It’s difficult to believe November 4th and the United States election is only two days away. This presidential campaign has taken twists and turns I doubt I could have dreamt up as a novelist. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite as excited for an election night as I am for this Tuesday–an excitement tinged of course with nerves (the memories of 2000 and 2004 are too vivid). So often, we only see in retrospect that we’ve lived through something historic. But whatever its outcome, we know going in that November 4th will be an historic night in American politics. I’ll be glued to the television of course to see the outcome of the presidential race (I’ve cared passionately about every election I’ve voted in, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about the candidate I voted for as I am about Barack Obama). But also to see what happens with the House and Senate. With state propositions, most importantly if California’s Prop 8 loses and in losing preserves equal marriage rights for same sex couples, including a number of my friends who’ve been married recently. To watch the hundreds of mini-dramas that play themselves out across the country–local initiatives, unexpected upsets, recounts, voting machines, turn-out.
My memories of election nights stretch back to 1972. My father was at an election night party. My mother, home with me, turned on the news and said “let’s see how bad it is” and there was President Nixon saying something along the lines of “as a man looking ahead to four more years in office.” Which in retrospect, has the ring of irony. In 1976, my mom let me stay up the networks called Pennsylvania for Carter. The next morning, the first question I asked her when I woke up was “Did Carter win?” In 1984, I called my dad from college, depressed and a bit lonely (growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’d never spent an election night surrounded by so many people who had voted differently from the way I had; an eye-opening and valuable experience). In 1992 my parents and I drank champagne while we watched the returns. In 2000, my friend jim and I kept checking the electoral map online as Florida changed from blue to red to uncertain.
Growing up with a fascination for politics, it’s perhaps not surprising that my historical novels involve politicians and politics. I think most historical fiction says something both about the time in which the novel is set and the time in which it is written. I love finding parallels and resonances between the political situation in my books and the situation today. In this election week, I thought it would be a good time to post a new video clip about those resonances:
This week’s Fraser Correspondence addition continues the theme with a letter from Charles to David in which he recalls the night he was first elected to Parliament.
Do you have special plans for election night this year? Do you like historical novels about politics and politicians? Do you look for resonances to the world of today or prefer to see the past as entirely separate? What kind of political couple do you think Charles and Mélanie would be if they lived today?