What Went Wrong?

According to a Yahoo News story, pundits around the country lost no time in seeking answers to the question of what went wrong with Mitt Romney’s attempt to buy himself a presidency. As the story tells us:

Seeking answers to why their presidential candidate lost the election, the first round of consensus on the right has focused on the Republican need to recalibrate its message to connect with the nation’s shifting voting demographics—or, at the very least, acknowledge that the country is changing.

The search for answers about What Went Wrong began almost immediately on election night, a signal that some had already been mulling the possibility of a loss for some time.

One of the people who was attempting to figure out what went “wrong” was Karl Rove who spent $300 million of his own hard-earned cash on a losing cause before losing it himself on Fox News on election night when he refused to allow that the Republicans had lost Ohio — while in the process of losing every “swing state” except North Carolina. And no one knows for sure how much the Koch brothers lost, but it’s a safe bet that it’s quite a bit more than Rove lost. What a shame.

But even more interesting is our insistence on knowing what is going to happen before it happens. Think of the millions of dollars ESPN collects from sponsors each year to pay its talking heads to tell viewers before sporting events who will win and who will lose. Indeed, ESPN has a segment called “Cold, Hard Facts” in which experts give their opinions about what will happen next weekend in the main sporting events of interest to viewers — showing that (a) we have no idea what a “fact” is and (b) confirming our penchant for knowing what will happen before it happens. In any event these experts are almost always wrong, but we listen to them anyway — and we join in over beer at the local watering-place knowing even less than they do and having even weaker grounds for our predictions. But why do we do it? Why don’t we simply enjoy the moment we are in and let the future work itself out?

In the fourth bolgia, or ditch, of the eighth circle of Dante’s Inferno, Virgil and Dante see a group of men whose heads are turned backwards on their bodies and who walk through eternity with their tears streaming from their eyes and down their backs and between their butt cheeks not knowing where they are going. They are the fortune-tellers. They are in the eighth of nine circles of Hell, in the circle of malice and fraud — deeper down in Hell than murderers and suicides. Dante was strictly orthodox and he was simply giving us (graphic) images of the punishment that his church taught was waiting for sinners. It is wrong for humans to try to tell the future because only God can know what is in store for us.

Of course, people like Karl Rove and the Koch brothers didn’t simply try to foresee the future, they attempted to force it to their will by contributing millions of dollars to the political candidates of their choice. Dante doesn’t place such people in his Inferno, but we can imagine these people in the fourth bolgia where they push a huge (gold) boulder up the side of the ditch only to have it roll back again as it nears the top — like Sisyphus. That seems appropriate.

Most of us reject this sort of thing in this enlightened age. We are way too sophisticated for that sort of superstitious nonsense: bodies walking through Hell with their heads on backwards or pushing boulders up the side of a ditch. How absurd! But the question remains: why do we not treasure the moment and let the future take care of itself? Why do we insist on knowing what will happen before it happens?  And what makes the obscenely wealthy among us think they can determine the future by simply writing a check? I do wonder.

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8 thoughts on “What Went Wrong?

  1. Perhaps I’m being prematurely optimistic, but this might well be the end of Citizens United and the outlandish amounts of money behind it. There was a piece yesterday that also discussed the corporate contributions, and CEO contributions, and how little they got in return for their millions spent. Shareholders are becoming upset about these contributions and the lack of proper governence over them.

    Money will still be the centerpiece of politics, but perhaps the days of such obvious levels of pandering are dying out. Lets hope so

  2. P-l-e-a-s-e  ….let the good professor explain “TRICKLE-DOWN-ECONOMICS” to you

    …since I know that it is a complex, difficult and often misunderstood term.

    After all, it’s things like this that keep Economics Professors like me in business, no? 

    I AM sorry that I left my graphs at home, but here goes, anyway:

    Well, basically ,there are two parts to this beautiful , time-tested theory. 

    The FIRST part is the “TRICK”le part. 

    You MUST realize, you must understand, and you must emphasize that this is ALL a trick. 

    The rich are the “tricksters, and you my poor friends, are the “trick-ees”.

    Do I make myself clear? Good, then we’ll go on to the second part.

    The SECOND part, dear students of the world, is the crucial “Trickle-DOWN” part. 

    That, my friend, simply means that the super-rich URINATE all over the rest of us

    …and then laugh all the way to their off-shore banks and tax-shelters.

    I hope that I have been helpful. Until next time -ask me anything-!

    – Professor America
    P.S. Bottom lone: the only acceptable looters are the super-rich.
    Anybody else is subject to arrest.

  3. Thanks Hugh. I have seen and read some of this discussion. What I fail to see more of is the focus on the platform issues. There seems to be more of a focus on demographic outreach. Charles Krauthammer was talking about “doing conservative better.” He and others are way off the mark as we have discussed throughout the summer and in October. They had poor positions on global warming and eco-energy, not considering tax revenue to combat the deficit, healthcare, gun laws (although this is an Obama shortcoming as well) and the stimulus plan which actually worked and we need another dose. Not to mention their poor position on immigration and planned parenthood which provides a huge service to many. Plus, thy lack of compassion and insight into the two Americas (the haves and have nots) is pronounced, even still. It is hard to pose solutions when you do not understand the problems. Great post, BTG

    • Good comment. I do think the failure of the Republicans at this point is due to their inability to understand the population they are trying to draw into their camp. Romney’s dismissive 47% comment told us a great deal and may have hurt him more than anything else he did or failed to do!

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  4. Not to pick a side, but is it by any chance time for political parties to consider how closely fiscal ideals have to be linked to social ones? I.e., just because you see your party as the “fiscal prudence” party, does that mean you have to be unable to see the mistakes in conservative social policy, or just because you are wonderful and socially progressive, does that mean you can’t question the extent to which you must spend your way out of everything?

    And how much business does church have in the business of government in a diverse country? Really?

    Not to judge, but just to ask the question.

    • Very well said. Fiscal ideals seem to be pursued in a vacuum instead of being pursued in a political context. Thanks for the input!

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