Utter Horror and Other Forms of Entertainment

There’s an election tomorrow. You might have heard that. The conventional wisdom is that Democrats are going to get whacked. And they likely will, but there’s something in me that’s not quite buying the polls. Maybe I’m in denial. Still, the one thing that seems to be distinguishing the polls—other than they’re terrifying Democrats—is that they’re all over the place. One week they show Republican momentum, another week they show a Democratic momentum…and now the Republicans are back.

As usual, it’ll come down to local politics and who’s got the best ground game. Rather than get into a whole big analysis, which seems a little pointless when the numbers are all over, I’ll just trot out my predictions, and we’ll see how it rolls tomorrow.

Republicans take back the House. Why? It’s the one thing polls seem to hold together, it’s an anti-incumbent year, largely because unemployment is so high. Since Democrats have more seats, they’re likely to take the biggest share of the blame. (Never mind that the Republicans have no idea how to get out of the economic mess other than “cut taxes”…which won’t work.)

The Senate’s going to be close. Boxer will probably hold onto her seat. Harry Reid will likely lose his, even though his opponent is arguably insane. I think the Dems will probably lose Kentucky and Pennsylvania too. God only knows what’ll happen in Alaska, though I’d hedge my bets on Murkowski—she’s a known quantity and Miller seems less and less stable. But who knows? Miller may be a protest vote. I think it’s arguable that a lot of Republicans will pick up seats as protests. Looks like Feingold’s over in Wisconsin; and it’s worth saying that the last couple of years, Feingold has been something of an arrogant son-of-a-bitch, and that may be partly why his opponent leads.

Brown probably wins the governorship in California. That’s cool. I like the Jerry. He’s a much less conventional politician than he seems, and California could use his experience. The real question marks are here in the Pacific Northwest. Patty Murray’s running a bare fisted fight with Dino Rossi, and this might finally be the year than Rossi wins one, for the aforementioned reasons. But Murray’s really pretty well liked, and Rossi’s a perennial loser, albeit by close margins. This one probably won’t be settled until the next day or later. It’ll likely come down to how the vote breaks in Puget Sound.

Close to home, we have a nail biter between Kitzhaber and Dudley for governor of Oregon. Dudley actually has a shot, as a moderate Republican in the mold of Atiyeh, and economic times are very similar to those when Atiyeh was elected. Kitzhaber’s a good, smart guy, but he burned a few bridges when he was governor, and folks may feel he’s had his shot. It’ll basically come down to Democratic turnout in Portland and Eugene…as it usually does in Oregon.

And California’s Proposition 19, legalizing marijuana? It’s been a fascinating ride on this one, but marijuana measures tend to run strong, then fade, which is what the polls indicate here. On the other hand, a lot of people who might turn out to vote on Prop 19 might be off the pollsters’ radar, so it’s not over. My general feeling is: I’ll believe it when I see it, but, after you’ve watched a president resign, guys walk on the moon, the Berlin Wall come down, and an African-American win the presidency, you hedge your bets. So Prop 19, maybe…but probably not.

Finally, if the Republicans actually win this thing like some pollsters are saying, then they’re going to have to govern. Which they suck at. And that’s where it gets entertaining, because voters don’t seem to be so much for Republicans as they are against Democrats. Entertaining, that is, unless they don’t usher in a second Great Depression with total gridlock and general insanity. Good times…not so much.

Talkin’ Sam Beckett Blues

I haven’t had a chance to pick up the new Bob Dylan album; so I don’t yet know what sort of horrors Bob has in store for us. I understand, however, that there’s some stuff about being sick set to Mexican music. You can derive from that what you will.

In the meantime, I thought I’d channel Bob a bit, see what I could pick up. I put on a denim jacket, slung my guitar around my neck, and walked around strumming E minor and talking through my nose long enough that I received the following transmission. Warning: objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.


Down in the bunker
It’s cold and it’s clean
You know what you need and you say what you mean
You’re thanking the gods for an artesian well
‘Cause up on the surface it’s a quarter to hell

Mistakes were made
By someone or other
Maybe the president or maybe his brother
But the oceans are swimming with a poisonous gel
And the topside winds blow a quarter to hell

Every day is like winter
With the snow ten feet deep
You can’t stay awake and you can’t fall asleep
Like to open a window and breathe fresh a spell
But the air is like kerosene dripping in hell

There’s pictures of yesterday
Fading out in their frames
All your friends and your places have forgotten their names
And the maps are all useless when you’re locked in a cell
Drawn up by architects on retainer to hell

Memory’s a parlour trick
That changes each day
You think that you got it when it just slips away
Was it dream or it real? There’s no way to tell
When you’re watching the clock at a quarter to hell

It’s too late to repent
It’s too late to regret
You can’t get it back
And you can’t get it yet
You can’t count the minutes
That’s gone or to come
All you have now is here
And that’s better than some

I guess you keep going
What else can you do?
The rough patch’ll pass in a century or two
Till then keep listening for a clear, piercing bell
That signals the time is a quarter past hell

Quote of the Day

Sure, we’re doomed, and Bob Dylan’s new album will kill us all, but he still earns the quote of the day. It may sound simple, but you have to have been there to know it:

Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it.

Tomorrow and the Day After

There’s a crack in everything….

We’re just about a week out from the first debate, a little over a month away from the election. I’m puzzled. I don’t have any certainty over this election, which is probably good because I’m frequently wrong right when it comes down to the wire. Over the years, my gut was right about predicting Carter (’76), Reagan (’80 & ’84), Bush (’88), Clinton (’92 and ’96), then wrong with Gore (2000) and Kerry (2004). In other words, George W. Bush fucked up my average, along with everything else in America.

This year, my gut says Obama. But, as I said, I’m not certain. I am, however, feeling better because McCain’s bounce evaporated after just a week, and the celebrity/puppy love over Palin seems to have faded, as crushes often will once you get to know the person, which leaves McCain with basically nothing.

And it’s weird about history, but I’d forgotten the absolute nihilism I felt in ’92 at the prospect of another four years of a Bush. As apocalyptic as it turned out, I didn’t feel that bad in 2004 about W., much as I despised him, because, shit, who could have imagined Katrina? That was when I knew, indeed, that we were living in one of the worst times in American history. You…are…there.

But, back to this year’s politics. Here’s why I think Obama has a chance. He’s basically been steadily leading McCain in both the popular vote and the electoral college (where it counts) since he clinched the nomination. Last week, directly after McCain’s Hail Mary pass (which no one seems to acknowledge was as much a desperate attempt to keep his party from splintering as it was to change the overall game), McCain edged ahead, but not by much, and, in fact, more or less pulled to a statistical tie. The debates will tell the tale, certainly, and neither guy is the most briliant debater in history. (Though Biden’s very good, and the VP debate ought to be…fascinating. It’ll either be a slaughter or it’ll look like the first Kerry/Bush debate, where Kerry clearly won but Bush didn’t screw up so badly that he didn’t croak his incumbent advantage.) Brass tacks, though: 2004 was very, very close, really coming down to Ohio. Obama’s a stronger candidate than Kerry, is running a smarter campaign, and, despite the fact that he automatically loses a few points due to race (there are just some white people who will never vote for a black guy), he holds a very strong hand in at least winning every state Kerry did. That won’t be enough, of course, but he’s also putting other states in play sufficiently that both campaigns are contesting states that McCain shouldn’t be worrying about. His ground game is also reputed to be extremely good, his grassroots organizing, and McCain’s is rumored to be a mess. It was Bush’s ground game, particularly among evangelicals, that carried his ass in 2004. Sometimes, it helps to be a community organizer. Obama’s fundraising and use of the Net is clearly superior to McCain’s.

And this is where I think Palin screws McCain rather than helps him: he’s 72 years old, he’s had melanoma four times, and he’s going to look like 26 years of rough road by the time we get to the final stretch, when even youthful, vigorous candidates begin to look like papery husks. All that puts an emphasis on Palin possibly becoming president, and, I think, with people so worried about their checkbooks, jobs, homes, and retirements, the thought of putting a clear lightweight in charge of a listing ship will give them serious pause. She needs to either game up in a big way or Obama needs to make a serious misstep, else McCain has a steep hill ahead of him. Not a good place to be when the Republican brand is so bad their presidential candidate can only get traction by running away from it. Plus there’s simply the war: McCain won’t end it, and people–especially those with military ties who have borne the burden and traditionally vote Republican–are done with it.

So that’s what my gut tells me. It’s pretty clear that people can choose 1960…or 1929. But, as The Clash (and many others) noted: the future is unwritten. There is, literally, no telling what could happen between now and November 4th and how absolutely mindbending this all could become. The entire economy melting down, a terrorist attack, a gigantic skeleton falling out of a closet, and the stars could realign. And if that happens and McCain wins, all those folks who muttered about leaving the country in 2000 and 2004 might actually start dusting off their passports. Not that it’ll do them a lot of good, because by that time the whole damn planet will be swirling ’round the drain.

…that’s how the light gets in.
-Leonard Cohen–

Looking to November

What we know now, after yesterday’s primary swarm, is that McCain will probably be the Republican nominee and that Obama and Clinton are tied. Obama’s better set to win the next handful of primaries–Virginina, D.C., Maryland, and Wisconsin–then Clinton’s well placed to win Texas and Ohio. Which means the nomination might be settled at the convention by superdelegates, which tend to be establishment figures and trend toward Clinton unless something changes between now and then.

In other words, we’re in for a long summer. Conceivably, so’s John McCain because, even though he’s winning primaries, he’s losing conservatives, and, even if he pulls from the center, he needs conservatives to win. He may even face a revolt in his party, though no one’s talking about that yet; so we could see both parties in a donnybrook before this is over. And it’s…just…going…to…get…unrealHere’s what’s interesting to me. McCain’s winning in largely Democratic states, pulling from independents and moderate Republicans, but the advantage in those states still goes to the Democrats. McCain’s going to need to do something to bring conservatives on board, else they stay home on election day and he loses, but to do so risks alienating moderates. If Clinton is nominated, hatred for her is so strong among conservatives that she might rally the base, but Obama, tacking toward center, has been winning traditionally Republican states, which actually puts him in a stronger position to win in November because he’ll get the traditional Democratic vote and pull from the center. I think. Unless I’m wrong. Or something else happens.
Oh hell. We’ll get down to the last week or so of campaigning, when everyone’s so exhausted that they’re stepping all over themselves, and McCain is looking older than God, and he’ll start snapping and snarling at people and having Hanoi Hilton flashbacks, and reporters waving microphones will all start to look like they’re wearing black pajamas and aiming AK-47s, and at some point someone will hand him a baby to kiss, and he’ll bite its head off on camera, and they’ll run pictures over and over of McCain with blood running down his chin, and the Democrat will beat him like a gong because McCain not only hates children but eats them, and, on a dark, moonless night, McCain will take that long walk out into the Arizona desert and chock a round into his good old reliable Vietnam-era service weapon, and a lonely, hollow shot will ring out amid the saguaros, followed by silence.Or something like that.