The 47.8%

Just so you know, I am feeling pretty discouraged about things at the moment.  Okay, okay, so all you Obamaites won last week--congratulations.  But not all of us voted for him, and not all of us are ready to ride the unicorns into the sunset.  And, no, I don't want you to try to convince me to change my mind about the outcome of our election.  I did that already--after 2008.  Just FYI, I know all of the arguments about why Mr. Obama is going to save us from ourselves; that's why I voted for him in the first place.  But over the past four years--and listen carefully--I HAVE CHANGED MY MIND.  I am certain that there are readers among you who have more background in economic theory than I do; I am likewise certain that there are those of you who have read more about foreign policy than I have.  But based on the reading that I have been doing these past five or sixth months--again, listen carefully--I HAVE CHANGED MY MIND about what I used to believe about how best to vote.

I am still working on reeducating myself as a conservative; I suspect it will take some time, given how long I have been a liberal by circumstantial default.*  But--again, listen closely--I am now much, much better informed about almost everything in our political discourse than I was four years ago--shoot, even four months ago.  I now look back on my former support for Mr. Obama with no little embarrassment--was I really that naïve?  No, I don't think that if Mr. Romney had been elected he would have been able to provide us all with unicorns--or even baby dragons.  But I do think that I understand better now why such promises simply won't work, however much we might like them to.  It is going to take me years more reading to be as solid on these issues as I am on the things I really know (dogs, fencing, the Virgin Mary), but at least now I am reading, not just pretending that everything is going to be okay.  Or that it doesn't really matter whom we vote for because all politicians are corrupt.**

But I don't think that I am going to be writing much about politics for awhile after this.  On the one hand, it is fun getting so many comments--many, many more than I usually get when writing about really important, life-changing issues like getting over writer's block or changing one's diet.  But on the other, it is discouraging having to spend so much time proving myself as an authority when that is never what I intended to be, not here in any case.  Shoot, nobody listens to me in the academic field in which I am an expert (okay, maybe not nobody, but it can feel like that sometimes); why should I expect anybody to listen to a little stuffed bear musing about the meaning of life on the basis of her recreational reading?  Answer: I don't, not really.  I just hoped you might enjoy coming along for the ride.  I have shown you my sources; I have declared my vast ignorance.  But if I am ignorant, I share my ignorance with 47.8% of the American population--and telling us to get over it is no less insensitive than believing that only those who pay federal taxes actually care about what happens to our country.

*I.e. being too embarrassed to stand up for what I actually thought about all the hot button issues with which our political discourse is afflicted, so just staying stumm or compromising myself by mouthing the pieties so that I wouldn't get metaphorically lynched.
**Thanks to the reading I've been doing, I even understand now why we simultaneously distrust politicians and expect them to be able to solve all our problems.  It has to do with the 60s, as does most of our current conversation.


  1. @FB: Hey. You'll get over it. Unfortunately, now that you play for Team Republican, you're probably going to have to put up with the ongoing gleeful liberal backlash against the Bush years. 'Cuz boy were those fun and full of meaningful political discourse. Not that that excuses anything, but I'm just saying. And, honestly, I think a lot of us voted based on careful consideration of policy rather than promises of unicorns. I don't remember those promises for one, and also, according to the tapestries I've seen, unicorns are not kosher and having one at home might be problematic for my social life.

    I'll miss the political postings. I'm not hugely interested medieval christendom.

    As an addendum to that reading list, can I add that, at least in the realm of economics and health care, there is a wealth of actual data freely available online from FRED, the SEC, the IMF, the World Bank, the CDC, WHO, and more, and also lots of free primary research on those topics from the arxiv, ssrn, the Journal of Economic Perspectives, PLOS, working papers, etc. In case you want to independently check the plausibility of anything that you read.

    That does bring me to a not entirely related question, but one I've never gotten to ask a actual academic historian. The physical, mathematical and now the social sciences have pretty eagerly adopted open preprint publication as a way of rapidly disseminating current research and getting continuous peer review. It hasn't stopped journal publication, obviously, at least as a final mark of professional approval. But, at least from my experience, both as a grad student and professionally, it's been massively beneficial in advancing knowledge in these fields and promoting critical review. I remember my wife complaining about how slowly history moved as a field in terms of disseminating new research and adopting new methods and I wondered why they didn't at least adopt something like open preprint so it would be much easier to a more rapid snapshot of the current state of the field. I'd be interested to hear your opinion on that. (ok. that wasn't really a question, more like "topic... discuss...". Please forgive.)

  2. @nkh: Yeah, I get the worst of both worlds: not voting for Bush when he was elected, and then (now) not voting for Obama when he was re-elected. Chalk it up to being a medievalist: we are always on the outside of modernity looking in, either being blamed for the woes of humanity (a.k.a. the Dark Ages) or ridiculed for not getting "it" (whatever the "it" of the day happens to be). There are definitely posts lurking in my blog archive on these topics, if you are curious, but my head is still pretty fuzzy with flu today, so I am afraid you'll have to hunt for them!

    Re: academic publishing in the humanities and history. Well, let's just say glaciers sometimes beat us. I have a set of papers coming out this academic year, some of which have been "in press" (i.e. I turned them in and they were accepted for publication) since 2007. The most recent of the lot, I wrote in 2008, and the volume in which it is appearing will come out in 2013. Sometimes we get lucky, and an article is accepted for publication and comes out within a year or two, but for edited collections, I am starting to realize, four years is pretty much the best you can do. History, however, is driven by book publication much more so than articles, and books in my field take on average a decade to write and research. You can see why I might enjoy blogging. At least this way, I get some readers more or less in real time, as opposed to five or ten years after I started thinking about an issue. I am working on revising a paper now that I wrote back in 1998--and have found only a handful of articles published since then to which I absolutely must refer. Perhaps this helps put some of my political reading in perspective: I am basically Rip Van Winkle when it comes to current events.

  3. Whoops, correction, the piece I am working on now is from 2000. But you get the drift. Why does it take so long? Peer review, plus copy-editing.

  4. Huzzah! Now I can continue reading! Let's hear more about dieting, fencing competitions, beauty, and prayer and FAR LESS about politics. How about more pics from your beautiful office? Or, more about books and how much we love them? As for politics, my motto has always been de gustibus non est disputandem.


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