All Signs Fail

Unknown-1I’m a little irritated by all the media chowder-heads who are calling for either Bernie or Hillary to concede the race to the other.

If we’re going to do it that way, then let’s give up this ridiculous, expensive election process altogether and let the pundits and pollsters decide. Better still, let’s bring back the old practice of reading goat entrails, or rolling the Holy Dice — or my favorite, urticariaomancy, prognosticating the future based on patterns of hives and pimples1.

As the famous and well-loved Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over, ’til it’s over.”

So just suck it up, media chowder-heads, and wait for the fat lady to sing2.

It’s worth quoting another old adage my father used to repeat: “All signs fail in bad weather.”3

These pundits and polsters tout their mad predictive skills. X has correctly called every nomination in the last fifty years. Y has infallibly predicted the presidential winner for the last thirty years. Any candidate who gets Z, has never failed to win the election. Yada, yada.

Every one of these signs probably works just fine in fair weather. Except, of course, when it doesn’t, but we always ignore those cases, because hey, we predicted rain, and it turned out to be a nice day, so what’s your problem? But does anyone in their right mind want to call 2016 a normal, fair-weather election?

Is Hillary going to get the nomination? Then she has to earn it.

Is Bernie going to get the nomination? Then he has to earn it.

Right up to the bloody end, until the echoes from the fat lady’s last note die out.

Even if we wanted to call it early, these primaries are not a democratic process. They are a process by which a tiny minority of “political players” around the country choose a candidate to represent their Party, which is a private club that can set any rules it likes for membership and candidate selection.

There’s a Communist Party out there. There’s a Green Party. I’m sure there’s a Naked Druids Party. There’s probably a Ban Kitten Pictures On Facebook Party. Each Party makes its own rules for membership, and has its own rules for candidate selection. Each state has various rules for registering a Party to appear on the ballots, but the Parties themselves are self-ruled, and need not be democratic.

What distinguishes the Donkeys and the Elephants from all the other Parties is that they are enormously larger, well-established Parties with plenty of inter-state coordination throughout all fifty states. One of the ways they’ve garnered widespread support is by implementing certain “democratic” processes within their Party structure — that is, they make a big effort to look and feel like mainstays of democracy. They aren’t. They’re clubs, and they are not bound by democratic principles: they are bound by their Party rulebook.

When they meet at their Convention, they can change their rulebook. That is, in fact, how the highly undemocratic superdelegates were born, and it’s how superdelegates may go away this summer. However, whether the Convention changes these rules — or selects their candidates — using a democratic vote of conventioneers, or through single combat in a public arena, or by the Party chair’s decree after a thorough scrutiny of goat entrails, the matter is entirely up to the Party rulebook. Which can change.

In the end, Parties select their candidates to represent the Party in the general election, by whatever process they’ve decided upon. The different Parties’ candidates are then elected by — supposedly — popular vote: as ratified by the electoral college second-guessing the fraud-ridden results of a gerrymandered, racially- and economically-disenfranchised electorate, and possibly overridden by a partisan Supreme Court, but let’s just ignore all that for now. Separate issues.

Here’s the thing about US political Parties. None of the Parties other than the Donkeys and the Elephants plays to win the general election. It would take an even stranger year than this one to put a third party candidate in the White House. Third-party candidates know this (unless they’re crazy, which some of them are), and they play, not to win, but to make a statement.

But the Donkeys and the Elephants do play to win. In fact, nearly everything else about these two Parties is negotiable: winning is not negotiable. It’s the only thing they really care about.

So when the Convention gathers, its job is to pick winners.

Look at why the Donkeys have superdelegates. They say, “Remember McGovern.” They aren’t talking about a common criminal, like Richard Nixon, or an international war criminal, like George W. Bush. They are talking about a candidate who committed a truly heinous offense: he lost the election — badly. ::shudder:: They created superdelegates for the express purpose of preventing the idiot masses from ever nominating another loser.

Look at the Elephant Party this year. They’re going to nominate and support Donald Trump. If I understand this correctly — meaning, the Elephant Party rulebook — they don’t have to do this: under the circumstances, they could simply refuse to nominate anyone. Of course, that means they would concede this election cycle to the Donkeys, and that is the one thing they won’t do. Instead, they will put Elephant lipstick on the pig, print up lawn signs, and do everything in their power to put this nasty, narcissistic bully in the White House. If they succeed, they’ll have a big party with champagne, and then go home and hang themselves in despair.

The same rules apply to the Donkeys. They’re out to win. Period.

The Donkeys have a different dilemma than the Elephants this year. They have two very solid candidates. Despite the Internet bullshit flying around, both are experienced, smart, and (relatively) honest politicians. Despite the other Internet bullshit flying around, they are not interchangeable “liberals” — they have very different politics.

None of that matters.

The problem at the Convention is that they need to pick a winner. And that’s where it gets complicated.

The sad truth is that Hillary Clinton is not winsome to the US electorate.

This is one of the main things that Bernie’s campaign has brought out.

Last September, when Bernie threw his hat in the ring4, practically no one had even heard of the man. On the first Super Tuesday on March 1, Bernie was still an almost complete unknown, nationally.

By contrast, Hillary was well-known, nationally and internationally. She’d already schmoozed and won over the Donkey superdelegates, long before the primaries started. She had the full support of the Donkey Party machinery. Everyone knew she’d be the Donkey Party candidate in 2016.

In the last two months — two months — Bernie has gone from zero name recognition to being internationally recognized, and has almost tied for actual (non-super) delegates with Hillary. In nearly every state where Hillary has won the primary race, she has done so by a small handful of hard-won percentage points, in some cases (Arizona, New York) augmented by what appears to be outright voting fraud on the part of the Donkey Party. In a few states (Nevada, Missouri) her reported win was flipped to a loss after the state Party convention. Bernie has also eked out a couple of close wins, but in other states, he’s won by landslides. I’m sure that more than one March primary voter has reconsidered their vote for Hillary, now that they’ve heard of Bernie, but of course it is too late. I think it is fair to say that if Bernie had had today’s name recognition back in February, the Party would now be pressuring Hillary to concede.

She simply isn’t winsome.

Everyone has a theory about why this is true. It’s patriarchal misogyny. It’s Benghazi and Whitewater and e-mails. It’s her dishonesty. It’s her honesty. It’s her politics. It’s her screechy voice. It’s Bill and Monica. It’s her hair. Yada, yada.

Why Hillary isn’t winsome is a matter of opinion. But that she isn’t, is an unfortunate fact. The evidence is that a late-arrival, previously-unknown, grumpy old democratic socialist Jew from Brooklyn came within reach of beating her to an uncontested nomination, and is now forcing her into a contested nomination. If she were winsome, he wouldn’t be there — he would be down in the single-digits. Hillary would have finished mopping the floor with him back in March. Based on conventional punditry, she should have finished mopping the floor with him back in March.

She didn’t. She’s actually struggling to hold her lead. She isn’t winsome.

I don’t hold that against her as a personal flaw, given that the Elephant Pig is winsome to the US electorate. Somehow. God help us.

But it is a glaring candidate flaw.

This is the dilemma the Donkey Convention will face this summer. They need to pick a winner. And that is going to be a tough choice for them. Bernie is the stronger candidate with the public, and against the Elephant Pig. But they have a huge political investment in Hillary. Who will win?

All signs fail in bad weather.

I have no idea how they’re going to make this choice, nor what choice they will make. And shhh… don’t tell anyone, but the pundits don’t have a clue, either.

Until the conventioneers choose, we all have to wait for the fat lady to sing.


[1] Yes, that’s real. People are weird.

[2] Another enduring expression, of contested origin. Some attribute it to Samuel Goldwyn, commenting on one of his infrequent opera attendances. Others think it comes from the woman singing God Bless America at the end of US WWII newsreels. Still others think it refers to the steam boiler (the Fat Lady) in early steamships, which would signal final docking with a whistle blast.

[3] The expression that shows up on the web is, “All signs fail in dry weather.” My father was probably deliberately misquoting.

[4] Another idiom, this time from boxing. One way to ‘sign up’ for a boxing bout was to literally throw your hat into the boxing ring.

This entry was posted in General.

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