“The risk of secession in the United States is real between Republican and Democratic states”

He is one of the most read American writers in Europe. At 67, Douglas Kennedy has accumulated nearly 25 books, including many bestsellers. He shares his life between Maine, New York, London, Berlin and Paris. Her latest novel, which appeared in France in the spring, broached the issue of abortion with premonition a few months before the Supreme Court challenged Roe v. Wade on the right to abortion. While Donald Trump is subpoenaed by the committee of inquiry into the assault on the Capitol, Douglas Kennedy, from his home in Maine, describes and deciphers for the JDD Magazine, the issues of the mid-term elections of November 8 and reveals some of its little manufacturing secrets.

​What is your view on the November 8 midterm elections that are said to be key to the future of Joe Biden’s presidency?
Three months ago, I thought they would be catastrophic for the president and for the Democratic Party. I’m not so sure today. The Supreme Court’s decision this summer on abortion rights changed everything. The majority of American public opinion disputes this vision of the Supreme Court, which has become a political weapon of the far right, and in particular in federated states which weigh heavily in this election such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or Ohio. . People say to themselves that there are limits that should not be crossed. It is now possible, but not certain, that the Democratic Party will retain control of Congress. But this would require that Democratic voters, especially young people, mobilize massively, which is not certain because the turnout in this mid-term election rarely exceeds 40%. It would also be necessary that advance and postal voting not be so contested by the Republican Party, as was the case for the 2020 presidential election.

Read also – Midterms: why these American midterm elections are crucial for Joe Biden

In 1994 and 2010, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama lost these midterm elections, which did not prevent them from being re-elected for a second. How are things different today?
Certainly, but when Obama again lost the majority in Congress in 2014, it prevented him from appointing a judge to the Supreme Court, and we are measuring the consequences today. Things are different also because Biden faces the challenge of a rocky economy. The price of gas with us is like the price of bread with you. The gallon [3,78 litres] is cheaper in recent days than two months ago. It shouldn’t go up.

I would like us to end Trump, but his influence on the right remains considerable

Isn’t the American political landscape more and more complicated to assess?
It’s true. Including on Trump’s side with his never-ending court cases, like in New York, where the prosecutor has a considerable case against him and his children in the management of his businesses, or in Washington, where we judge his supporters for sedition for storming the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The fact that these lawsuits do little to change the way Americans think before they go to vote is very disturbing. The contrast with the Watergate scandal in 1972-1973 is striking. At the time, Republicans downplayed the robbery of Democratic Party headquarters, but when they heard the recordings of Richard Nixon in the Oval Office intending to trample on the Constitution, they ended up turning their backs on him. With Trump, it’s the opposite. I would like us to finish with him, but his influence on the right remains considerable.

Do you think he has political heirs who can take over from Trumpism and bring him back to power?
The Republican Party has become Trump’s party, with a few exceptions, like Susan Collins, the senator from Maine, where I live, or Liz Cheney, the former vice president’s daughter [Dick Cheney], who was kicked out of the party for opposing Trump. This party, traditionally, was libertarian, fiscally conservative and secular. It has become a far-right religious party, seduced by authoritarianism. When Thomas Frank wrote almost twenty years ago What’s the Matter with Kansas? [c’est quoi le problème avec le Kansas ?, non traduit NDLR], he had put his finger on what we are experiencing today. Kansas, where the union culture was one of the strongest in the country, had voted twice for Roosevelt, then for Johnson in 1964, but never left again after that. It fell into the culture war provoked by Richard Nixon which opposes a multicultural society uniting minorities to a “real” America which is that of Protestant whites. This vision of “us against them”, on the right, has since continued to progress. My assistant’s husband works in a shipyard for the US Navy and makes $60,000 a year, which isn’t too bad. And yet, he is opposed to free scholarships for disadvantaged young people who want to go to university, because, in his eyes, it is socialism. He prefers to go into debt for life to pay for the schooling of his two daughters rather than the state helping parents to provide a higher education for their children. Why does he vote against his interests? It is the Machiavellian triumph of the Republican Party to have convinced the working classes to privilege ideology rather than quality of life.

Read also – Midterms: facing Donald Trump, “many figures are emerging in the Republican Party”

This culture war of the two Americas divides the country between Democratic states, those who want to sanctuary liberal laws, for example on abortion, and Republican states, which want to sanctuary conservative laws, for example against marriage for all. Isn’t there a risk of secession in the long term?
I’m thinking about it a lot right now. I’m from New York, and California is the fifth largest GDP in the world. These two democratic states concentrate in cash and gray matter largely enough to be autonomous and independent. If we put aside the Republican states of Texas and Florida, whose governors, respectively Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis, are supported by Trump and could run in 2024, it is the Democratic states that provide the bulk of the prosperity of the United States. If the situation were to continue to escalate, I do not exclude the risk of secession.

In the spring, you declared that the Biden presidency risked being a “parenthesis” between Trump and a Trump heir. Is Biden up to the stakes you are setting out?
He’s old, it’s true, but he’s smart. He is a seasoned former senator who understands how the power machine works. With his very thin majority, he managed to pass laws for the reconstruction of the country and adaptation to climate change that were unthinkable. However, he will be 82 years old in 2024…

Even if I am very critical of my country, I am very proud of it for its great orchestras, its great universities, its great literature and for jazz, of course

Where is the young elected Democrat, local or national, man or woman, capable of taking up the torch, of re-enchanting the party and the country?
This question is existential and unfortunately remains unanswered. There is no obvious candidate, not even Kamala Harris, the vice president. But if Congress remains a Democrat for two more years, it won’t be so bad and could allow certain talents to make themselves known.

This difficulty of the centrists to beat the populists, how do you judge it in Europe, seen from the United States?
I followed the Italian election and couldn’t believe my eyes. I read what is happening in the UK with Liz Truss. I even lived three months in Sweden during the pandemic before the election which saw the breakthrough of the Swedish far right. The Swedish Social Democrats suffered the same thing as us in 2016 with Trump. They did not believe that the extreme right could win. The common feature of all these changes is linked to the question of identity and therefore to immigration. The white man’s power has diminished, and the white man is taking revenge. This is also seen in Poland and Hungary. Viktor Orbán was a liberal democrat, he became a dictator.

Also Read – How Gun Control Organizations Want to Make It a Midterms Issue

You share your life between the United States and Europe. How do you explain that you sell more books here than in America?
It’s because the French have very good taste! [Rires.] But I’m not the only one, I think Jim Harrison or Paul Auster have experienced such a situation. It may also be due to the fact that there are more avid readers in Europe. In the United States, only 20% of Americans regularly read books.

Who were your favorite writers before you started writing?
When I was young in New York, there were neighborhood bookstores all over the place. Today, in Manhattan, there must be no more than a dozen independent booksellers. I grew up in a world where writers were stars. Robert Frost and Gore Vidal meant a lot to me, as did some classic writers like Hemingway. Sinclair Lewis also marked me a lot and not only because in Impossible here [It can’t happen here], he describes an American society capable of bringing to power a man who looks a bit like Donald Trump and manages to get himself elected to the White House to become a dictator. Even if I am very critical of my country, I am very proud of it for its great orchestras, its great universities, its great literature and for jazz, of course.

The real suspense is in life, and you only have to describe it to make a good novel

Where do you find your inspirations?
I always start my novels looking for characters rather than a theme. In the last, Men are afraid of the light, I started with an encounter with an Uber driver and an article about a doctor in Nebraska who had been murdered by an anti-abortion activist. Modern worries are my favorite subject. I read four newspapers a day, including some rather conservative newspapers, because it’s crucial for me to understand the opposing point of view. I continue to believe that the real suspense is in life, and that you only have to describe it to make a good novel.

What is your working method?
I reveal to my editor only the central subject, in three sentences and without going into details. And he only reads the manuscript when it’s finished. I don’t have a designated place to write, I type only two sheets per day maximum, no more than 500 words. I write without a plan and I start without knowing the end. Sometimes I even add characters along the way.

Read also – Midterms: for MP Christopher Weissberg, “a Democratic majority facilitates multilateralism”

What are your writing tools?
First of all, I can’t write without music, because you’re very alone when you write. I mainly listen to classical or jazz. I always have a notebook with me to take notes during my research. Then, since my beginnings in Dublin, with plays for the radio, I have always typed my books on a typewriter or on a PC. But when the first draft is finished, I print it and correct it in pencil, because it’s important to have the book in the making in your hands and not read everything on screen. I understand writers who cannot do without pen, ink and paper.

Leave a Comment