where the writers are
The Toast Crumbles

As much as I love thinking and writing about this political stuff, I'm going to have to back off politics for a while. See, I've got this book I'm supposed to be writing. Farrar, Straus & Giroux paid me money and everything, and I haven't turned anything in. This is different from the funny novel and the series of short stories Will Jacobs and I have been writing together, which are both incredibly easy and fun to write. (The latter, by the way, will be posted here starting Sunday. The first four chapters of the former are already on my author page.) This one's non-fiction, and mostly serious, and so far pretty hard to get rolling. So starting tomorrow I'll be using this blog to talk about the process of writing and procrastination, to work out some difficulties with the book, and to post some excerpts and summaries so I can get your comments. Basically, it's way of getting my whole brain in one place so I can make get the thing done and into print.

But I can't set the politics aside without first going on record with my prediction for the presidential election. The polls are close now, and everyone's predicting a tough race all the way to the finish line. I'm guessing not. It'll stay close for while, maybe until after the conventions, but then the gap will widen. Right now Republicans are hanging onto the hope that because it's close now, McCain will be able to pull it out. But deep inside they're almost positive he can't. They know how anti-GOP the country is, they know the internecine Democratic annoyances won't last forever, and they know how good Obama's organization and fund-raising machine are. And a lot of Republicans aren't even sure they want him to win. I've heard it from a few conservative friends already that they'd kind of rather see Obama have to wrestle with the wreckage of the Bush administration. They're not at all sure that the party and the conservative moment will be helped in the long run by four years of a septuagenarian, erratic Republican president being pounded on by a Democratic Congress. (My Republican friends, I should note, are mostly the secular, pragmatic, smaller-government, socially liberal type. There are all those other Republicans, the Evangelicals and the anti-immigration hardliners, who half-hope McCain loses for a bunch of other reasons.)

So what's going to happen is this: Obama will increase his lead very slowly for a while, even see it dip at times, because a lot of voters still see him as unknown and underqualified or fear that he'll turn out to be too far to the left. But bit by bit he'll reassure people that he's a solid, sensible leader with no big, terrible secrets. Meanwhile, McCain will fail completely to excite his followers. His campaign will continue to fishtail because it's stuck on its anti-Obama strategy and doesn't have a clear message. The economy will remain flat, which helps the Democrats these days. Whether things get better or worse in Iraq won't matter: a downturn will make Americans more eager than ever to get our troops out; good news will support Obama's contention that it's safe now to leave. The GOP attempt to exploit our fears of terrorism will only underline their foreign policy failures thus far. As the election draws nearer, Obama's lead will keep growing incrementally.

And at some point, some "tipping point" as people like to say now, the Republican Party will begin to despair. The campaign will begin to crumble audibly. It'll be just like Dole in '96: there will be Republicans who like McCain but have absolutely no hope of him winning; and there will be Republicans raging against the party for nominating that "liberal loser" and wanting him to lose so that the hard right can take over again. Casual voters and independents will begin to pick up the smell of hopelessness around McCain and inevitability around Obama. By election day, Obama will be solidly ahead in the polls, and on the day itself his voters will turn out in a far higher percentage than McCain's. Pretty early that night, before the network projections have finished with the Central Zone, we'll know that the guard has changed for real.

And with that, I'm moving on to my book...