TOLEDO, Ohio—Two polling places and about two dozen voters. That’s not even close to a scientific sample, even if the sample is from Ohio. If you're reading in order to divine how the rest of the nation will vote, please stop. You won't find it here. But staking out interesting precincts has become an election year tradition for me, because conversations with actual voters inevitably yields some insights about how they are thinking—and, more specifically, how they process the information and arguments so familiar to those of us in the business of politics.
ONCE UPON A TIME, in a realm called England, literary fiction was an obscure and blameless pursuit. It was more respectable than angelology, true, and more esteemed than the study of phosphorescent mold; but it was without question a minority-interest sphere. In 1972, I submitted my first novel: I typed it out on a second-hand Olivetti and sent it in from the sub-editorial office I shared at The Times Literary Supplement. The print run was 1,000 (and the advance was 250 pounds). It was published, and reviewed, and that was that.
Back in May, while reporting a cover story on the 2012 political landscape in Ohio, I decided to follow up on a article done last year by Toledo Blade reporter Tony Cook, noting the large number of donations from employees of a North Canton direct marketing company called Suarez Industries to Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel, who is challenging Sherrod Brown, and to Congressman Jim Renacci, who is running against Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton in a redistricted seat in northeast Ohio.
“They say we’re a lost generation. But it’s more like we’re a paralyzed generation,” Mario tells me over a beer on a sweltering Monday afternoon in Toledo. He is a twenty-five year-old Spaniard, and already his future prospects look unsalvageable. He holds a degree in visual communications, but irregular work and a negligible income have forced him to move back in with his parents. At the moment, he scrapes by working as a temp at regional post-offices, hoping each day that some employee might call in sick. “I’m basically tied to my cell phone,” he starts to say.
It’s been heartening to see a broad response to the disclosure, deep within the magazine’s new cover story on the Ohio political landscape, that the FBI is investigating questionable donations by employees of a direct-marketing company in Canton, Ohio to the campaigns of Republicans Josh Mandel, the state treasurer challenging Sen. Sherrod Brown, and Rep. Jim Renacci, who is running against Rep. Betty Sutton in a newly configured House district.