ianrandalstrock (ianrandalstrock) wrote,

Foolishly jumping into the Hugos mishegas

I told myself I wasn't going to get involved. I don't have the time or interest to argue Hugo rules. But enough of my friends are involved in the current debate that I keep hearing about it, so I have formed an opinion, which I want to share:

The Puppy Power people have changed the Hugo Awards, quite probably forever. You can cry about it or laugh about it, bemoan their evil deeds or try to take the moral high ground. But what you can't do is close Pandora's Box and shut them back in it.

What we're witnessing right now with the Hugo Awards is nothing more or less than the rise of party politics.

I'm a Presidential historian. When I think about party politics, I think of the early debate over the formation of parties (and George Washington's warning against it). I think of the schism within Washington's Cabinet, when the Federalists and Democrat-Republicans staked out their ends of the political spectrum. That was a real-world example of what we're seeing now: when there is a prize of some perceived value, people will naturally come together to exert their joint influence to try to take that prize.

The Federalist Party faded from the political scene, and in 1820, James Monroe was re-elected almost unanimously, because there was no concerted opposition to the Democrat-Republicans -- they were the only organized party. In 1824, with no real external opposition, the Democrat-Republicans splintered, causing a four-way election to be thrown to the House of Representatives, which chose John Quincy Adams as President. In 1828, the fractured party turned into the Democratic Party (which backed and elected Andrew Jackson), while the other pieces slowly coalesced into an opposition party. In 1836, that opposition party finally got its act together as the Whigs, but they weren't consolidated enough to make a strong showing in the election, and Martin Van Buren won over a variety of Whig candidates. In 1840, the Whigs figured out that power came from everybody in the party supporting one candidate, and William Henry Harrison was elected. In 1856, the remnants of the Whig Party spawned the Republicans, and in 1860, they won their first Presidential election with Abraham Lincoln. Since then, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have maintained their shared stranglehold on American politics, recognizing that a hundred million random voters are not nearly as powerful as an organization of fifty million voters, and that keeping them organized requires both an articulated set of goals and a strong opposition.

So, to bring this back to the Hugo Awards: we have something which a significant number of people value. And it's something that has a set of operating instructions, which can be followed and gamed. Now, after sixty years of giving out Hugo Awards, some of the voters have realized that acting in concert gives them power within the system, and the Puppies Party has been born and instantly proven its viability.

Many people who are not part of the Puppies Party are decrying their actions, rending their garb, declaiming their love for the Hugos, and announcing their hatred for those people who would dare to "hijack" the award with concerted effort. The Puppies Party appears to have issued an ultimatum that they will keep doing what they've done in the future; I don't doubt they can (I do doubt the value of doing it, but not the ability to do it).

So, to those opposed to the Puppies Party, I can only say: welcome to party politics. If you don't like what they've done, you have a few choices:

1. You can do away with the Hugo Awards, simply retire them as a concept.

2. You can change the rules to make party politics impossible (though off the top of my head, I can't see an easy way to do so).

3. You can embrace the not-so-modern paradigm and form your own political party.

You can hate the concept of politics within the "purity" of the Hugo Awards, but now that a party has been formed and started operation, complaining about its existence will be a futile exercise. The Puppies Party has the power of unity that those who oppose it don't yet have. So, who among you is going to step up and start the conversation to form your party?

And for our European viewers, none of this thinking is to deny the validity of the parliamentary system. Perhaps the Hugo Awards may evolve into a multi-party system. Although the awards, as winner-take-all prizes, do tend to lend themselves more to a two-party system.
Tags: political theory, science fiction
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