the governor of Arkansas rather than running for President himself. In the same way I can’t help but wonder if we would ever have heard of Donald Trump if his father had not been a real estate developer and provided him with seed capital and connections to start dealing in New York real estate and to branch out into other enterprises. Would they both be spectators had their paths not been paved by others?

Which brings up a more interesting question: which of us, with the right connections or having gained some degree of notoriety or power, might have found ourselves on such a stage? Why them, and not you, for instance?

Perhaps “there, but for the grace of God,” go we.

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Monday Morning Insight: The Government We Deserve

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

Something to think about with the Republicans’ national convention over and the Democrats’ national convention just getting started, a quote from the Sardinian — though considered French — political philosopher Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821):

Every nation has the government it deserves.

I heard a version of this quote back in the late 1980s, in a graduate management course at Edwards AFB taught by Rob Gray: “Management gets the union it deserves.” It makes sense in that context, since benevolent and enlightened corporate leadership may succeed in forming lasting partnerships with workers and any unions that represent them, while exploitative management is more likely to anger workers and encourage confrontations with their unions.

Only much later did I find the Maistre quote, the political quote, which I also think makes sense.

Maistre lived in a period of great political upheaval, and following the French Revolution he became a counter-revolutionary and supported a return to monarchy. He believed in the divine right of kings to rule, and perhaps in this quote he had in mind that nations with beneficent rulers deserve them while nations with despots likewise deserve their rulers. He was a devout Catholic, and may have considered it part of God’s favor or disfavor of a given nation.

I think his quote to apply to democratic nations as well, and accounts for natural consequences as much or more than any divine discipline.

Consider our current political climate in the U.S. We are fractious, self-absorbed, and fearful, and we have given ourselves a government that frequently acts to benefit select few, but which few depends on whim, caprice and political calculation; a government that we seem content to let grow without limit so long as we get what we want from it, though in the process it will eventually consume all we produce; a government that appears to view its own citizenry with suspicion and disdain, and thereby seems less and less disposed to acquiesce to the will of the people but continually asks the people to acquiesce to its will.

My wallpaper in tribute to its author

I like this as a metaphor for the 2016 campaign: D. Trump and H. Clinton contending for the Presidency. (Image: “My wallpaper in tribute to its author” by JP Freethinker, from Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

Would you say we have the government we deserve? I’m afraid I would, and I wish we governed ourselves such that we deserved better.

Moreover, I’m afraid that no matter how the campaigns run or what the election results are in November, we will still have the government we deserve — and many of us won’t like it.

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A Serious Question for Trump Supporters

I’m not going to ask you why you’re a Trump supporter. I’m not sure I want to know the answer.

Donald Trump Backyard Photo Sign at Night - West Des Moines, Iowa
(Image: “Donald Trump Backyard Photo Sign at Night – West Des Moines, Iowa,” by Tony Webster, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

I will ask this, since it’s been reported that he’s unlikely to show up to the Fox News Channel debate:

Since Trump postures and preens and presents himself as a hard-nosed negotiator, a savvy dealmaker, and a “uniter,” how can he be unwilling to face a particular female reporter (Megyn Kelly) as the moderator of a debate?

Note that I didn’t say he was unable to face her, nor did I say he was afraid to face her — although it does appear that way despite his campaign’s protestations to the contrary. But at the moment he certainly appears unwilling to face her. In addition, he has been rather vocal in the past about not liking the way she asked him questions, even though it’s her job to ask questions and most reporters who take their jobs seriously ask tough questions. How does his unwillingness — or even his complaining about her being one of the moderators — show him as anything but weak, and petulant, and maybe a little pathetic?

Oh, hell, I will ask the question anyway. In all seriousness, how can you support Trump?

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Political Lessons, and … the Hugo Awards?

I ran for elective office this year, and lost. (For the record, I spent about 0.41% of the total that all four candidates in my district spent up until the election, and I got 3.5% of the vote. Not close to winning, but a good return on my meager investment.)

I was also nominated for a Hugo Award this year, and lost. The story behind that has been chronicled on this blog and elsewhere, and I won’t go into it in this post. (For the record, and as nearly as I can tell from trying to figure out the preferential voting numbers, about 9% of the 5100 novelette voters selected my story as their first choice. I ended up in fourth place . . . two spots below “No Award.”)

I introduce the fact of my being on political and literary ballots this year because I observed two things in the recent Town Council election process that seem pertinent to this year’s Hugo Awards. Specifically, that the political parties inserted themselves deeply into what was supposed to be a nonpartisan race, and other players also wielded considerable influence; and that a lot of voter information was readily available for the candidates to use.

Now, with the caveat that this post is very long, I’ll try to make those connections.

Parties, Power Brokers, and Influence. I ran for Town Council in a single district here in Cary, North Carolina, and though the race was ostensibly nonpartisan the parties definitely made their presence known. The Republican Party endorsed one of the three of us who identified as Republicans — though not this particular candidate — and the Democratic Party endorsed the fourth candidate. The party endorsements brought with them not only some cachet, which those two candidates used to their advantage, but also party money for advertising as well as organized volunteer efforts for canvassing neighborhoods and working the polls.

In addition to the parties, several civic and professional groups were quite interested in the campaign. Some invited the candidates to meet with them in interviews or to fill out interview questionnaires; some sponsored “meet the candidate” social events; some even sponsored debates between the candidates. A few of those groups also endorsed candidates — again, not this candidate — and encouraged their members to support that person who they felt most confident would represent their interests if elected.

What relation does this have to the Hugo Awards? Simply, fandom has developed its own “parties” and thus the Hugo Awards have their own sets of power brokers (or would-be power brokers).

This year some people were very open about exercising their power. The “Sad Puppies” campaign was a party of sorts and encouraged people to consider specific works (mine included), while the follow-on (and aptly named) “Rabid Puppies” campaign flatly admitted that they intended to wield whatever power they could. When they succeeded at placing their preferred stories and people on the ballot — beyond my wildest imagining, if not others’ — a less organized but much more vocal cohort coalesced to wrest the voting power back into the hands of long-time WorldCon members (i.e., the traditional Hugo nominating-and-voting fans).

That is not to say that Hugo Award power brokers have only been active in recent years. Key figures in the science fiction and fantasy industry have long enjoyed considerable influence within the relatively small community of WorldCon fandom. Whether by their positions in publishing houses or the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), their notoriety, or the force of their personality; whether by their knowledge of the field, their literary achievements, or the number of people who read their blogs; or whether by other factors entirely, clearly some people became movers and shakers in fandom, and perhaps even kingmakers in terms of placing their favored selections on the Hugo ballot.

There was, for instance, considerable electronic weeping and wailing this year over whether, in the past, some “cabal” of industry insiders exercised deliberate and coordinated control over the nominating process. Accusations were levied with no proof beyond some statistical correlations, and despite the relatively weak charges they were at times denied with enough stridence that the old phrase “the hit dog howls” came to mind.* But from a group dynamics standpoint, a cabal was never necessary in order for insiders to have influence over the process. In the same way that a CEO or other leader can forget how much power they have over their employees and followers, people with informal power can forget that even a casual suggestion or question — “Have you read the new novel by [beloved author]? It’s marvelous” — can have an outsized effect on those who hear it.

Pillars of Influence
People can exert influence accidentally as well as intentionally. (Image: “Pillars of Influence,” by David Armano, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Taking that a step further, people can in some ways grow comfortable with or even addicted to the power they wield, even if that power is informal. They can come to enjoy it, to depend on it, and therefore to resent when it seems to have been taken away from them. In response, they could resort to making veiled (or not so veiled) threats, or to levying personal accusations that are demonstrably untrue. Again, the hit dog howls.

I will say at this point that I doubt there ever was a super-secret cabal directing Hugo-related fandom. But I know for a fact that insider politicking is as real in SF&F as it is in electoral politics, because I was faced with it in mid-April. Shortly after the nominations were announced, a friend of mine who has won Hugo and other awards and is generally well-known in SFWA and the SF&F community approached me, unsolicited and unexpectedly, to encourage me to withdraw my story from consideration.**

My friend wrote,

I think that you are a talented writer and that this is not going to be your only good story. . . . I think that if you made a statement withdrawing your story from the ballot, that you would get a bump next year and land on the ballot again. Not guaranteed, but I think that you would get a lot of good will.

My friend rightly pointed out that in some ways my nomination made me a pawn, a human shield, in the great Hugo fracas. My friend somewhat glossed over the point that I was destined to end up in someone’s bad graces no matter whether I let my nomination stand or withdrew it, but my friend was unceasingly gracious and pledged to support me no matter which decision I made. I very much appreciate that friend’s concern and their willingness to share their point of view while respecting mine; I count myself fortunate to have such a friend.

Now, a concerned friend reaching out like that would not by itself constitute insider politicking, even when the friend is nearly as deep inside the SF&F community as is possible to go. But when that same friend sends pretty much the same message to other nominees (a fact I verified from other people contacted), then . . . well, it certainly seemed to fit the description of a relatively powerful insider trying to exert influence over the process.

When one of the other nominees asked my friend about the fact that they had approached several of us, my friend wrote,

I was talking with a bunch of you individually . . . and started cutting and pasting from one email to the other. . . . I should have thought of how that would look. Please convey my apologies to whoever you spoke with.

I give my friend the benefit of the doubt, but I saw much the same thing even in the little Town Council race: insiders and special interests approaching candidates to see if we agreed with them or could be swayed to their positions. Some were more open and obvious about it than others, and their motives were clearer. As for my friend, I believe they were genuinely concerned for me and the other friends they contacted, and concerned for what the schism appeared to be doing to the community of fandom.

Looking back at what my friend proposed, it seems somewhat ironic to think that by withdrawing after being nominated I might improve my chances of being nominated in the future, not because anything else I might publish would be better than my 2015 nominated story, but because I would have engendered “good will” with the traditional fan contingent. As I wrote in reply,

. . . from a pragmatic standpoint I’m not sure whether withdrawing would really earn me the good will you speak of. I hope it might. But if good will garnered in that fashion is more important than any qualities inherent in my work . . . then the award really is more than just literary.

Consider this: If some of those who did withdraw — such as my friends Annie Bellet and Edmund Schubert — are nominated in the future, will they wonder if factors besides literary merit influenced the outcome? Since the primary complaint against my story and others was that they were nominated for reasons having little to do with their relative merits, it’s hard to see much of a difference with regards to receiving a friendly “bump” to “land on the ballot again.”

But in addition to the influence (deliberate or incidental) of insiders and power brokers, the other thing I observed in electoral politics that has some bearing on the recent Hugo unpleasantness is

A Plethora of Voter Information. Very early in my run for Town Council, I learned that the Wake County Board of Elections had available a comprehensive database of registered voters. I downloaded it as a huge Excel spreadsheet and narrowed it down first to Cary and then to just my district. In the end, I still had a lengthy list of around 24,000 registered voters that included names, addresses, party affiliations and other information, up to and including whether (and by what method) they voted in recent elections. The only thing missing was exactly for whom they voted.

How does that relate to the Hugo Awards?

During the WorldCon business meeting, when changes to the nomination-and-voting procedures were being proposed and debated, the membership passed a resolution calling for the convention organizers to release anonymized nomination data. The convention committee agreed to do so, but shortly thereafter appeared to back away from fulfilling that agreement because, as I understand it, they were finding it too difficult to produce the data without giving away the identifying information.

Why would the nomination data be interesting?

Consider that, within hours of the Hugo Awards ceremony closing, the io9 blog published an article with the title “This Is What The 2015 Hugo Ballot Should Have Been” in which the author put forth a vision of what the award results might have been had the “Sad Puppies” and “Rabid Puppies” entries not been nominated. The author began with this:

Based on the newly released statistics, Brandon Kempner of Chaos Horizon has a good analysis of the Hugo vote, (as does Nicholas Whyte in From the Heart Of Europe)—they estimate that the Rabid Puppies bloc was composed of 550-525 voters, while the Sad Puppies bloc made up 500-400 voters: around 20% of the 5,950 total voters. Of those numbers, around 3500 likely voted “No Award” out of principle, objecting to the lockstep nomination process of the Puppies.

and then made the leap from the number of voters to the idea that the SP/RP entries might not have been nominated at all. To me (the former engineer and nonstatistician), that seems to be trying to produce orange juice from a bag of apples. The question of what would have been nominated requires delving into the nomination statistics; the voting statistics are irrelevant to that question, because it turns on how many SP/RP nominations there were, not how many votes there were after months of competing rhetoric. With only the raw nomination figures, i.e., without the data that would provide insight into nomination patterns, it seems unsupportable to conclude that none of the stories and people on the SP/RP lists would have been nominated.***

Returning to the example of voter rolls that do not reveal voting results, it seems reasonable to imagine that if the Board of Elections can record votes and yet produce a database of registered voters that contains everything but those voting results, then it should be a simple enough — or certainly no more complicated — database management task for the WorldCon committee to produce records of the Hugo nominations without including identifying information, whether name or membership number or IP address.

Along those lines, if the WorldCon committee’s IT experts — and it’s a committee of geeks, surely they have ready access to a number of technology, computing, and database experts — cannot find a way to produce the promised data, then perhaps they could turn to the local Board of Elections for assistance. I doubt my local Board of Elections is that much different from any other in the country; it seems that their local board in Spokane should be able to provide some guidance.

Conclusion: Heinlein May Be Right.

Robert A. Heinlein maintained in Double Star that “Politics is the only sport for grownups — all other games are for kids.” As someone who enjoys other games and sports, as a spectator and participant, I’m not so sure about that; maybe I haven’t “put away childish things” in that respect, but I’m generally in favor of practicing youthful exuberance in order to stay young at heart. So I suggest a corollary to RAH’s observation: Politics is the sport people play even when they don’t intend to.

All human organizations, from churches to businesses to science fiction and fantasy conventions, are suffused with politics, some of it practiced openly and some of it practiced surreptitiously. It would be disingenuous to claim that the Hugo Awards were ever without politics and politicking; indeed, during the run-up to this year’s awards many thoughtful commentators acknowledged the awards’ political past, though the degree to which politics overshadowed this year’s award was unprecedented.

Perhaps I’m uncomfortable with Heinlein’s assertion because I obviously have not played the political game well, but I’d like to suggest that another of his observations may be more apt, more relevant as we move forward. From Friday: “It is a bad sign when the people of a country stop identifying themselves with the country and start identifying with a group. A racial group. Or a religion. Or a language. Anything, as long as it isn’t the whole population.”

We continue to see this play out in electoral politics, as small groups band together in solidarity over their specific interests. And we’ve seen it in genre politics as well, whether the rallying cry is “Diversity Now!” or “Golden Age Forever!” or something equally narrow in scope. The implication is that the way we think about the subject is right and all other ways must be wrong, which is a peculiarly limiting viewpoint in a community that enjoys speculating about all manner of fantastic encounters and possible futures.

From my perspective it seems that part of the issue from the beginning of this year’s Hugo Awards melee was a difference in outlook among people who love genre fiction in all its forms, but who placed themselves in one of two groups: one that loves genre and also loves fandom itself, and considers fandom the ultimate expression of its love for the genre; and another that loves genre but for which fandom and the fan community is an adjunct, an addendum, rather than a critical component of their genre experience. That is, one group was devoted to fandom as well as genre; the other was devoted to genre but not (or less) to fandom.

And as long as we divide ourselves, or in the case of fandom subdivide ourselves; as long as we separate ourselves into (virtual or actual) walled-off enclaves and echo chambers, and associate only with those who look like us, act like us, and believe the things we do; we will find it harder to understand, relate to, and get along with one another — in civil life as well as in the SF&F community.

I think we would be well-served as a fannish community if we talked more about what we love and why we love it, without implying that those who do not love it as we do are ignorant or contemptible. And I think we would be better off if we recalled another RAH observation, also from Friday (emphasis in original): “Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms . . . but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.” I believe the pithy advice that bears ST:TNG alumnus Wil Wheaton’s name sums that up rather well.****

I had several e-mail exchanges with the friend who encouraged me to withdraw my nomination, and my friend helped me refine this statement of what I would like to see in our discourse: I’d like to have less shouting and more talking; less gloating, more humility; less blaming, more acknowledgement of different points of view; less name-calling, more self-deprecation; less rage (but no less passion), more acceptance.

It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable; if it were not, I would have far fewer friends in this field. It may not be easy, but it is possible — and if Heinlein is right, it is actually necessary if the community (whether the SF&F community or the larger polis) is to survive.

I hope, for my part, I have succeeded in doing so. But that is for others to judge.

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*If you prefer something more eloquent, perhaps “doth protest too much” would fit the bill.

**I do not intend to identify the person, because I do not want them to face any recriminations; I realize that makes some of the usage here awkward. If my friend wants to self-identify, that’s up to them.

***For example, I perused the 2015 Hugo Award Statistics and it appeared to me that both Annie Bellet’s “Goodnight Stars” and Kary English’s “Totaled” might well have been nominated even if they had not appeared on an anathema list. If that’s true, I’m not sure whether that would make their Annie’s subsequent withdrawal of the stories her story more ironic or tragic. (Whether other listed works would have fared so well is more difficult to tell.)

As a final note on the statistics, it would be interesting if the Hugo Award record-keepers would report the number of works that received ANY votes in a given year; in other words, to show that, out of the entire universe of eligible short stories or whatever, X received at least one nomination. The total number of nominating ballots is given in the statistics, but knowing how many unique works were on those ballots might give a glimpse into how homogeneous the reading tastes of the nominating cohort were.

****Wheaton’s Law: “Don’t be a dick.”

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