The rear-view mirror

I have been silent here for two reasons – the US elections and Hurricane Sandy. The majority of my readers are Americans and they have been tied into knots by these two events. Sandy is now history and, by this evening, the election will be history. The results may not be known, depending on how close it is and the importance of absentee ballots, but the election, itself, will be history. Thank god for small favors.

Anyone who knows me at all well also knows that I do not believe in “predicting” the future. That is, pretending I know the outcome of some process, currently unfolding or expected to unfold, with any specificity. I believe the best humans can do is “forecast” the future. That is, guessing what the future holds, but accepting that there are a variety of possible outcomes and that your guess is just your best estimate of a probability. Predictions as I define them in this case are relatively exact and definite as presented, forecasts are relatively general and changeable as presented. Predictions tell us what will be. Forecasts tell us what might be.

Who will win? I don’t know. Do I have any forecast? Yes, I think the probability is reasonably high that we will look back on this as the last election of the 20th century. However, it may take another one or two or more. Simply put, Americans are used to “us” and “them”. We can’t decide who “them” is at the moment. We are still recovering from the loss of the Soviet Union. We are still searching for the “common enemy” who will bring us together. When all is said and one, perhaps we will end up agreeing with Walt Kelly’s cartoon character, Pogo, talking to his friend Porky Pine more than 40 years ago in the cartoon below. A comment on the physical environment may serve as a comment on the political environment as well.

Pogo days, we have met the enemy and he is us.

This election is mired in the Boomer memories of the 60’s (liberals) and the 80’s (conservatives). Unfortunately for them, both decades are history and will not be repeated. The first election of the 21st century will be the one where the focus is clearly on the future, not the past. As long as we are fearful of the future, Marshall Mcluhan summed up our problem a few decades ago when he wrote, “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror”. That’s no way to drive a car and no way to run a nation.

And so it is that my fellow Americans are voting today as I write. Although several million voted in advance as is allowed and their votes could easily be critical, the great majority will vote today. They will choose between two “major” party candidates and several “minor” party candidates. With regard to the latter, this may be the year the Libertarians and/or the Greens finally break the million-vote mark.

No predictions, but I do have a hope. I hope the winner will win decisively so we are spared another “2000 election” and will know the winner tomorrow. I don’t think it’s too much to ask, but it may be too much to hope for. We will soon see.

Once the initial wailing, rending of garments, and gnashing of teeth of the losers has died down (another hope), I will be back with more to share.


I write when time allows, about once a week, perhaps twice. If you wish to be notified of new posts, just enter your email address at the upper-right of this page. I have no use for email addresses. I already have too many in my “address book”. Rest assured, yours will be kept private.

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