You may gather that I don't consider the 2012 election itself much of a story, and you'd be right. It'll appear to be tight, but it really won't be. Here's my prediction.
So I wrote this book called Transmetropolitan, set in the US, and partway through there's a Presidential election between a man nicknamed The Beast and a man nicknamed The Smiler. The thing about The Smiler is that, in the dozen years since I wrote that book, people seem able to map half of all politicians on to him, dependent on their personal politics. Anyway. It's clearly going to be a close-run election, and that gets even tighter when a huge, freakish storm strikes the biggest city in America.
So you can imagine what my week's been like.
It was bad enough when Romney's "47 percent" talk eerily echoed a speech The Beast gave in Transmetropolitan. Now I'm being blamed for a lethal storm striking New York City.
I write this about eight days before voting day. US Presidential politics are a favorite spectator sport of mine, and I'm sad to see the cycle end, even though this one hasn't really been a good game. President Obama's fairly grim, toothless, meandering and perfunctory presidency gained excellent contrast from an assemblage of GOP candidates so demented and corrupt that even to describe them as such would be an insult to the many hard-working demented and corrupt politicians extant today. It was an array of desperate, shambling criminals (and Jon Huntsman, who presumably was there on a bet) that may have been unprecedented, even in the stinking cesspool of American politics, in its lunatic evil. The "winner" of the GOP race was always going to be the one who didn't shit themselves on stage. But the GOP itself couldn't win, because, considering the bunch running, the best you could hope for was a candidate who didn't shit themselves on stage.
Which is exactly what the Republican party got. A man who's only coherent when he's lying. Any solid political points he might have made have been washed away in a tide of dissembling, flipflopping, and outright bullshitting. Broad swathes of the party fail to summon enthusiasm for him. The Koch brothers, who could surely have amassed mighty forces to Romney's advantage, have provided only perfunctory support. And his mealymouthing about Big Government have put him on the wrong side of not only New York but also New Jersey, whose well-liked Republican governor Chris Christie has been effusive in his praise of the President even as Romney was being pelted with his own words about disbanding the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
My concern is this. The radical elements in the GOP will be able to claim that Romney was never their guy, and will take the next four years to place some genuine nutters, with serious backing, in line for the 2016 candidacy. Not the scrag-ends and barrel-scrapings they slapped on to the stage for this year's farce. The idea of the Democrats being conscious and organized enough to have a real player in place for 2016—because there's no way in hell they can run Joe Biden—is kind of funny. There will be a real temptation to throw 2016 to the GOP, to give the people a reminder of what that's like, to buy themselves a whole new four years to get their shit together in.
You may gather from the above that I don't consider the 2012 election itself much of a story, and you'd be right. Oh, the race will appear tight, because America is polarized—and, moreover, America has bought the generated narrative that it's polarized. Tell people they hate those strange assholes over the road for long enough, and they'll hate them good and hard. It'll appear tight, but it really won't be.
So, here’s my prediction. President Obama wins re-election by some uninteresting margin or other, the next four years in America are business as usual, and 2016 provides spectator-sport watchers like me with a knife-fight the likes of which you’ve never seen. Or, possibly, the same travesty as this year, only with party polarities reversed. With, if America’s very lucky, an attendant realization that change is hard to believe in when the only change in sight is the names of the players.
Follow Warren on Twitter: @warrenellis
Image by Marta Parszeniew
Previously - Jimmy Savile and the Price of Silence