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
It’s an irony wrapped up in … an even bigger irony. A block of liberal political parties in Egypt issued a “strongly worded statement” on Saturday telling the U.S. to stop putting pressure on Egypt’s military to hand over power to the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate Mohammed Morsi (who is widely believed to have won a majority of the vote). Implicitly, they would prefer that the old-guard Mubarak-era candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, take control. Continue reading Egyptian liberals tell U.S. to butt out with all this democracy stuff
We ought to keep in mind that we’re seeing something new—something that no one has ever seen before. Barack Obama has a record to run on. In every election campaign he has ever waged to this date, he essentially was running on his personality, on his perceived identity, and on whatever voters might project upon the canvas he provided. Whatever ideological signals his record as a legislator might have offered in past elections, he went out of his way to blur them with soaringly dull speeches and inspiringly vague rhetoric. Sure: there were those savvy voters out there who knew where he was really coming from and what it meant for how he would govern, but he won election—in particular he won election as president—by winning over those who either lack the time or motivation to comprehend serious ideological agendas. (We sometimes call them “independents.”) They look for pragmatism, and Obama projected it in his soaringly dull manner. In the absence of an easily-quantifiable record of doing anything at all, and in the special circumstances of 2008, it was just enough to win. But now it’s different.
So watch closely, because this is how Barack Obama runs when he actually has a record. His problem is a thorny one. On economic issues—where voters expected pragmatic and sensible progress—his record is one of ever-expanding disaster, as a result of his single-minded pursuit of a pronounced ideological agenda. His central achievement, and the focus of by far his greatest energy, was a “reform” of the entire U.S. health-care system which was opposed by a plurality of U.S. voters before it was enacted and is opposed by an even greater number today. In terms of the general economic health of the nation: Although we are told the U.S. is not technically in recession, most Americans feel that it has been ever since 2008 (for very good reason) and with this crisis as an excuse the Obama administration has added five trillion dollars to the national debt with nothing to show for it save an extraordinarily flourishing subset of the population situated around Washington D.C. You don’t have to be a knuckle-dragging right-wing ideologue any longer to see that this kind of thing might be slightly problematic (and not really so pragmatic, after all).
So, we’ve seen, over the course of the last few days, how Barack Obama has sought to fluff up the one achievement under his watch that seems inarguably a good one: the elimination of Osama bin Laden one year ago. For those who would criticize the president for “spiking the football” and for excessive and unseemly stagecraft in his trip to Afghanistan for a ten-minute speech to the American people, I say: Cut him a break. What else do you expect the poor guy to do? This is the only positive achievement he has on which to run. So, he went to Kabul at great expense and great security-hoopla to sign an agreement that changes nothing from the day before it was signed, merely agreeing to make the real decisions later. It happened to be the day before the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. And he has been publicly crowing about the success of that mission to kill bin Laden, including in a campaign ad. Further, he’s been publicly questioning whether his GOP opponent, Mitt Romney, would have made the same call to get OBL. Many are outraged over this pattern of behavior—over this naked politicizing of an issue of national security and of an achievement that, in the end, is thanks to the diligence and bravery of members of the U.S. military and of the intelligence services.
I say: Save the outrage. As far as the Barack Obama re-election campaign goes, this is as good as it gets. This is the height of high-principle and magnanimity. This is the only thing with which he has been involved as president which he can hold up for general approval.
And when it comes to the negative shot at Mitt Romney for allegedly and hypothetically being unwilling to make the same call that Barack Obama made vis-a-vis Osama bin Laden: you ain’t seen nothing yet. Barack Obama is the weakest incumbent president in living memory, and his campaign will be one of unrelenting negativity against his opponent, because the only thing that could possibly get this president re-elected is some kind of crazy blind terror regarding the alternative. He knows it. This whole celebration of the killing of Osama bin Laden has been the nice part of the campaign.
From here on out, it’s murder.
Thanks to John W. who forwards me a recent interview with Greil Marcus in a Minnesota paper. He thought this part in particular would interest me:
One of the major events in my parallel life with Bob Dylan, which any fan has if you follow his work and his ups and downs … was election night in 2008 when he played the University of Minnesota for the first time. I just thought that was a fabulous event. I loved the way he timed the show so that it would end five minutes before the election would be called, so that everybody would be out in the lobby when the TV screen went on. I just felt like that was so appropriate, so not accidental. And ending the concert with that weird comment—“I was born in the year of Pearl Harbor, and it’s been an age of darkness ever since. But now I think things are about to change.” And that’s him just saying, “I know this is a special night, and none of us knows what, if any, changes in our own lives this is going to mean, but we all hope it will mean some change.” And I think when someone as in his own world as Bob Dylan can join his audience … I can’t imagine that would have happened in Poughkeepsie, or Birmingham or Seattle.
When Dylan’s remarks on election night of 2008 were first reported in the press, it was presented as Bob basically hailing Barack Obama’s great victory, with a triumphant “Things are gonna change now!” Greil Marcus’s tone is different to that here, but still slanted in a certain way. Back in November of 2008, I wrote on Bob Dylan’s election night remarks at my old website. I wasn’t relying on any paraphrase in the press or half-heard snippets. I quoted his full remarks, and provided the audio as well. Then I reflected on what Dylan seemed to be getting at, given the full context, versus how it was being reported, and even versus how it was heard by those present, many of whom were (naturally enough) pregnant with expectations related to the election. With hindsight, I was probably too long-winded, but I certainly stand by the substance of what I wrote. Briefly put, I think that there was a deep (and intentional) irony in Dylan’s words, notwithstanding the fact that he likely knew it would be missed by most in the audience that night. I ended my reflection with a biblical quote from Psalm 118: “It is better to put trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.” I thought then and continue to think that that says more about where Dylan is coming from than anything I could say. It surprises me, still, that there are people who listen to Dylan’s music for years and for decades who don’t seem to get this. Continue reading Bob Dylan, election night 2008, etc.
Now, the above would be an interesting headline (at least mildly interesting). But it’s not the actual headline today. The actual headline in today’s news is telling the most utterly predictable non-story of the entire political season: Huntsman dropping out, backing Romney.
We should give the antimatter candidate kudos for holding on as long he did, I guess.
… is a rare commodity these days. I thought the irony—or even sarcasm—would be pretty obvious in my previous post, “Bill Kristol calls for Sarah Palin to jump into the Republican race for the presidential nomination,” and I thought including a picture of Chris Christie would kind of nail it, but I’ve come to understand that I was mistaken.
No, I don’t believe that Bill Kristol actually wants Sarah Palin to enter the race. (Did Jonathan Swift have these kinds of problems?)
It’s difficult to tell exactly who’s out to get Herman Cain, although this cockamamie series of allegations does not have the look of a random phenomenon. In a way, I don’t have a dog in the fight, since (as explained in some detail previously) I’ve basically put him aside in terms of who I might support for the GOP presidential nomination, for reasons of substance that have nothing to do with the current brouhaha. Continue reading The danger of the media’s non-stop Herman Cain show