After the 2012 election, yours truly effectively resigned from commenting on partisan political topics, because … well, for a lot of reasons: getting my prediction dramatically wrong; being depressed by the prospect of the future; and accepting that other kinds of writing are ultimately more enduring (to the extent that anything emanating from this source could possibly be enduring). The world of political punditry and prognostication was greatly shaken by this resignation, naturally, but I’m not sure that anyone else who turned out to be wrong in the prediction business chose to jump off the same cliff. That’s fine; to each his own. Two years later, and with another shift in the political landscape in the U.S., it affords an opportunity to consider whether I made the right decision or not. And I think the answer is that the decision was correct: things turned out after 2012 just as depressingly as expected, with national politics cemented in debilitating trench warfare, and with no progress towards ends that (in all seriousness) I and some like-minded folk consider to be of life and death importance. In fact, there’s only been deterioration with regard to the issues that matter most to me. That’s not a reason to give up taking a stand in the way any normal citizen does, but I guess I continue to feel it is a reason not to let oneself be consumed by the minutiae in the whole depressing fight. There are other things in life, even when the sky is falling. Continue reading An Election Reflection
The analysis has all been done and everyone has assumed his or her corner, but something has made me wait till the hubbub died down a little to put my thoughts in writing (briefly) on the outcome of the recent election in the United States. My prediction in the matter proved to be wrong. Actually, it’s about as wrong as I’ve managed to be about anything, ever, at least in writing. (I even had to issue a correction on a related post about Bob Dylan! Unprecedented!)
I have to suppose that the big-time pundits, like Michael Barone, Dick Morris, et al, can just roll over the next morning and dive right back in, but not so for everyone. Personally, I found myself deeply disillusioned in the wake of November 6th. I could blame it on the faulty analysis from people like those previously mentioned, but that wouldn’t be honest. Sure: I bought into the idea that Democrats were being oversampled in the polls, and that the turnout models being used were flawed by being based overly-much on 2008. Yet, my reasons for expecting Barack Obama’s defeat in 2012 went much deeper than any Gallup poll or punditry. Last year, during the GOP primaries, I fully expected that any Republican nominee ought to be able to beat President Obama (barring a credible third-party candidacy). I misjudged the center of gravity of the American electorate. And that’s a serious thing indeed and not one that this writer—insignificant though he may be—can just shrug off. Why should I have any credibility in the future?
With hindsight, there are reasons for all of it, but they are of limited comfort. I don’t blame Mitt Romney personally for losing; subsequent to getting the nomination, he ran what was probably the best campaign someone named Mitt Romney could have run, reasonably speaking. Even though he wasn’t my guy in the primaries, I came around to respecting him and liking him to a significant extent, despite my admission in the week before the election that he still seemed somewhat “soulless” and “a cipher.” Election choices are relative, none more so than the U.S. presidential election when you have two candidates and the choice between the two will determine so many decisions for the nation over the next four years. However, I was mistaken (as were others, including Romney himself) in presuming that the entire Republican base had done the same internal calculus and simply “gotten over” their dissatisfaction with Mitt. In the end, what was wrong with Romney was what was wrong with him in the beginning: he didn’t bring the whole base with him, and they didn’t all come out to vote for him on November 6th. That Democratic turnout would be lower than 2008 was something we all assumed, and it was true (if not to quite the extent anticipated). That Republican turnout would be lower was mind-boggling.
Still, I can’t say that that explains the loss. Where was the center? What is the center? How could the results of the Obama presidency be embraced by the country to the extent of asking for four more years of the same thing? (And he promised nothing new.) That is what shook me. I think it’s fair to say that it has shaken a lot of people. Continue reading Windmills: A Post-Mortem post
Update and correction (11/17/2012):
The audio has become available from Bob Dylan’s November 5th, 2012 show in Madison, Wisconsin. Dylan’s words are different to how they were reported in the media, and different to how he himself reported them on Facebook. What he says in full is the following:
Well thank you everybody. We tried to play good tonight, after the president was here today. Y’know we just had to do something after that — it’s hard to follow that. I think he’s still the president, I think he’s still going to be the president. [Cheers from crowd.] Yeah we know — y’know the media’s not fooling anybody — it [sic] probably gonna be a landslide.
The phrase I bolded is the key one, because it removes the ambiguity that I zeroed in on in the reported words. Dylan was clearly predicting Barack Obama to be the winner; no ifs, ands or buts. In this he was far more accurate than yours truly. It was not exactly a landslide in the popular vote, but he did win the popular vote and he won very decisively indeed in the Electoral College. So, I was wrong in my “spin” of Dylan’s reported remarks. I was guilty of projection, in a big way. I personally expected Romney to win, and thought it would be decisive, and I just presumed Bob had bought into the same election theories that I had, and was therefore making some kind of double-entendre joke the day before the election. Crazy, huh? No one’s ever projected before when it comes to Dylan.
Why do I think he made these remarks? Well, clearly I’m the wrong person to ask. In this case, let Bob explain himself, should he ever be asked to do so. However, given Dylan’s answers to questions about President Obama in the recent Rolling Stone interview, and given how he’s behaved during his visits to the White House during Obama’s first term, I would still suggest that believing Dylan is in fact a big fan of Barack Obama in a political sense amounts to some kind of serious projection in itself. And, y’know, it takes a projector to catch a projector.
Update 11:30 p.m. (11/6/2012) Fox has called the election for Obama. No landslide – Romney looks like he may win the popular vote. But the times they are not a-changin’. Well … hold on tight and may the Lord have mercy on us all.
Ah, Bobby, he can still grab the headlines whenever he feels like it, even on election day! The story multiplying via the wires is from Bob Dylan’s concert last night in Madison, Wisconsin. As ever, we won’t know for sure what he really said until we get the audio, but the way it’s being reported, when he came back after the encore (and probably while he was introducing the band) he said: “Don’t believe the media. I think it’s going to be a landslide.”
Previous to that he’s also quoted as having said, “We tried to play good tonight since the president was here today.” The president, accompanied by Bruce Springsteen, was in Madison earlier that day.
Why do I say he’s predicting it will be Mitt Romney in that landslide? Well, only because I give credit to Bob Dylan for not being a fool, and he’s been traveling plenty around the country and probably has as good a feel as any for what the mood is. No one with more than three brain cells expects a “landslide” for Obama, so it’s a process of elimination.
More than all that, of-course, he’s no doubt just tweaking people a little and having a chuckle. Nevertheless, the media predictably have jumped all over these remarks with a huge chorus of headlines announcing, “Bob Dylan predicts Obama ‘in a landslide’.” As I said, we don’t know exactly what he said unless we hear it, but even as quoted by the Obama-sympathetic-journalists, I don’t see where he is predicting that the landslide will be for Barack Obama. The money quote is simply: “Don’t believe the media. I think it’s going to be a landslide.”
“Don’t believe the media” is right.
A couple of months ago, this is the same Bob Dylan who was chased around by the interviewer in Rolling Stone, trying to get him to say something positive about Barack Obama—anything! One of Dylan’s exasperated responses was the following:
Look, I only met him a few times. I mean, what do you want me to say? He loves music. He’s personable. He dresses good. What the f*%k do you want me to say?
He utterly evaded saying anything about Obama’s political outlook and agenda. When asked about the “reaction against [Obama],” he merely compared him to past presidents, including specifically George W. Bush, making the point that “Anybody who’s going to take that job is going to be in for a rough time.” (What would Bruce have thought of that?)
When pressed on whether he thought that “some of the reaction against Obama has been in reaction to the event that a black man has become president of the United States,” his answer—again with noticeable exasperation—rejected that premise entirely.
Do you want me to repeat what I just said, word for word? What are you talking about? People loved the guy when he was elected. So what are we talking about? People changing their minds? Well, who are these people that changed their minds? Talk to them. What are they changing their minds for? What’d they vote for him for? They should’ve voted for somebody else if they didn’t think they were going to like him.
The interviewer, still dissatisfied with what he was getting, went on:
Q: The point I’m making is that perhaps lingering American resentments about race are resonant in the opposition to President Obama, which has not been a quiet opposition.
Dylan: You mean in the press? I don’t know anybody personally that’s saying this stuff that you’re just saying. The press says all kinds of stuff. I don’t know what they would be saying. Or why they would be saying it. You can’t believe what you read in the press anyway.
A few weeks ago while on stage in Singapore, Dave Mustaine, the lead singer of Megadeth, is reported to have said:
“Back in my country, my president … he’s trying to pass a gun ban, so he’s staging all of these murders, like the ‘Fast And Furious’ thing down at the border … Aurora, Colorado, all the people that were killed there … and now the beautiful people at the Sikh temple.”
He continued, “I don’t know where I’m gonna live if America keeps going the way it’s going because it looks like it’s turning into Nazi America.”
Ry Cooder, who is promoting a new album called Election Special, gave an interview to the UK Guardian round about the same time as Mr. Mustaine was lecturing on political science in Singapore. Excerpts from that:
Look, what did Gore Vidal say recently? The interviewer asked him what he thought of the Republican party and he said it’s not a party any more, it’s a Hitler Youth mindset and they’re out to destroy the country, and he was 110% right.[…]
Romney is as bad as anyone can be. He’s a dangerous man. He’s a cruel man. He’s a perfect creation for what the Republican party is all about. And that is to say, a rapacious capitalist. Anyone who ran Bain Capital is not your friend. All they’re going to do is rape and pillage the land. Continue reading Dave Mustaine and Ry Cooder