Understanding China’s Leadership Transition
While the US licks its psychic wounds after an ugly 2012 election and settles back into its usual partisan squabbling (Oh, Hi John Boehner), the real most important country in the world has begun a governmental transition of its own. It’s called the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, and it started Thursday. There won’t be much popular voting going on, but unlike America, the leadership that will emerge from the process will feature a different set of characters than it started with.
The Congress is political theater—emphasis on the theater. The action takes place inside the main auditorium of Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. All the important casting decisions were made months in advance. Party members in the lead roles will deliver lengthy soliloquies. And everyone is heavily discouraged from going off-script.
Practically, Xi Jinping will soon replace Hu Jintao as leader of the Communist Party of China and President of People’s Republic. The Politburo will induct new members, and a bunch of other shit will happen.
As exciting as it seems that the world’s most populated country and soon-to-be leading economic force is changing leaders, the proceedings themselves are pretty boring. But against the backdrop of corruption, murder, and suppression, this Congress comes at a critical and complicated point in the country’s history.
SETTING THE STAGE
It’s been a rough year for the Communist Party.
First, one of the civil rights activists they were illegally keeping under house arrest managed to escape and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where he and his family were eventually granted asylum. This guy must be ninja Houdini, right? Actually, he’s a blind, self-taught lawyer named Chen Guangcheng.
Second, one of their most senior members, Bo Xilai, the former party chief of Chongqing and one of the elite 25 who make up the Politburo, was found to have conspired with his wife to murder a British national.
What’s worse, the story only broke because Bo’s insanely corrupt vice-mayor and police chief, Wang Lijun, decided to stop protecting his even more insanely corrupt boss.
On February 6th, Wang, fearing for his life, ran to the US consulate in neighboring Sichuan province with evidence that Bo and his wife, Gu Kailai, had conspired to murder a British businessman named Neil Heywood, who may or may not have been a spy. You can’t make this shit up.
“This might be a good time for Republicans to redouble their commitment to the reality-based community.” - David Brooks, NY Times, 11/7/12
Greetings! In light of this week’s election, your local GOP committee is sending out this quiz to gauge our party’s commitment to reality. As a registered Republican, your input is crucial to determining future party direction. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers!
A. THE LATINO VOTE…
1: Is something we’ll need to earn in the next election cycle.
2: Is a fad.
3: Wouldn’t be an issue if Eisenhower had built that wall.
4: Is an anagram for “Vain Tootle.” Case closed.
B. REPUBLICANS LOST WOMEN VOTERS BECAUSE…
1: The GOP talked about rape too much.
2: The GOP didn’t talk about rape enough.
3: The GOP forgot to rewrite the Wikipedia entry for the 19th amendment.
4: They just kept shrieking and shrieking.
C. THE TEA PARTY…
1: Limited the options of Republican candidates.
2: Should be honored for their pep and zing.
3: Will have to work like the A-Team now that the Constitution has been suspended.
4: Actually won a majority in both things of Congress. Media? Hello??
D. HURRICANE SANDY WAS…
1: A national tragedy best kept out of politics.
2: A convenient showcase for hyping big government.
3: Known about for months, or years, in advance.
4: A good use of CGI. Not great. But good.
It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Elected
On Monday afternoon I was going about the normal business of being an informed 21st-century news consumer—skimming Twitter, wandering over to my favorite websites, watching with amusement as the debate over Nate Silver’s polling aggregation techniques turned vicious—when I began to feel bad. Physically sick. I got a headache and my stomach clenched and unclenched—I got up to walk around and my left leg decided to develop an inexplicable ache. Maybe this was just because I sit in front of a no-doubt-radiation-emitting computer screen for most of the day and drink too much coffee, but it’s possible I was having a physical reaction to a realization that was growing in my brain like a cancer: We are actually picking a president this Tuesday.
I don’t know what finally tipped me off to this reality. Maybe it was the trickle of celebrity endorsements on Twitter—Clarissa of Clarissa Explains It All cast her ballot for Romney!—or the flood of usually snarky folks on my Facebook feed reminding each other to vote in suddenly earnest tones—“It’s the most important election of our lifetimes, it really is, guys!” It really hit me once I read Choire Sicha of the Awl (he’s sort of like the cool RA of the liberal young New Yorker blogosphere) telling all the cynical little shits out there to suck it up and vote for Obama. By the time I read a mirror-image piece on National Review’s blog lecturing right wingers about how Obama really was that bad, I was massaging my temples and softly moaning to myself. The campaign was so much fun—why did we have to spoil it all by putting anyone in the White House?
What Sort of Person Hates Obama?
Congrats to Obama! But before you start planning your Obamarama dinner party, take a moment to consider the forgotten and distressed. Although in your bubble of liberalism you might think that everyone would be thrilled about America’s gradual progression towards a political system which might actually do something right someday, in fact large swathes of America are furious about it.
It doesn’t seem right, after such a win for democracy and liberalism, to mock those less fortunate than ourselves, so I’ve compiled a selection of tweets that can help us to empathize with Republicans everywhere, as well as to answer the question: What sort of person hates Barack Obama?
- Time off school
- Louis Vuitton trainers
- The snack Reeses Peanut Butter Cups
- Special effects make-up
- The Bible
- Louis from pop band One Direction
Trisha Paytas likes:
- Her breasts
- Being a mix of “Woody Allen and your local hooker”
- Tall Men
- Christina Aguilera’s hair
- The idea of being entirely supported by an oil tycoon
Ted Nugent likes:
- Taking pictures of dead things
- Venison jerky
- Pictures of women holding guns
- Slaughtering pigs from helicopters with machine guns
A British Person’s Guide to the US Election
As President Barack Obama faces off against sinister cipher Mitt Romney, for those of you who continue to be baffled by the simplicity of American politics, I’ve carved through the three remaining salient facts to bring you a bluffer’s guide to understanding the greatest election since Goldwater-Johnson.
This election will be decided yet again by these things that keep getting called “swing states”. These are the most unhappy places in the union because there are equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. In these squalid misery-zones, Americans can’t even have an abortion without 50 percent of their friends tutting disapprovingly and the other 50 percent cheerleading them into the stirrups. Let’s have a look at some of those key battlegrounds.
Pensioners. Minor rappers. Cubans. Hanging Chads.
Pensioners love Romney because he also gets confused whenever he walks into a room. Minor rappers prefer Obama because Jay-Z said they should. Cubans prefer no one knows their immigration status and so will be staying at home, apart from Pitbull.
Predicted outcome: Romney wins.
Tire factory workers. People who have given up hope of ever living a normal life. Canadian refugees.
Ohio is famous for being ugly and polluted. However, it’s still hard to know whether voters there will want to hurt the rest of the country as much as they’re already hurting by voting for Romney, or whether they are just going to vote for Romney because they want to ship more of their pitiful jobs overseas to relieve themselves the burden of having to commute through its wretched streets every day.
Predicted outcome: Obama wins.
Jockeys. Tobacco farmers. Perpetrators of random killing sprees at technical colleges.
It’s hard to know why Virginia always gets flagged up as a swing state. Just because it’s halfway between north and south, pollsters often think it has a toe in liberalism. In fact, while jockeys may want to vote for someone who has promised to “stand up for the little guy”, overall, this is a state that thinks entirely with its handguns and has consistently voted for the candidate with the largest semi-automatic weapon and the boldest vision of America visible through a telescopic sight.
Predicted outcome: Romney wins.
MAKING IT A PAIN IN THE ASS TO VOTE IS THE AMERICAN WAY
Why can’t we be more like the Russians? They can vote in their fucking swim suits.
It’s hard to understand polls. Where do they get their numbers from and why are they so different? They often vary drastically from one pollster to the next, with one having Obama ahead by four percent and another having Romney up nine, all within the same state. Some polling companies are noticeably biased, others claim objectivity, and still others are clandestinely partisan. The numbers swing so frequently that anybody paying attention is sure to develop a case of the spins.
The polls take on different formats to try and glean likely outcomes for the election. Popular methods include randomized phone calls at different times of day, generally to landlines (but increasingly to cell phones). The biggest difference-maker is who and when they poll—even the littlest disparity between one poll and another could swing their results in drastically different directions. Think Dr. Malcolm’s explanation of the butterfly effect in Jurassic Park:
“A butterfly could flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.”
At the moment, it looks like Obama has the slightest lead in a number of crucial states, and it appears he might be able to gather the 270 Electoral votes he needs to retain office. But what happens if he doesn’t reach the mark? What happens if neither candidate automatically wins?
Welcome to another bizarre caveat brought to you by the Electoral College. According to the 12thAmendment, if no candidate receives a majority of the Electoral vote, the case goes in front of the House of Representatives. Each state delegation receives a single vote, meaning that although California has 53 representatives and North Dakota has one, both states would effectively have a single vote to cast. If each state was a person, this could be considered straightforward democracy. But since each state has wildly disproportionate numbers of people living in them, it boils down to less individual representation than already given to us by the Electoral College.
But wait, there’s more. This is where it gets even weirder. Not to be left out, the Senate is responsible for choosing the vice president, with each senator receiving a single vote to throw into the pot. Since there is an even number of states, it’s possible that the House could wind up deadlocked at 25-25, so if no president is elected by Inauguration Day, then the Senate-elected vice president acts as president until the issue is resolved.
Canal Plus correspondent Laurence Haim joins the White House press pool (“the bubble,” as she calls it) as they follow Obama around the country in the final days of his campaign. She discusses the frustration involved in trying to explain the complex electoral college to French people, and why Ohio is so important to that process. Ohio is very divided, she says, and after talking to some Ohio residents, her claim is corroborated. Some Ohioans she meets support Romney, some support Obama, and some say they won’t vote for either, because “they aren’t worth a crap.”