Fight Club

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(Host) Today, commentator Philip Baruth talks about the bitter split in American political culture, and a crackpot theory he has involving Chuck Palahniuk’s disturbing novel “Fight Club.”

(Baruth) I have a crackpot theory that I’d like to run by you this morning, if you’re up for it. We’re now in the endgame of an election that polls consistently show *even tighter than 2000,* if you can imagine. Pundits are talking seriously about a tie in the Electoral College this time around. This in a country of hundreds of millions of people – another perfect tie. Two ties out of the last two elections.

To me, this is no accident. Imagine that you take a silver dollar and you cut it down the middle, and then you stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon and you sidearm the pieces off into space. And then you ride to the bottom of the canyon, and you find that the two pieces of the silver dollar have fallen next to one another, joined like puzzle pieces. A statistical miracle. But let’s say you tried it again and got the same result. You’d know something in your gut: something is deliberately bringing the pieces together.

In the same way, I can’t shake the feeling that these past two elections are not the work of statistical happenstance. Something must be methodically refining the two rough halves of the country into perfect statistical duplicates, and then bringing them into exact alignment on Election Day.

My theory is that a large chunk of America desperately wants a closely divided election — and the people who want it most we call swing voters, the people looking for the late-breaking action. With their deep-seated desire, and the latest in state-by-state polling techniques, it’s possible now — over a span of months — for this large chunk of America to keep repositioning and redistributing its influence until the media tells them that they’ve managed to produce dead equilibrium between the two parties.

Why, you ask. I think a large part of America is spoiling for a fight. A real fight. Remember the crowds outside the polls in Florida last time around, banging on the doors and screaming at the top of their lungs while the poll workers tried to conduct the recount? That kind of fight.

In Chuck Palahniuk’s novel “Fight Club,” disaffected young men form secret clubs where they go late at night to fight one another, hand to hand. It’s a bloody scene, but for the men involved Fight Club is the best part of their week, because it’s the only part of their week that feels real. Their lives are made up of alienating illusions — sports on TV, sex on TV — and they consume endlessly without ever feeling satisfied. Only in fighting do they feel alive — in pain, and therefore alive.

It seems to me that Fight Club is what our own electoral process has become: an elaborate ritual during which the country picks up sides, the red and the blue, and then fights *physically* over every single ballot, hand to hand – not simply to win the Presidency, or to control the country, but to have the fight itself.

To remember what it feels like to have something matter. To remember that we’re alive.

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