From D.C.: Sasha Abramsky on booktour for “Conned.”
Well, this could be the problem with trying to blog from scratch. I wrote a long entry about the joys and perils of being an author on the road, and somehow managed to erase the enire thing. So... an abbreviated rehash. I wrote Conned: How MIllions Went to Prison, Lost the Vote, and Helped Send George W. Bush to the White House as a political travelogue; I saw it as a road trip essay combined with a political analysis, a sort of de Tocquevillian musing, update for our modern age
I traveled the country from several months, in the run-up to the 2004 election, faithfully carrying de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" with me, looking at how the increasingly large number of people in this country with felony convictions and thus restrictions on their voting rights was impacting the nation's political process. I traveled, in fits and starts, from Washington, in the northwest, to Florida, taking in about a third of the states en route. It was fun, a chance to see America, in all its glory and its messiness, unfold before me, and to write about America and American politics. It was also an important project, allowing me to look at what happens to a supposedly democratic political system in an era of mass incarceration and, by extension, mass disenfranchisement. It's not just important philosophically but also pragmatically. Five million people cannot vote in this country; most are poor, many are from ethnic and racial minorities. Excluding them from the political process cannot help but skew the political discourse in a more conservative direction than would be the case were these people to be a part of the process. In states such as Florida, where upwards of three quarters of a million cannot vote, this clearly has impacted election results, including, most notoriously, the 2000 presidential election, ultimately decided in Bush's favor by a few hundred ballots.
Now I'm on the road again, talking about my book. It's both exhilierating and exhausting. I've flown across country three times in two weeks, been to New York, Sacramento, Binghamton and Philadelphia. I'm now in D.C., en route, this afternoon, to an event in Baltimore sponsored by a coalition called Justice Maryland. On Wednesday, at 6.30, I'm at Politics and Prose bookstore in D.C., an event being filmed by Book TV. When the energy's good, when the audience gets involved, there's nothing like it; when, for whatever reasons, that connection isn't established, the minutes weigh like heavy meat. On the whole, though, it's a real joy to be doing these events and talking about issues I care about.