Who are novelists voting for?

All about fiction.
Oct. 11 2004 6:51 PM

Roll Call

Who are novelists voting for?

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Click here to read more from Slate's "Book Blitz."

Front row: Updike,Tan, Franzen, Oates. Back row: Danticat, Card, Moody.
Front row: Updike,Tan, Franzen, Oates. Back row: Danticat, Card, Moody.

Slate asked a variety of prominent American novelists, ranging from Edwidge Danticat to John Updike, for a frank response to the following question: Which presidential candidate are you voting for, and why? Thirty-one novelists participated, with four for Bush, 24 for Kerry, and three in a category of their own. Authors cited a range of reasons, from a vote for Kerry "because I have a brain and so does he" (Amy Tan), to a vote for Bush because "we're at war, and electing a president who is committed to losing it seems to be the most foolish thing we could do" (Orson Scott Card). Here are their answers.

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I'm voting for John Kerry, who seems like a decent fellow—perhaps capable of rising to the occasion. There is so much damage to fix, I don't know who can do it. In a different sort of election, I might have voted for a Green Party candidate, or some such, but I think the current time period represents a state of true desperation. And living in Swing-State Ohio, I feel like my vote really counts for something.

Like many people, I'm casting a vote for Anyone but Bush. Back in 2000, Bush seemed like a joke—a smirking, callow, old-money twit with a fake Texas accent. Now, four years later, he seems truly, frighteningly dangerous and completely without scruples. I'm alarmed by his administration's attacks on civil liberties, by the deliberate lies that brought us into a poorly planned war, by the gleeful disregard for the environment, by the social policies—the tax cuts, which so nakedly benefit the very few to the detriment of almost everybody else; the ugly, merciless No Child Left Behind educational policy; the reckless budget deficit … I have found myself recoiling from the newspaper, and I dread where another four years of his administration would lead us. I find myself particularly repelled by Bush's professed "Christianity," even as his administration repudiates every value that Christ represents. He's probably not the Antichrist, but he comes as close as I've seen in my lifetime.

I'm voting for Kerry, because I have a brain and so does he.

By Bush logic, I should vote for him, since he gave me a hefty tax cut. In fact, the greatest increase in our deficit comes—not from the Iraq war—but the tax savings to the upper income brackets, on average more than $50,000 a year. To those who say Kerry is elitist, I counter there is no worse elitism than giving the rich more riches, while draining the rest of the country of monies that should go to schools, health care, the disabled, and support for the arts. Kerry would remove most of the tax cuts to the rich and give more back to the rest of the country.

What's more, the current president has done more to damage our civil rights, our environment, our standing in the world, our work toward the collective good, our sense of security. He has used orange alert fear to instill obedience, has redefined patriotism as a willingness to sacrifice constitutional law. How can I not vote for a candidate like Kerry, who respects the Constitution, who respects the need for health care, and who is strong and rational enough to defend our country but without arm pumping and high fives when the bombs fall on another country?

I look forward to voting for John Kerry, a man of exemplary intelligence who was brave in war and then brave in protest of war. I don't look for him to reverse our course in Iraq overnight, nor to provide quick fixes for global or national problems, but there are certain things I am sure he will not do: He won't try to pack the Supreme Court and other judiciary with anti-choice judges; he won't push for an anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment; he won't try to perform voodoo economics with tax cuts and a raging deficit. The present president has his virtues and his good intentions, but I'm not sure the United States can afford four more years of his administration.

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