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  • Brave Caucus Predictions

    • Posted on Jan 31, 2016

    Here is this morning's (1-31) column where I go out to the twigs on the end of the limb. Still, I've been right twice before going out there.  Eight years ago today, before the 2008 Iowa caucusses (cauci?) I predicted Obama would win not just Iowa, but the November election.  So I feel very slightly qualified to do the same today for tomorrow's first political test.   

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Not to brag, but days before our 2008 caucuses, I correctly predicted the outcome, not just of Iowa’s caucuses, but the 2008 election.  

    Here’s what I wrote here on January 30, 2008:  

     “The GOP will collectively decide that they have confidence in McCain’s presidential appearance and nominate him, despite his advanced age and moderate stance on a number of social issues. 

    “The Democrats will opt for making history . . .and nominate Obama.  Hillary will go down fighting, but she will definitely go down. 

     “So come November, we will be choosing between the old candidate who looks presidential, John McCain, and the young candidate, Barack Obama, who looks like no other candidate in our history.  

    And we will choose Obama.”

    Then I explained why voters wanted real change, citing George W’s Bush’s presidency as one of the weakest in history. This was pre-Palin, incidentally. 

    Again on October 6, 2012, just before the Romney-Obama election, I wrote:  “I predict here and now that Obama will win the election over Romney, simply because Romney is the weaker candidate on all fronts.”

    Now, eight years later to the day before the Iowa Caucuses, I’m ready to predict again. Three out of three?   

    Remember that no one has witnessed an election season remotely close to the current political roil and muddle.    

     A billionaire loudmouth who’s never supported anyone but himself runs in front of the GOP pack? Beside him, Bartleby the Scrivener of politics, “I prefer not to” Cruz?   And all the other uncivil Republican candidates carping at each other endlessly and destructively? 

    Democrats supporting the oldest candidate ever to run who proudly proclaims he’s a “democratic socialist” and means it?  And his opponent, the same candidate who lost to Obama in 2008?   Have we entered the Twilight Zone?  

    All pundits and prognosticators have been, are, and will be, trumped (sorry) by this election season’s off-the-charts unpredictability. Only wild cards sit in the deck, including a possible Michael Bloomberg candidacy.  

    Nevertheless I forge ahead, knowing being right isn’t completely out of the question.  

    So:  Sanders will win Iowa tomorrow. Democrats will flirt with idealism and enthusiasm in the form of the Bern, and this will certainly affect Clinton’s campaign.  She must admit that Bernie’s the candidate of change, and much of what he says makes good sense.   

    Then when Sanders loses the Democratic nomination, he will graciously throw his support Clinton’s way, which she will more than graciously accept. 

    A semi-enthusiastic Democratic party will support the Clinton/Joaquin Castro ticket overwhelmingly as their best hope of continuing and enlarging Obama’s legacy. 

    Trump wins our caucus tomorrow.  Still,  the GOP, after months of turmoil, gets the message and  realize that Trump’s blustery emptiness only works for their hard core. 

    He alienated too many potential voters, and Republican straight-ticketers aren’t a majority.  

    They will nominate Rubio, their young candidate of (mild) change. 

    So “experience” will face off against “change”—as in 2008--only with the parties reversed. And who will win?   

    This time, Clinton’s experience wins, because Rubio’s own party fatally undercut him with incessant in-fighting.  Essentially, the GOP will self-destruct.   

     Mark my words.   

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  • More on Feelings, Opinions, Judgments, and Hypotheses

    • Posted on Jun 04, 2014


    Originally published Nov. 30, 2008

     I thought this essay deserved resurrection because of recent discussions on Facebook about opinions. 

     Someone asserted that all opinions are in fact equal.  Below, I argue just the opposite.  What this Facebook poster calls “opinions” I call “feelings” as in

    “I don’t like rock music in church,”  “Apple pie tastes better than pecan.”

     Feelings are personal, everyone has them, and they are equally valid.  That’s why rhetoricians caution about arguing about matters of taste—there’s no way to “prove” what tastes best, which color is a favorite, and so on.  

     Though all feelings may be created equal, all opinions/judgments/hypotheses are not. 

     Incidentally, my “hypothesis” at the end turned out to be terribly wrong, sorry to say.  If only.   

     

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Hardly a day slips by without my hearing or reading  “That’s just my opinion,” as if to say don’t bother to examine my statements closely, since they’re just idle chatter.   It’s almost an apology. 

    But what about this:  “Obama has been worshipped by the media.”   Chatter, or a serious point?  Or   “Only an idiot would support Sarah Palin as a serious candidate for the presidency.”  Or “Democrats will turn America into a socialist country.”  

    Since we’re now blanketed by similar statements from bloggers and bloviators, opinionizing deserves special attention. 

     Not all opinions are created equal, nor are they endowed by their creators with facts, logic, and the pursuit of effectiveness. 

     Whole classes of opinions are designed to provoke a quick gut-level response from either conservatives or liberals.   These are called “polemics,” and the vast majority of current “opinions” fall into this category.

     Those three assertions with which I began are polemics, and when offered in a public forum, generate plenty of responses, meaning still more polemics.  It’s a form of entertainment, and the anonymity of blogged responses to columns or news stories encourages bloggers to create veritable towers of babble.

     None dare call them enlightening.  Except for a precious thoughtful few, they’re verbal pornography, designed more for arousal than for understanding.

     Another class of statements, however, is based on facts, examples, and logic.  Such assertions deserve analysis, followed by agreement or refutation.  These I would call judgments, and I respect them.   Instead of the polemic  “Obama has been worshipped by the media,” one might assert, “Obama’s ideas on the environment are similar to editorial positions of several mainstream newspapers.” 

     That’s a statement that can be supported or refuted, and doesn’t create an immediate visceral response.  It’s potentially fact-based, and therefore worth far more than two cents.

     The columnists I read most often write more about judgments rather than polemics:  Thomas Friedman, David Brooks, Leonard Pitts, and Kathleen Parker come to mind.   But not Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity, who polemicize for profit and not much fun. 

     Another class of statements deserves serious attention, more so than either polemics or opinions and judgments.  These are the conclusions that derive from research based on extended readings of historical events, laboratory experiments, direct observation and experience, or some combination.   

    Here is where knowledge of our world and its workings gets created and shared, and which we ignore at our peril.  I call them “hypotheses” for want of a better term. 

    Understanding hypotheses takes a good deal of energy and time, and they aren’t found in the rants that pass for commentary on cable news channels or blogs.

    Nor does it come from right-wing pulpits, where faith-based assertions can overwhelm common sense and logic. Though faith and religion deserve study in schools, they don’t belong in political decisions or in science classrooms.  That’s a judgment, by the way, not a polemic. 

     Some hypotheses can be highly controversial, and have become the subject of extended debates among specialists and laypeople alike:  “The World Trade Center Building collapsed from a controlled demolition, not just from jetliners flown by terrorists.”  And “JFK was shot both from behind and in front, so Lee Harvey Oswald could not have acted alone.” 

    Citizens need to take time to study the logic, facts, and sources behind such hypotheses and decide where the truth lies. 

     Some opinions and hypotheses, to be blunt, are just plain wrong, and deserve oblivion. Incidentally, in my opinion, both of those conspiracy hypotheses are wrong, based on cherry-picked or faulty evidence.

     My advice, then:  ignore polemics unless you find them entertaining.  They’re mostly just distractions.  Judgments and hypotheses, however, are the stuff of adult conversations and deserve attention, even analysis.  Feelings are merely personal tastes made as assertions.  

     Judgments and valid hypotheses can make all the difference when understood and applied.

     Here’s a judgment that I hope will prove to be a valid hypothesis:  The current economic crisis will force Democrats and Republicans to put their country ahead of their political parties and cooperate on a range of solutions. 

     [June 4, 2014] And what a shame I was wrong—the country is still divided, still ruled by polemics, and therefore still stalled, thanks to a perfect storm of misguided politicians, angry Fox-news viewers, stoked by virulent polemicists, and a visceral hatred of President Obama among right-wing fringe elements.  

     

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