Althouse | category: election emotion



a blog by Ann Althouse

Quentin Tarantino's alternative reading of the Body Snatchers movies.

From his new book, "Cinema Speculation" (boldface added):

[T]he Pod People transformation is closer to a rebirth than a murder. You’re reborn as straight intellect, with a complete possession of your past and your abilities, but unburdened by messy human emotions. You also possess a complete fidelity to your fellow beings and a total commitment to the survival of your species. Are they inhuman? Of course, they’re vegetables. But the movies try to present their lack of humanity (they don’t have a sense of humor, they’re unmoved when a dog is hit by a car) as evidence of some deep-seated sinisterness. That’s a rather species-centric point of view. As human beings it may be our emotions that make us human, but it’s a stretch to say it’s what makes us great. Along with those positive emotions—love, joy, happiness, amusement—come negative emotions—hate, selfishness, racism, depression, violence, and rage....

Imagine in the fifties, when the [first "Body Snatchers"] film was made, that instead of some little town in Northern California (Santa Mira) that the aliens took root in, it was a horribly racist, segregated Ku Klux Klan stronghold in the heart of Mississippi.

Within weeks the color lines would disappear. Blacks and whites would be working together (in genuine brotherhood) towards a common goal. And humanity would be represented by one of the racist Kluxers whose investigative gaze notices formerly like-minded white folks seemingly enter into a conspiracy with some members of the county’s black community. Now picture his hysterical reaction to it (“Those people are coming after me! They’re not human! You’re next! You’re next!”).

"We’re not just disappointed. This is the end of democracy…. Democracy died tonight…. This was it. If we didn’t win tonight, the end of the U.S.A. as we know it just happened."

It's election day today, at long last.

The post title is something a disappointed voter said, in tears, in 2012, after the failure of the effort to recall the duly elected Governor of Wisconsin.

You can see video of the desolate man here, embedded in a post of mine from 2017. I used it in one of my 6 reflections on the Washington Post's new motto "Democracy Dies in Darkness."

I'm steeling myself for the emotionalism of the day. There will be winners and losers, but how desperately mournful will the losers be?

If you actually believed in democracy, you wouldn't assert that if you don't win, democracy has died... especially if you'd spent the last 2 years denouncing those who won't acknowledge the legitimacy of their own defeat.

"We the people must decide whether we’re going to sustain a republic where reality is accepted, the law is obeyed, and your vote is truly sacred."

Said President Biden in his speech last night. 

I'm reading the transcript. He's talking about the midterm elections and he's saying the main issue is — not the economy, not crime, not abortion — but democracy itself, as if we can vote for democracy.

We participate in democracy when we vote. But how do you vote for democracy? Is he trying to say a vote for a Democrat is a vote for democracy, and a vote for a Republican is a vote against democracy?

We the people must decide whether the rule of law will prevail or whether we will allow the dark forces and thirst for power put ahead of the principles that have long guided us.

Is that on the ballot? I'd like "a republic where reality is accepted," but my President is raving about "dark forces." I presume he means that anyone who questions the accuracy of the voting procedures and vote counts is failing to "accept reality" and maybe also that people who think like that are part of the "dark forces."

As for the "thirst for power," isn't every candidate thirsting for power? I'd say yes, and that's a "reality" I simply "accept," but I don't think the elections next week are about which candidates are thirstier. It would be silly — and not reality-based — to vote based on which candidate seems less thirsty and less dark. It's like we're in a comic-book movie. Biden purports to call us to well-grounded sanity, but he speaks a language of free-floating fantasy.

Biden proceeds to blame Trump: "American democracy is under attack because the defeated former president of the United States refused to accept the results of the 2020 election."

Every legal challenge that could have been brought, was brought. Every recount that could have been undertaken, was undertaken. Every recount confirmed the results. Wherever fact or evidence had been demanded, the big lie has been proven to be just that, a big lie.

I agree that the result should be accepted for the good of the country, but not that following the available legal procedures proves that the conclusion reached in those procedures is the same as what we'd get from longer, more nearly perfect procedures. It's an American tradition to go on inquiring into the results of concluded legal proceedings, even as we are also realistic about the practical need to accept court judgments and move forward.

This isn't the first time the Hitler-coined term "the big lie" has been used against those who still question the results of the 2020 election. If Biden really wanted to call us to sanity and calm reasonableness, would he speak to us this way?

With democracy on the ballot, we have to remember these first principles. Democracy means the rule of the people.... Autocracy... means the rule of one, one person, one interest, one ideology, one party.... Make no mistake, democracy is on the ballot for all of us.... Because democracy is on the ballot....

He keeps saying it, "democracy is on the ballot." It's not true, but I guess his people liked the sound of it. It would make more sense to say "democracy is the ballot."

"Democracy is on the ballot" is a way to say — without saying — that you ought to vote for the Democratic Party candidate. But Biden keeps it superficially nonpartisan: Just vote and then peacefully accept the results that emerge from the existing legal process.

A vote is not a partisan tool to be counted when it helps your candidates and tossed aside when it doesn’t... We don’t settle our differences, America, with a riot, a mob, or a bullet, or a hammer. We settle them peacefully at the ballot box....

 And don't be violent:

There’s an alarming rise in the number of our people in this country condoning political violence, or simply remain silent because silence is complicity.... All of us who reject political violence and voter intimidation, and I believe that’s the overwhelming majority of the American people, all of us must unite to make it absolutely clear that violence and intimidation have no place in America.....

I agree, of course. But questioning the announced results of elections is not violence. It is part of freedom of speech, and active, non-violent protesting is part of the American tradition. I lived through an especially vivid example of that here in Wisconsin in 2011, when protesters stormed the state capitol and chanted "This is what democracy looks like." Democracy wasn't just the election and the announced legal result, it was all the pressure the losing side could exert. 

As I stand here today, there are candidates running for every level of office in America, for governor, congress, attorney general, secretary of state, who won’t commit, that will not commit to accepting the results of the election that they’re running in. This is a path to chaos in America. It’s unprecedented. It’s unlawful, and it’s un-American....

They only need to commit to refraining from calling for violence. The rest — the protests, the dogged sticking to a losing position — is absolutely not unlawful — it's free speech — and absolutely not un-American. 

Biden ends with an idea that — at long last — translates "democracy is on the ballot" into something that does make sense:

This year I hope you’ll make the future of our democracy an important part of your decision to vote and how you vote. I hope you’ll ask a simple question of each candidate you might vote for. Will that person accept the legitimate will of the American people and the people voting in his district or her district? Will that person accept the outcome of the election, win or lose? The answer to that question is vital. And, in my opinion, it should be decisive.

"Democracy is on the ballot" = Vote against any candidate who would not make the promise to accept the results of the election.

So I get what he's saying. I wouldn't base my vote on the failure of a given Republican to take an oath foisted on him by Democrats, but perhaps the President's words will motivate some voters.

Why are Democrats so unenthusiastic about the midterm elections? Is it about abortion?

I'm reading this CNN report on its new poll:
Overall, 27% of registered voters say they are extremely enthusiastic about voting this year, down from 37% just ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, and the decline in enthusiasm comes almost entirely among Democrats. Four years ago, 44% of Democratic registered voters said they were extremely enthusiastic about voting; now, just 24% say the same. Among Republicans, the number has dipped only narrowly, from 43% to 38%.

I wouldn't say a loss of 5 percentage points is "narrow," but the Democrats have lost 20 percentage points. That's enormous. What's going on?!

It could be simply that the economy is the biggest issue and people who like Democrats still don't trust them with the economy. Even if you love profuse spending, inflation hurts you every day, and at some point your own pain overshadows your self-image as a person of empathy. Maybe just stay home and disconnect. This election's not for you.

Similarly, a Democrat might abstractly endorse more empathy-oriented policies about crime but worry about their personal safety and the safety of their family. It may not be enough to flip them into voting for a law-and-order Republican, but it might induce abstention. I'll just turn away and let you rougher folks do things that might be needed.

But let's talk about abortion. When the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, Democratic Party politicians thought this was the issue that would rescue them from the red wave that had seemed inevitable. They pushed that issue hard and strongly identified themselves with a plan to pass statutes guaranteeing access to abortion. 

The CNN article tells us that abortion is the top issue for 15% of likely voters and for 29% of Democratic likely voters. But I want to know about those unlikely voters. I'm thinking that when abortion was understood and protected as a constitutional right, voting for the Democratic Party did not seem to have a direct causal connection to abortion. Now, the moral problem is stark. The Party is actively calling attention to the voters' role in making abortion available. 

I would think some people, in that situation, would distance and disconnect. Let others decide. Indeed, the erstwhile constitutional right represented the idea that the other should decide. That is, the woman who is experiencing the pregnancy makes the decision, and that is her right. But the decision-making is now in the political sphere, and those who want to stay out of the decision-making — who were adjusted to Roe — can refrain from voting.

"If you, like me, had been compartmentalizing a Trump 2024 run for mental-health purposes, I’m sorry to break it to you..."

"... but he looks like a man who is definitely running for president in 2024. His CPAC speech this weekend was a rude awakening as to both his intentions and the strength he would bring to that campaign."

There was no bigger roar from the crowd during the speech than during the following section, and there was no bigger shit-eating grin on his burnt-toast face than the one that came following the roar: 
I ran twice. I won twice and did much better the second time than I did the first getting millions and millions of more votes than in 2016. And likewise getting more votes than any sitting president in the history of our country by far. . . .  And now we may have to do it again. We may have to do it again.

Shit-eating grin on his burnt-toast face.... We need to get rid of Trump and return the GOP to the more civil, mature adults in the party. You know, the ones who say things like "shit-eating grin on his burnt-toast face." 

I became immersed in the poetry of "shit-eating grin on his burnt-toast face." Because if Trump is the one doing the eating — shit-eating — then why is he simultaneously a food substance — burnt toast. Does food eat? I began to think of the shit as a Nutella-like spread for toast. Do you picture the shit-eater eating it plain, like pudding, or using some medium, as with the legendary shit sandwich? Did you ever think deeply about the shit sandwich? Was it on toast? Was the toast burnt?

I'm so glad the excitable Tim Miller, from the illustrious Bulwark, gave me something to think about, this Monday morning. Some days, your food for thought is a shit sandwich... on burnt toast.

The man speaking to an adoring crowd at CPAC... owns an entire new crop of succubus surrogates....  His hands may be tiny and soft, but his grip on the party is pretty tight.

Let's see those hands:

"As the weaknesses of President Trump's legal cases to overturn Joe Biden's win become clearer, Republicans are talking more about the Electoral College..."

"... hinting at an extreme last-chance way for Trump to cling to power.... In this long-shot scenario, Trump and his team could try to block secretaries of state in contested states from certifying results. That could allow legislatures in those states to try to appoint new electors who favor Trump over Biden.... Trump has not directly said he would pursue this strategy. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo each noted on Tuesday that the election results don't become official until electors cast their votes next month...." 

It's very hard to imagine such a thing happening, but the Biden side needs to be prepared as long as Trump keeps the uncertainty alive, tormenting them. 

Axios has quotes from "one lawyer familiar with the process" — the process, not the Trump insiders who are planning to do anything like this, just the existence of this strange, mind-bending path to victory. 

This lawyer observes that Trump may be trying to "scare the living bejeezus out of everyone." Good guess. 

What is the argument that Trump ought to be doing what he can to calm us? I hear Biden and his people telling us they want to bring calm to the country, but they're declining the opportunity to just be calm themselves until the state officials certify the results of the election.

Personally, I feel calm about waiting for that. Why isn't that okay? It seems to me that as long as they choose to pressure Trump to concede before the vote certification, they're forfeiting the high ground of calmness above all, and I'm not going to worry about Trump's pot stirring. 

"I would implore everybody who’s celebrating today to remember that it’s good to be a humble winner. Remember when I was here four years ago, remember how bad that felt?"

"Remember that half the country right now still feels that way. Please remember that. Remember, for the first time in the history of America, life expectancy of white people is dropping because of heroin, because of suicide. All the white people out there that feel that anguish, that pain, they mad because they think nobody cares — maybe they don’t — let me tell you something: I know how that feels. Promise you, I know how that feels. If you’re a police officer, and every time you put your uniform on, you feel like you got a target on your back, you’re appalled by the ingratitude that people have when you would risk your life to save them. Believe me, I know how that feels. Everyone knows how that feels. But here’s the difference between me and you: You guys hate each other for that, and I don’t hate anybody. I just hate that feeling. That’s what I fight, and what I suggest you fight. You gotta find a way to live your life. You gotta find a way to forgive each other. You gotta find a way to find joy in your existence, in spite of that feeling.” 

Dave Chappelle, hosting "SNL" last night.


"Your patience is commendable. We knew this was going to go long, but who knew we’re going to go into maybe tomorrow morning, maybe even longer. But look, we feel good about where we are."

Said Biden in his super-short speech last night. He offers a basis for optimism to his supporters:
I’m here to tell you tonight, we believe we’re on track to win this election. We knew because of the unprecedented early vote and the mail-in vote it was going to take a while. We’re going to have to be patient until the hard work of tallying the votes is finished. And it ain’t over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted. But we’re feeling good. We’re feeling good about where we are....
It's true that all the legally cast ballots need to be counted, but I can't believe they were "feeling good." Not unless they knew all along that the polls were wrong.
As I’ve said all along, it’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who’s won this election. That’s the decision of the American people. But I’m optimistic about this outcome.... Keep the faith guys, we’re going to win this.... Your patience is great.

Does he really believe it's not his place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who’s won this election? 

Just yesterday, I read in Axios: "If news organizations declare Joe Biden the mathematical president-elect, he plans to address the nation as its new leader, even if President Trump continues to fight in court." That's not leaving it to "the American people," but to the news organizations who have been bending over backwards to help Biden. 

Unlike Trump, Biden doesn't need to declare his own victory. 

The elite media will declare it for him if they can, but Biden wasn't planning to wait until the entire process of ballot-counting ended. He was planning to seize strategic advantage in the ballot-counting battle and "address the nation as its new leader" — and that's more than Trump has done. 

"And we were getting ready for a big celebration. We were winning everything and all of a sudden it was just called off."

Said President Trump, last night, at "the latest news conference" he ever had. Transcript.

Yes, the news channels we were watching seemed to just stop calling states, ensuring that Trump's Electoral College number stayed below Biden's. 

I took the opportunity to get some sleep because I felt like the news had been turned off and got exasperated staring at nothing happening. How many times did John King touch and retouch Pennsylvania on his electronic map? It was surreal. You could go to sleep for a few hours, wake up, go to CNN again and there he'd be, futzing with the map, trying to show what could happen. 
The results tonight have been phenomenal and we are getting ready… I mean, literally we were just all set to get outside and just celebrate something that was so beautiful, so good... We won the great State of Ohio. We won Texas, we won Texas. We won Texas. We won Texas by 700,000 votes and they don’t even include it in the tabulations. It’s also clear that we have won Georgia.... They can’t catch us. Likewise we’ve clearly won North Carolina....They can’t catch us.... We’re up 690,000 votes in Pennsylvania, 690,000. These aren’t even close. This is not like, “Oh, it’s close…” With 64% of the vote in, it’s going to be almost impossible to catch....

Almost impossible. He's not lying and saying his victory is certain. He's giving a dramatic speech that makes you feel that a great victory has been won, but he still acknowledges that the outcome could change. 

We’re winning Michigan.... I said, “Wow.” I looked, I said, “Wow, that’s a lot.”... And we’re winning Wisconsin. And I said, “Well, we don’t need all of them. We need…”... We had such a big night.... And all of a sudden I said, “What happened to the election? It’s off.” And we have all these announcers saying what happened? And then they said, “Oh.” Because you know what happened? They knew they couldn’t win so they said, “Let’s go to court.” And did I predict this, Newt? Did I say this? I’ve been saying this from the day I heard they were going to send out tens of millions of ballots. They said exactly, because either they were going to win or if they didn’t win, they’ll take us to court.... This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election.

So far, so good. Then he springs a big rhetorical move, and he'll be criticized — or called a genius — forever: 

Frankly, we did win this election. We did win this election. So our goal now is to ensure the integrity for the good of this nation. This is a very big moment. This is a major fraud in our nation.

Many people will say that's where he went too far. He is fighting the battle. He could have said he intended to make sure there is no fraud in counting the remaining ballots, the hundreds of thousands of legitimate mailed-in ballots. 

But he declared that there "is a major fraud." It depends on what the meaning of "is" is. 

It might be sloppy language spoken spontaneously and a bit off. You can't really tell what "This" refers to in "This is a major fraud." He might simply have meant that anything other than counting the genuinely legal ballots would be a major fraud, which is obviously, absolutely true. 

He gets himself back on track and aligns himself with sober procedure and submission to the law:

We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we’ll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.

All voting must stop. Everyone agrees with that! 

We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list.

He's saying no cheating. Don't make new ballots. Just count the ballots that are legal.  

Okay? It’s a very sad moment. To me this is a very sad moment and we will win this. And as far as I’m concerned, we already have won it. 

ADDED: He was trying to create an atmosphere in which it will feel that when the Democrats fight for their side, they will seem to be overreaching, looking for ways to cheat. I think the Democrats would deploy the same rhetoric if the tables were turned. And it's only rational strategy for Biden supporters to express outrage at Trump's premature assertion of victory and his calling the counting of legal ballots a fraud. This is the fight we are in the middle of now, and I'm going to stand back and watch what happens without getting suckered into this emotionalism. 

"I'll just say this once, Althouse. Abstaining from voting is neither courageous nor principled."

"You don't have to love a candidate or adhere a million percent to his political philosophy in order to vote for him. It is your duty, which you appear to wish to neglect, to decide which candidate is less bad than the other and cast your vote. Anything else is cowardly."

Writes Tyrone Slothrop in the comments to yesterday's post "Galumphing toward the apocalypse."

I saw that last night but did not respond. What's different about today? 

Maybe the fact that I'd just read this by Sarah Hoyt over at Instapundit: 

"Forget about his manners; stop stomping your foot about how crass he is; and for the love of heaven stop holding your nose up high and pretending you’re too good for this: a vote for Trump is a vote for the constitutional republic."

Both Hoyt and Slothrop are saying something about Us the People Who Abstain that might be true of some of us, but is not true of me. And this method of using insults to push people to vote is ugly. Are they doing it because they think it's effective? I don't yield to bullies. Are they doing it to display their own staunchness? Does it feel like humor from their side? It falls flat for me. 

Notice how Hoyt and Slothrop contradict each other. Slothrop appeals to my vanity as he insists that I be  a good person — not cowardly and neglectful of duty. Hoyt denounces vanity and insists that I not get involved in any sense of my personal goodness. Is this about me or isn't it? I can harmonize Slothrop and Hoyt by saying Hoyt is also appealing to my vanity because she portrays the abstainer as snooty — with her nose in the air, acting like she's "too good for this."

Slothrop is distinctly wrong when he says voting is a duty. No. It is not. Like speaking, like religion, like getting married, like having sexual relations, voting is a right, and a right entails the power to decline to exercise it. It is horrible to be forced to speak, forced to take on a religion, forced to get married, forced to have sex — these are loathsome impositions. 

Hoyt is wrong — in my case at least — to attribute a refusal to vote for Trump to taking offense at his personal style — his manners, his crassness. I happen to enjoy his personal style. You can see that if you've been reading my blog over the last 5 years. I love freedom of expression, and I feel that I get him. He's a New Yorker. He's a comedian. He's free and daring. I like all that.  I do have some concern about the wellbeing of my fellow citizens who hate him at some instinctual level, but I don't think they ought to be appeased for losing or threatening to lose their minds.

Trump has his style and I have mine. If it makes you want to stomp your foot, go ahead. You can keep "stomping your foot about" how cruelly neutral I am. You're free. You've got your right and I've got mine. 
"If you, like me, had been compartmentalizing a Trump 2024 run for mental-health purposes, I’m sorry to break it to you...""I would implore everybody who’s celebrating today to remember that it’s good to be a humble winner. Remember when I was here four years ago, remember how bad that felt?"

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