Nemesis, or, The World of Yesterday

The book which I titled Nemesis is, at its core, about a simple idea. For three decades, a recurring vote against the sitting president’s party has been a very powerful influence within American politics, even as the culture mostly carries on as though this influence doesn’t exist.

The point of Nemesis, I suppose, is that the narratives about American politics have become badly misaligned with what’s actually going on. After setting out the case that this nemesis vote exists, and is best explained as a big vote against the sitting president’s party—rather than as a trivial thumb on the scale, or as big votes in response to policies or issues or events—the book explores what preceded this destructive force, how that old system broke down, what’s actually going on now, and what options exist now.

I think that the misalignment, in particular, matters. Imagine trying to aim a t-shirt cannon, e.g., but frequently miscalculating the angle of firing and where the shots land, etc. That seems likely to produce frustration and futility, rather than success. That, in turn, seems more and more to describe American politics. Many many things ail American culture, politics included, but a large gap has opened up between how people believe the system works and how it actually works. It’s big enough to constitute a significant gap between power, and accountability. An organized movement is exploiting that gap in order to rig the system and impose toxic policies, and I think that understanding the context matters.

If there is something to all this, there should be a way to set it out which is clear and organized, and which stimulates some new thinking. Nemesis is the result of my attempt.

Realistically, I had doubts about the prospects for success, and the reactions (and the larger number of non-reactions) from test readers have reinforced those doubts. Without making excuses, I suspect that a successful attempt at this is possible but very difficult. The messages and cues which reinforce the prevailing concepts of how politics work, of why things happen and what can be done about them, are ubiquitous and constant. Stories, institutions, and a sizable industry, are all fit to the familiar concepts. Even the most brilliant little book would struggle to redirect most people’s models and habits, in the face of all that.

I still think that there is some substance to the ideas I wrote about, in Nemesis, and that the substance is alas “a story for which the world is not yet ready,” even as something considerably worse may already be replacing the pattern of futility which has prevailed for decades.

For what it’s worth, Nemesis is around 22,000 words, and you are welcome to read it:

2 Thoughts on “Nemesis, or, The World of Yesterday

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