Richard Warren Field - Writer/Musician
This year, my novel
The Swords of Faith
will be published by Strider Nolan Media. It has been a long time between
publications for me, and for the people who read and enjoyed my 1997 novel
The Election. People who
recall The Election may
be wondering what happened to the planned sequel (The Administration),
and how I came to write how I came to write The Swords of Faith. And,
given that The Election took a stance on many issues, there may be some
curiosity as to whether my ideas about these issues have changed over the last
thirteen years. This long essay will be my best effort at answering questions
about The Election thoroughly. This is offered
under the heading of “deep, deep background,” for the most interested, most
curious of my readers.
Background on The Election
During the late 1970s/early 1980s, I started toying with the idea of a huge-themed novel set about two hundred years in the future. I read and researched on a myriad of subjects trying to put together a positive vision of the future with a compelling story. (That project is still on the back-burner somewhere.) I had a rough outline of what the novel would be, and had written a chapter or two when I heard an announcement for the Turner Tomorrow Award. Ted Turner was offering $500,000 for the best unpublished novel that depicted a positive vision of the future. This sounded perfect, except that the novel needed to be set in the near future. (Ironically, the winning novel, Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn, was not set in the future at all, and didn’t seem to offer any vision of the future. Quinn did look to the past and came up with some unique insights – I found Ishmael to be a good book. But if I’d known I could bend the rules that much, I would have stuck with my original project.) I pondered how I could enter the contest while retaining some of the themes from my grand futuristic novel.
I came up with a fictional United States presidential election set in 1996. (I was writing this in the late 1980s.) The election would involve a third party candidate who would espouse the ideas that would lead to the positive vision of the future two hundred years ahead. I crafted an election scenario and submitted the book as The Election of 1996. I did not win the contest.
I submitted The Election of 1996 to literary agents and obtained representation. But the agent could not find a publisher who wanted to buy the book. 1992 arrived, and with it, a new Presidential election and a new President. Much of the election scenario for The Election of 1996 was rendered obsolete. I realized I needed to make the election scenario more generic. I revised the book and retitled it, dropping the reference to a specific year: The Election.
The big themes remained in the book. They were voiced by the Michael Edwards candidate/main character. As I rewrote The Election, I reduced the agenda portions of the book—stemming from its origins as a book offering a positive future for the Turner Tomorrow Award—and telescoped the agenda portions into specific areas of the book. I focused more on political maneuvering, plot twists, and quirky characters, to raise the entertainment aspects of the novel. I pulled the ideas from the novel and converted them into essays and other writing: “The Six Premises for Harmonizing Prosperity with the Environment,” “The Ultimate Weapon to Win the ‘War on Drugs’—Legalization,” “Ten Reasons to End Drug Prohibition,” “Clinton’s Refusal to End a Cultural War is a Betrayal of his Generation,” “The ‘War on Drugs’ Perpetuates Racism,” “The Electoral College: A Political Accident Waiting to Happen” “Don’t Look to the Republicans or Democrats for Visionary Ideas,” “Seven Third Party Ideas Ahead of Their Time,” a call for a National Third Political Party Day on June 22nd, and “Wake Up Call for a Generation.” I put The Election back on the market.
I was unable to find a home for The Election. So in July of 1997, I put it out myself, following the traditions of past self-publishers, like Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and authors more contemporary with The Election, like James Redfield (Celestine Prophecy), Marlo Morgan (Mutant Message Down Under), and Richard Paul Evans (The Christmas Box). The Election went on to receive some positive reviews, was used as a political science textbook in a college course about election behavior, and sold out its modest printing.
For me, looking back at The Election is important as I approach the release of two new novels, The Swords of Faith, and Dying to Heal (co-written with chiropractor Dr. Alan Fluger). As I’ve indicated, The Election never totally shed the “agenda” elements. In the novel, I made predictions and took positions. With the hindsight of over a decade, how do those positions and predictions stand up today? Have I changed my mind about any of them?
Issues Raised in The Election
Environment/Global Warming: In The Election, an issue that receives a lot of attention is a healthy environment, with global warming concerns as a focus. At this point in time (the first part of 2010), I am troubled at how extensively this issue has been politicized. Rhetorical games have entered the debate, like the use of the term “climate change” instead of “global warming,” apparently because of recent cooler temperatures. Why do these games enter this serious debate? First of all, it is not “climate change” that is the environmental concern. Climate is constantly changing, and has changed radically during earth’s evolution. The concern is a potential manmade catastrophic global warming. So a fair discussion of the issue ought to use the term “global warming” or even “manmade global warming.”
Also, my understanding of the science is that if manmade global warming is occurring, it will not occur in a straight line of rising temperatures. Computer models and projections indicate that there will be fluctuations, including increasing extremes of weather, as the temperatures go through an overall increase over decades or even centuries. If that is the argument, then why play games with the rhetoric? The “global warming” phrase should remain. Scientists and/or advocates for this threat should support their position with facts. They should keep the “global warming” label and cite fluctuations as part of the theory. If we are being truly scientific, we should see precise predictions from the theory, and a way to test if those predictions are in fact true. If they are, the theory should be taken seriously—the “global warming” theory. If the predictions are not correct, then we need to take a new look at the theory.
I read a great deal of information about this subject as I researched The Election (and my other writing). The information I read presented many facts, scientifically based, asserting proof of these ideas. I also read well-documented materials asserting that powerful interests, representing coal, petroleum and nuclear industries, were buying scientists to refute these ideas of a dangerous global warming to resist changes that would devalue their parts of the system.
But as I write these words, serious doubts about the objectivity of the scientists making the case for global warming have been raised. Emails have just been discovered indicating that scientists espousing the global warming threat allegedly fudged data and stifled dissent. A UN report indicating that the glaciers on the Himalaya Mountains would melt this century had to be corrected. And, it may be that there is a lot more money to be made by supporting global warming as a threat than in opposing it for some one-time payment from an energy company. Governmental and educational grants appear to be awarded to scientists and institutions who have accepted the global warming thesis as a given. And there are attempts to marginalize those with dissenting views with tactics like comparing skeptics about the global warming threat to holocaust deniers, and using dissent-killing phrases like “the debate is over.” In science, the debate is never over! That is an integral element of the scientific method!
This is all very disturbing. Science should not be driven by political agendas. Facts are facts, not argumentation tools to be bent and shaped to fit a preconceived point of view. If the physical sciences start to become as politically charged as the social sciences have become, truth will be the ultimate casualty. And if we cannot agree on the facts, if we cannot trust facts presented to us by scientists, then we have little hope of making sense of the world, and setting policy that incorporates facts as opposed to being agenda-driven no matter what the facts appear to be. Politicians, political thinkers (like me), need to be willing to look at new facts and adjust our policy ideas. We should never cling to ideas we have espoused in the past just to satiate a vain desire to present a narcissistic image of infallibility to the world.
That said, I remain concerned about this issue. I want to continue to learn more and more from objective truth-seekers without political agendas or axes to grind. I do not stand with those who predict outright catastrophe in the near future. (I never did.) Even if humanity-caused global warming is established as factual, we need to be objective enough to consider that this could be a good thing for the world. The period between 1000 and 1300 was a globally warmer period. That seems to have led to more habitable areas around the globe, and more prosperity. This should be part of the discussion. Hysterics, fear-mongering with little real basis, should be avoided. Dispassionate, unbiased, non-political examinations of these ideas need to overcome the current diatribe-laden approaches we seem to find.
On the other hand, I cannot go along with those who want to dismiss the threat entirely. The biology, chemistry and physics relating to possible effects of an over-abundance of “greenhouse gases” remain the same. Temperatures have seemingly decreased in recent years. This certainly deflates the assertions of the immediate catastrophe mongers, and argues against panicked measures to reduce the possible threat. But just looking at a few years of temperatures does not establish anything with certainty. A few years of warming temperatures do not mean we are in an accelerated, irreversible planetary warming any more that a few years of cooling temperatures means we can completely disregard the threat. A runaway greenhouse effect is possible—we have a real one in progress right now a planet away at Venus. This issue needs objectivity, a willingness to look at both sides of the discussion absent egos and polemics.
In The Election, the policy answer for environmental concerns, including “global warming” is an entire set of concepts captured in my essay written at about the same time, “Six Premises for Harmonizing Prosperity with the Environment.” Whether “global warming” turns out to be serious issue of concern or not, this set of concepts moves beyond that one issue and offers conceptual ideas about the blending of capitalism and environmentalism in a free market system context. I stand by this set of concepts, advocated by the Michael Edwards character in The Election, with some qualifying comments.
In Premise One, I discuss a “crisis of success,” with capitalism celebrating a victory over other economic systems and over the environment. I point out that material wealth has come at the expense of environmental degradation. I still maintain that is true, though I would use less dramatic language—I wouldn’t use the phrase that the “by-products of wealth production threaten to suffocate us.” In Premise Two, I point out a “fundamental flaw,” that the free market system does not account for “externalities”—they are not factored into the supply and demand interactions. I absolutely stand by this as well.
Premise Three identifies the “Mid Course Correction,” an activity I have described as “economic activism.” This is the government using the tax system to assess “true costs” of activities that have detrimental effects on the environment, and to compensate for “true benefits.” I also stand by the validity of the idea. The fact is, “economic activism” already exists. Any time the government taxes an entity and/or an activity, or doesn’t tax, or offers payments to groups for activities, “economic activism” is at work. Our government taxes income and savings. Is it any wonder that Americans save very little? Our federal government does not tax sales. Is it any wonder that people spend themselves into debt? How different would the economic profile of the United States be if the government had a national sales tax (exempting necessities) instead of an income tax? Tax it, and you get less. Subsidize it, and you get more. Would people have more income if the government taxed sales instead of income? Would people save more? There is no doubt that “economic activism” is a political activity. With respect to global warming, do we wish to take “economic activism” measures to address this threat? If so, how drastic should they be? These are political decisions, to be debated dispassionately, to be arrived at after education and consultation. “Economic activism” is government action—or inaction—so is absolutely political. Decisions about what to tax, with an eye toward how that tax may affect the society as a whole, should be based on political considerations. Legislators determine those priorities based on the wishes and needs of their constituents. This concept should be dealt with more openly, more consciously. Right-wingers will characterize this as an attempt to control behavior through taxation. That is exactly what taxation does—it affects behavior. It can either be considered consciously or unconsciously. But governmental economic activism is already here, already in use. I merely suggest we use it with deliberation, not by accident.
In The Election, I have the Michael Edwards character suggesting a gasoline tax that goes up five cents a year, coupled with subsidies for vehicles that run on renewable energy as a possible use of economic activism. At the time I suggested this, the price of fuel was lower, and supplies seemed more stable. Prices are now less stable, and prices have gone up and down dramatically over recent years. A gas tax now would hurt the economy. The extra cost of gasoline is already injected into the price by our suppliers. If we had implemented an escalating gas tax, along with the suggested subsidies, would we be less dependent on foreign suppliers and market forces in far-flung hostile regions of the planet?
Also, I favor “economic activism” to stifling, convoluted bureaucratic regulations. Some regulation is necessary. But too much dampens economic activity. “Economic activism,” employed with deliberation and precision is a more capitalist way to handle “true costs,” and places these types of decisions in the political arena where they belong, not with some bureaucratic agency, that issues edicts.
In The Election, the Michael Edwards character is against trading pollution credits (what is called “cap and trade” today). A marketplace for undesirable behavior still does not seem like a good idea.
Premise Four describes a “Regenerating Biosphere.” Of all the ideas in The Election, this one seemed to miss the mark with so many people. But I will stand by this one as well. I have simply tried to come up with a concept that describes the transition from a non-renewable resource/energy based society to a renewable resource/energy based society. At the risk of seeming self-important, even a little arrogant, I believe this concept is a future idea stuck in present orientations. I will either be wrong or early on this one.
Premise Five, the centralization of energy, and Premise Six, using wastes as raw materials, stem from the “Regenerating Biosphere” concept. Again, with these, I will be either wrong or early. But I would bet on “early.” Though this is a huge planet, the population is growing, and resources are finite. The beauty of these premises is that they combine to offer humanity the possibility of an indefinite prosperity. That is an exciting an idea, but on a planet that still seems large, with essential resources that still seem available, the idea is not exciting enough—yet.
I also stand by my concern for two possible obstacles for implementing these premises: overpopulation and military conflict. If the number of people overwhelms the available resources before the transitions to a “Regenerating Biosphere” can be completed, we will have a possible regression from the current levels of prosperity. And military conflict, besides being wasteful of lives, and causing humanity-generated suffering, is a terrible assault on the environment. In fact, back in 1998, I wrote about my concern about how religious fanatics might consider these ideas. I wrote, in “The Six Premises for Harmonizing Prosperity with the Environment:” “Mutual material prosperity will not be an incentive for the religious fanatics. Some religious fanatics believe passionately that the ‘western’ way of life is destroying the planet. Are they referring to the Industrial Revolution era? If so, how will they feel about the ‘Regenerating Biosphere’ era? Will it be considered a noble adjustment, or just a decadent western development? Will anyone be able to reason with these fanatics as the transition gets underway?” I believe those words were frightfully prophetic.
Other predictions concerning the environment were made.
In The Election, an island in the Florida Keys disappears underwater during a hurricane. Sea level rise is one of the consequences of a possible global warming that needs careful attention. Some have suggested that I was prophetic about the New Orleans disaster during hurricane Katrina in 2005. I would love to puff out my chest and take credit for great predictive powers. But in fairness, there were serious flaws with the preparedness of New Orleans, a city that is below sea level in places. The disaster there may have been an anomaly. We need to continue to take an objective look at the evidence on sea level rise.
A key assumption in the six premises is that increased price for non-renewable energy will spur interest in renewable energy. That has been demonstrated. During the gas price spike a few years ago, interest in hybrid vehicles, and vehicles with more efficient gas mileage increased. During 2001, power price problems in California saw a boom in the demand for solar energy systems. So the obvious is demonstrated: the marketplace for energy responds, and will respond in favor of renewables if they are competitive. And if their lack of externalities, and the externalities of non-renewables, are figured into the marketplace through “economic activism,” renewables may just become competitive.
As confirmation that “economic activism” functions at least piecemeal in the United States, there have been numerous tax incentives offered by both sides of the political spectrum to encourage environmentally sound activities. President George W. Bush agreed to tax credits for the purchasers of hybrid vehicles, and called for payments to farmers who used green technologies. In Bill Clinton’s last State of the Union address, he suggested tax incentives to businesses for using clean energy and to families for buying energy-saving homes and fuel-efficient cars.
The Michael Edwards candidate emphasizes “smart homes” as part of the “Regenerating Biosphere” future. Cheap computer power could be used to streamline a home’s energy usage, taking advantage of the fact that one of the best ways to stretch energy is to save energy. There are pioneers in this area, building prototype houses that can run on very little, mostly or all renewable energy. This is a development that is certain to expand as energy becomes more expensive. Home builders, particularly if there is some sort of governmental economic activism involved, will be sure to add “smart” wiring to new homes. And for any upgrade on an existing home, there will be more and more incentives to include this type of technology.
“Telecommuting” is becoming more and more common, though it would be a stretch to argue that this has developed for primarily environmental reasons. But the Bush Administration, back in 2001, did launch an incentive program to encourage employers to arrange for employees to “e-commute.”
The Michael Edwards character proposed ending subsidies to non-renewable energy producers. This seems only fair when those arguing renewables are not viable usually argue they are too expensive. But if their producers receive subsidies, then how can we really know this? There have been bi-partisan proposals along these lines, though the fear is that this will drive up the price of gasoline and other energy. It is still my opinion that we should cut those subsidies and let the free market work.
In The Election, the Michael Edwards character tries to be very careful about simplistic proposals that sound good but really don’t solve the problem. One of those elegant sounding solutions for automobiles was “fuel cell” power. But the Edwards character pointed out that even if you have a clean vehicle as a result of using a fuel cell, this means nothing if the fuel cell was produced using non-renewable fossil fuels. Since that time, concerns about this issue have been expressed. This remains a concern whenever someone tries to offer “fuel cells” as an alternative to non-renewable energy.
The Michael Edwards character suggests that government using renewables is another step toward the transformation to a “Regenerating Biosphere.” Many government agencies, federal, state and local, have put this into practice, from the Pentagon all the way down to small parks. This, to me, is government leadership in the right direction. It is “stimulus” with great residual potential.
The Edwards character also suggests that economies of scale will develop for renewable energy. This has been slowly and quietly validated, though certainly not as dramatically or as quickly as I had hoped. A European study in the late 1990s found that if solar panels were manufactured on a larger scale, they would be competitive with other energy sources. This was not occurred yet, but the gap seems to be getting smaller. The gap will seem non-existent the next time unreliable conventional energy sources shut down.
Decentralization of energy is a huge element of the six premises essay and the ideas offered about energy and the environment in The Election. In 2000, Worldwatch institute produced a report asserting that “micro-power” plants provide the best answer to energy needs of the future. There are also reports of solar cell providers selling to individuals who utilize them to reduce the overall energy consumption at the “micro” level. So the edges of this idea are out there. But as I mentioned previously, this idea simply does not have widespread exposure. When people think of renewables, they think of huge banks of windmills, fluttering on hills, or acres of solar cells in remote sections of the desert. And this attitude is often seen from both admirers and detractors of renewable energy. This is a “paradigm shift” that needs to take place to give renewable energy a chance to succeed. People running their electric or fuel cell cars off of electricity they produced at their homes from either a windmill on their chimney or a bank of solar cells on their roof is the best way to harness that huge influx of solar energy that hits this planet every second, and convert it unto useful application.
Utilities largely understand this. Their biggest expense is building new power plants. So we see utilities starting to pay customers for efficiency measures, and renewable energy systems installed at the home or small building level. Because if energy demands can be kept level, the utility does not have to build that expensive new plant.
The Michael Edwards character proposed offering tax credits for the purchase of environmentally friendly products. That may not have been a practical proposal. But government has used the Energy Star® designation, and other power consumption information to inform consumers on the energy consumption of appliances offered for sale.
Only minimal efforts have been made to quantify new economic indicators to measure the environmental health of a country or region. In the six premises essay, I refer to “linear” and “cyclical” production cycles. “Linear” production is the old way of looking at economic development, with a resource converted from a raw material to a product and eventually to a waste. “Cyclical” production refers to taking the same raw material to product, to waste, and then back to product again as a result of some form of recycling. I have not seen any progress in this area because this idea has not been embraced. Again, I am either wrong or early. If we move to a “Regenerating Biosphere” era, we will need indicators like this, and I will indeed be early instead of wrong.
The Michael Edwards character wants the United States to lead the world from the Industrial Revolution to a “Regenerating Biosphere.” The United States has not led the world in this area. In fact, during the Bush years, the United States was seen as obstructionist. I have a mixed view toward this issue. (I often run into this—my views tend to be orphan views, so are not embraced by any conventional political groups.) I do not want the United States to lead the world in the area of energy and the environment if that leadership requires us to apologize for our own economic development and material success, and to cut our economy back in ways that seem like punishment for our prosperity. But, I think we can offer a lot—knowledge, technology—for nations who are trying to develop now. The six premises essay offers a basis for this leadership, by our own example, and then through exporting green technologies, smart energy technologies, and any other developments we turn loose as a result of making the move to a “Regenerating Biosphere.”
There is one issue Edwards hits in a different way than I would today. (In other words, I am open to a changed view on this issue.) This concerns nuclear fission power. In The Election, Michael Edwards is unambiguously against nuclear fission power. He argues that the Price Anderson Act should be repealed—this is the Congressional act that limits the liability of nuclear power plants in the event of a catastrophic accident—and that if the power plants cannot be insured, they should be closed. He argues, and I still consider this is a valid argument, that this is nothing less than a huge government subsidy, distorting the market especially when we hear that renewable energy sources are too expensive. Price Anderson is renewed through 2025, and I don’t believe that is fair. But, I am willing to take another look at this. Back in the late 1980s and mid 1990s when I was writing The Election, we were still close in time to the 1980s disaster at Chernobyl and the accident during the mid 1970s at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. As we start the 2010s, I am not a fair person of I do not acknowledge that Chernobyl was a badly run plant in the old Soviet Union—we don’t build them that way here. And the Three Mile Island accident was not Chernobyl, not even close. France has been supplying huge amounts of their electricity with nuclear power, without incident. And nuclear power plants here in the United States purr along, supplying their contributions to grids around the country. I am willing to consider that this could be a part of energy production in the United States, though I would like to see that industry (all non-renewable industries) compete in the marketplace without subsidies of any kind. (I will also admit that though nuclear fission power is technically a non-renewable energy source, as the radioactive materials needed to run the reactors are not inexhaustible, this energy source has nearly no issue of “depleting” a scarce resource.) I also remain concerned about nuclear proliferation if this does become a more and more common source of energy around the world, and storage of long-dangerous nuclear wastes. And, nuclear power does not fit the idea of power decentralization referred to above.
The War on Drugs: The “war on drugs” is another issue that got a lot of attention in The Election. Though the fictional candidate calls for a discussion of the possibility of ending drug prohibition as opposed to outright advocacy, it is clear where his (and my) sympathies are on the issue. And I still believe drug prohibition should be considered, I admit it is a complex issue, and I wouldn’t advocate legalizing every drug at once. Also, considering what has happened over the last thirteen years, I wouldn’t call this a front-burner issue. But a number of points and predictions about drug prohibition made in The Election are worth considering.
Public sentiment has inched toward ending drug prohibition, at least in some limited ways. Many states now have medical marijuana laws, though the federal government until recently stood in the way of widespread implementation. A big test is ahead in California where a proposition favoring the legalization of marijuana may be on the ballot in the near future. A poll in April of 2009 shows 56% would favor this proposition, to legalize and tax marijuana. It is my predication that drug legalization will take place in steps. This has begun. We have had medical marijuana, and society has not fallen apart. The next step is legalization of marijuana. When society survives this move, we will be able to look at the next step. And the model of legalizing then taxing should be the model for ending prohibition on other drugs. The taxes can be used to educate people on the effects of the drugs, so they are making educated choices. (Increased education about alcohol might be a good idea as well.) The tax money can also be used to help people who struggle with addiction.
The Election has a scene where the LAPD is totally outgunned in a confrontation with drug dealers. Stratfor, the independent international intelligence service, reports that along the Mexican border, drug cartels are armed with expensive, highly effective military grade weapons that “have the potential to wreak havoc and outgun U.S. law enforcement officers.” There have been reports of South American drug cartels with sophisticated antitank weapons and even a state-of-the-art submarine to aid in smuggling operations. The Election points out that if the black market aspect of drugs is removed, the money and power of the drug cartels also disappears. This issue has slipped into the United States war on terror, with farmers in Afghanistan growing heroin because it is a much more lucrative crop than anything else they can cultivate. This feeds cash to local warlords with unreliable allegiances, as well as to the Taliban.
American Politics: The Election made a number of observations and predictions about American Presidential elections and third party politics. At the time I wrote The Election, the political landscape was different. And this leads me to a theory about third party politics in the United States. When the two major parties show less differences between them, third parties are more likely to become more prominent. John Anderson and Ross Perot appeared at a time when the parties seemed less defined by their differences. I predicted in The Election, and in writing about The Election themes, that third parties would grow as voter dissatisfaction increased. But at present, third party movements appear to be minimal. This is because there are such pronounced differences between the two major parties that it is easy for voters to see a choice and choose a side.
In The Election, third party politics turn the Electoral College system inside out. In 2000, the Electoral College system was stretched to its limits in a two party race. But many pundits offer the proposition that if Ralph Nader had not run for President as a third party Green candidate, Al Gore might have won this election. (I voted third party that year—for John Hagelin of the Natural Law party. I liked his ideas about health care. After Nine-Eleven, and his attitude that the United States should “wage peace,” I came to regret that vote. His dangerous naiveté toward evil people whose goal is to kill as many of us as possible indicated to me he would have been a poor President. A great spiritual visionary, maybe—but a poor President. I have not voted third party since. So I am “exhibit A” for the phenomenon I am describing.)
The Election was very prescient concerning the primary season for the American Presidency. When I wrote The Election, the California primary was in June. California did move up their primary, as occurred in The Election. And states seem to be falling over themselves, setting earlier and earlier primaries to gain influence on the nomination of the President. In 2008, Democrats took delegates away from Michigan and Florida for having their primaries “too early.” This is an evolving controversy as voters wonder why a handful of people in Iowa and voters in New Hampshire should have such a disproportionate influence on the nominating process. And the earlier the primary season ends, the longer we wait between selection of the candidates and the election of a winner. This causes campaigns to start earlier and earlier, with more and more money needed to have any hope for a successful campaign effort.
Foreign Affairs: No, The Election did not precisely predict the biggest foreign policy event of the 2000s decade, the attacks on Nine-Eleven. But in The Election, and in writing around that time, I discussed a dangerous complacency. The Michael Edwards character spoke of globalism colliding with the trend of regional diversification, creating the possibility of fanatics. And he spoke of “America’s most likely enemies in the future… nations and groups who do not share the foreign policy objectives of the civilized world community. These enemies will be led by individuals with volatile personalities and fanatic goals based on religion or nationalism, with narrow objectives and questionable morality.” This is pretty close to describing the Nine-Eleven attackers, a group of religious fanatics setting the whole world as a target to pursue for retribution for their perceived grievances. This promises to be an issue for the foreseeable future.
In The Election, a major drug cartel kingpin tries to use his money to gain control of Venezuela’s oil industry, which he hopes will give him and his country the power to become leaders of a new and powerful United States of South America. That is not exactly the Hugo Chavez story, but oil has given power to Venezuela, and Hugo Chavez certainly does fancy himself a possible player in the western hemisphere in opposition to the United States.
Domestic Issues: The Michael Edwards character calls for a vigorous expansion of the space program, citing major advances resulting from the aggressive space program in the 1960s, including the development of computers which has transformed the world. Sadly, no recent administration has really pushed this at all. It is still my opinion that development of space should be the part of American policy. To me, if there are to be “stimulus programs,” the space program should be at the forefront.
On the health care issue, The Election makes points that should be in the discussion, arguing that the capitalist system, the free market, is the best way to create mutually shared prosperity, and that this applies to health care as well. In The Election, the focus of the look at health care is mainly on how to increase supply, both of doctors and of hospitals. This should be part of the answer, but was admittedly a cursory answer, not well-developed (and not an emphasis of the book).
In my recent essay, co-written with Dr. Alan Fluger, also my co-author for the novel Dying to Heal, we treat the issue much more comprehensively. We argue for an updated free market solution, coupled with alternative care choices, which would also operate to increase health care supply. Recent reports indicate that doctor shortages may exist and if the government gets involved in the health care system, those shortages are bound to increase. Alternative health care will then evolve as a choice of necessity.
Reflections of Our Evolving Culture: The Election also offers comments about our culture, mainly our political culture, but with seepage into other aspects of American life. Some trends mentioned in The Election continue; some good, some detrimental. One of those trends is the “gotcha” element of journalism, in the political arena, and in the public square. This trend magnifies by the decade.
Journalistic “gotcha” has been around a long time, but more and more aspects of peoples’ lives have become subject to it. In fact, it seems to me that nothing is off limits now. John F. Kennedy carried out multiple affairs during his political career and the media stayed silent because they felt this was a private matter between him and his wife. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was able to hide just how crippled he was.
We’re supposed to live in a more tolerant society, more sophisticated, more enlightened. But a talented cripple or philanderer would certainly be precluded from running for any major office today. We look back at Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and cringe at the humiliation of Hester Prynne wearing the big red “A.” But ask Tiger Woods if we don’t have that same big red “A” blaring out over mass communication channels. People speak of his golfing career as tainted because of his infidelities. In the political arena, discovered infidelities have ruined careers.
The journalists responsible for the “gotchas” receive kudos and rewards. This is how journalists rise to prominence, by accumulation high-profile “gotchas.” It is their grand slam, their game-winning touchdown, their buzzer-beating shot, their hat trick. It seems to me the world should have better priorities with less “gotcha” and more focus on real, constructive accomplishment. But in a world of increasing images flashing and blaring at us from every direction, causing shorter and shorter attention spans, it is much easier to get attention with a “gotcha” than it is to take the time and effort to document a good deed with lingering positive effects.
The Election was written in the late 1980s, and rewritten a few times during the 1990s (as described above). The Michael Edwards character has next to nothing in common with the Vice Presidential and Presidential candidate John Edwards from North Carolina (who has turned out to be an embarrassment in many ways). This left wing Democrat emerged onto the national scene after The Election came out. I had no knowledge of him at all when I wrote The Election. I wish I had named my character differently. I had “Edwards for President” bumper stickers made up as a publicity item for The Election. I still have a few hundred of them, gathering dust.
I not ashamed to say I am proud of my effort on The Election, both as an entertainment, and as an exploration of ideas, some out of the mainstream. Those who did not care for The Election will find this essay to be a tedious, overwritten exercise in self-importance. But those people will not have read this far anyway. For those of you who enjoyed The Election, and wondered how I feel about the book over a decade later, I hope you have enjoyed this piece.
Mystic jazz productions of vintage rock using modern sounds and technologies ─ familiar songs offered in a fresh way; new songs offered in a familiar style.
Swords of Faith
Stories set in the past featuring dilemmas familiar to the present with consequences resonating into the future.
Mystic jazz celebrating the “Issa legend” – the idea that Jesus may have visited India and learned some of his history-altering spiritual insights there.