2:48am–Before I go personal, let me offer this objective view of tonight’s election: Nate Silver and his 538 model are literally the most important thing to come out of tonight’s vote. You may not like how everything ended. You may not like where things are going, but you must respect the work Silver did. It is a celebration of math and statistics. Better, it’s a complete repudiation of the theater the media had offered over the past several years. In short, there is no more valuable political model, operative, pundit, or statistician than Nate Silver. I don’t believe in much of anything, but I believe in Nate Silver, and if you don’t we probably don’t have much to talk about.
But, let’s get personal, huh? The only thing that’s real is what Silver did. I can’t rationally defend anything beyond that. Everything else is just heart. So, now that you have stuck with me for 17.5 hours, here’s my heart.
I don’t know how to end this. I started it 17.5 hours ago. I was tired, discouraged, and disgusted when I woke up. I was scared, uncertain, and confused. And for now, I’m not entirely sure where I am. But I know this: I am inspired again.
You know what? That may make me a child. The fact that I can be inspired by a speech from my country’s leader may make me naive. I’ll accept that, because you know what? If I can’t be inspired by the leader of my country, I have no business voting in an American election.
Oh, yes. I believed in the President when he was elected in 2008, and he didn’t do everything I wanted. And he did some things I didn’t want. And yes, I was disappointed. He did not protect civil rights. He did not end the wars I wanted him to end. His administration was not nearly as transparent as it should’ve been.
But, when he gave his victory speech tonight, he offered this:
“We are an American family, and we rise or fall as one nation and one people.”
That probably sounds like a platitude, but think about it. If we are all working for the benefit of our country, can we rationally expect the recent divisiveness to carry us forward? Be honest. You don’t understand our deficit. You don’t understand how our tax system works. None of us understood how our economy worked, because if we did, we would’ve stopped the gamblers from destroying our economy between 2000 and 2008. But, leave that behind, because we only have one goal, and that’s to move ahead.
So, what do you want? Do you want to get rich before you die? Do you want to protect the country for your children? Do you want to protect us from the so-called Axis of Evil? How do you want to do that? Do you want to spend the next four years complaining about your President, or do you want to work to encourage him to help you achieve your goals?
It looks at this hour as if the President will win the electoral and popular vote. It is as much of a mandate as you can ask for. So, will you hunker down and do nothing, or will you work to improve your own life? The next four years will represent a decent portion of your life. Are you willing to give that up because half of your neighbors voted against your wishes?
What do I ask for? I ask for a country that can be respected. I want a country that believes in protecting the environment, its children, the health of its citizens, and its economy. I want a country that values its people more than its corporations. I want a country that values the civil rights we are guaranteed by the Constitution. I want a country that actively fights against bigotry and hate. I want a country that accepts its role as both a leader and citizen of the world. There is evil in the world, and we must fight it, but be must fight it honestly.
The Democratic party is flawed. The political process is flawed. It’s almost guaranteed that a Republican candidate (paging Mr. Rubio) will win in 2016. None of that should stop us from moving forward in the next four years.
President Obama, you have a mandate. Do what your supporters want. Protect our country. Rebuild our economy. Free us from unnecessary wars. Help us save our environment. Protect our civil rights. Do the job America elected you do to. And if all else fails, do what my kid wants, because he and his brother are really the only reason I give a damn at all.
1:38am–”We are an American family and we rise or fall as one nation and one people”
1:31am–If things stand, Nate Silver’s probability model called 50 of 50 states. It may not change anything, because spin is powerful and people aren’t smart, but this is a win for math and science tonight.
1:29am–Was planning on going to bed, but President’s speech is coming and…well, this.
1:16am–Fred Thompson is trying to sell me a reverse mortgage. I’m sorry, this has never happened before.
12:56am–Watching Romney concede. It’s like watching Kerry in 2004. Wealthy. Privileged. Completely unaffected by the loss. Knowing there is nothing but wealth and privilege ahead for the rest of his life. It’s not an issue of party. It’s simply a man who, like Kerry, never believed he could win. He did his duty in an attempt to possibly defeat and probably (in his party’s eyes) delegitimize the sitting President. “I believe in America. I believe in the people of America,” he says. And I believe him. He’s not a horrible person. There are many horrible people who supported him, but he’s a probably a decent guy. He has no idea how you and I live, but that doesn’t make him bad. It just makes him completely disconnected from how a majority of America lives. It’s not even his fault he lost. It’s the fault of the Tea Party. It’s the fault of people like Todd Akin. It’s the fault of the bigots. If the Republican party can shake off the evil that has worked its way in from its fringes, it stands an excellent chance of winning in 2016. There is nothing horrible about fiscal responsibility. If Romney and his friends can find a way to work toward that kind of government responsibility without having to embrace radicals and bigots, it will be able to lure a great many more voters. Let’s be honest–the Democratic party’s organization is horrible. The only reason it prevails is because–regardless of its clinging to so-called nanny-state principles–it only excludes bigotry and close-mindedness.If Republicans can do the same, they will lead forever.
12:53am–Standing by for Romney concession speech. Watching on FOX.
12:46am-Somebody who hasn’t had four Moscow Mules tell me Nate Silver’s model’s record tonight.
12:43am–Currently debating whether to ruin my tomorrow by staying up to watch President Obama accept his victory and/or Romney’s concession.
12:39am–Watch Rove on FOX now. It’s less in your face funny, but even more hilarious. The bargaining is off and running.
12:12am–Just so I’m clear…and I’ll admit, I’m now having a fourth Mule, and my history from 12 years ago may not be top notch, but if I recall correctly, George W. Bush won the election baseed on the electoral college after losing popular vote by half a million votes, right?
So, how…seriously, how can FOX folks speak so derisively about the electoral college. Donald Trump asserts “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.”
I don’t even know how to respond to this. Is it possible we’re saying that if Obama doesn’t pull out the popular vote, he’s not legit? Does that mean in 2000-2004 we didn’t have a legit President?
12:15am–I just got RT’d by Wil on a tweet with bad punctuation. Talk about mixed feelings.
12:09am–If you’re wondering about my community, here are the vote totals in my county.
Mitt Romney (REP). . . . . . . . 120,514
Gary Johnson (LIB) . . . . . . . 2,248
Barack Obama (DEM) . . . . . . . 67,378
Virgil Goode (CON) . . . . . . . 637
Jill Stein (GRN) . . . . . . . . 505
12:12am–Can’t believe I just heard this. CNN’s Alex Castellanos:”I hope we come to a place in America where even a black man can be a bad president.”
11:57pm–Via my wife, who has rallied and spoken some sense:
Some people terrify me with their vitriolic rants. Really angry, scary stuff. Luckily, I am also uplifted by others who are gracious and hopeful, even in defeat. We’ve got to rise above all this hatred and start actually solving problems. Our children’s future depends upon it.
11:54pm–Nate Silver is now saying (and I’ll assume you’re listening now)…
Some networks have called the Electoral College for Barack Obama, but it will take longer before the popular vote can officially be called.
That’s because the three Pacific Coast states — California, Oregon and Washington — conduct much of their voting by mail, yielding a lag of several days to a week before all ballots are counted.
As of 11:45 p.m., however, Mr. Obama trailed Mitt Romney by only about 150,000 votes nationally, a margin he should be able to make up on the West Coast.
11:49pm–Karl Rove doesn’t believe it’s over. He’s boiling at a cellular level on FOX. Donald Trump wants to end the electoral college (the same one that gave George Bush the presidency 12 years ago). “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy,” Trump says. “This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!”
11:34pm–If you’re not watching FOX now, you have to. You just have to. It will never, ever be better.
11:32pm–I’m going to write something else, but I’m trying to stop laughing at my Facebook feed first. Also, one more Mule.
11:17pm–CNN, where I am watching, is holding back. But FOX news calls it for Obama. Wolf Blitzer needs Gatorade. Gatorade!
11:15pm–Is Wolf Blitzer married? Was he ever able to hang onto his climax long enough to impregnate his wife?
11:08pm–So, here’s the weird thing about South Carolina. Laurens County Sheriff RIcky Chastain (a guy I always liked during my time covering him) sort lost it in the last few years. He had an affair. He knocked up his mistress. He convinced her to have an abortion. He maintains he is pro-life. He drove his mistress to the abortion clinic (in his county-owned vehicle). He settled a sexual harassment suit for $35,000. At the time, he said, “What is my opinion on the use of the county vehicle to drive her to Charlotte? It certainly is not one of the smartest decisions I have made but it is one of those that I must live with. There is no criminal violation for the use of the vehicle. I am regularly in the vehicle due to being called to situations that may exist throughout the county 24/7.”
He was just re-elected.
So, yeah, there’s that.
11:06pm–Romney wins North Carolina. Take that, G-Rob!
11:00pm–Denver Post just called Colorado for Obama.
10:58–From one of the best long form writer in the business, the perfect amount of snark.
10:51pm–Watching Diane Sawyer for 30 seconds made me switch to water/Mio combo. But this goes another 45 minutes, it’s back to the Mules, Wednesday hangover be damned.
10:43pm–Via an old friend:
How are you not writing about how hammered Diane Sawyer is? Unless she has a condition that protects her from mocking, she needs to be called out. I sound better after a couple (10) glasses of scotch. Or so I tell myself. Regardless, she is wasted and George is trying to cover.
In my defense, I stopped watching ABC after Peter Jennings died. Is he right? Sawyer sauced?
10:42pm–How Nate Silver’s predictions have worked out so far (via G-Rob)
10:23pm–It may be the fact that Todd Akin lost in Missouri. It may be the fact that I’ve been into the Mules. It may be a serious calorie and sleep deficit. It may be that I’ve been doing this for pretty much 15 hours, but holy hell if I haven’t developed a sense of optimism.
Here’s the thing. If you’re reading here, you probably know my politics. But what you might not know is how I’m not bound by my politics or the candidates for whom I vote. Yes, four years ago, I celebrated in a bar in San Jose, Costa Rica when Obama won. My friends Joe, Dave, Eric, and I tore up a Ramada lounge. Eric broke a shot glass. We all paid for the victory the next day. But, I’m not an Obama disciple. His first term sucked. What’s more, I have serious love and respect for some die-hard Republicans and what they believe.
But tonight I’m buoyed by what’s happening. It’s as if a lot of the things I consider vital to America are happening. And the fact that Missourians didn’t reward Todd Akin’s ignorance just because he was Republican means a lot to me.
10:08pm–The only blatantly biased thing I will publish tonight, because…well, because it’s right. Thank you, Missouri, for helping me maintain a relationship with my birth state. And thanks, Wil Wheaton, for this:
10:04pm–Wolf (paraphrased): “Oh. Oh. Oh. It’s happening. Don’t stop. I can’t stop. Are you ready? Can I–ahhhhhhhhhh!. Four electoral votes from New Hampshire go to the guy who we already know wins. I could go for some Corn Pops.”
10:00pm–Romney wins Utah. I’m refraining here. I am. It’s hard. Underpants.
9:59pm–Via G-Rob, this from The Fix’s Chris Cillizza.
9:56pm–I’d post the photo of my wife and dog asleep on America’s Couch, but since that might get me killed (or maimed with a peanut butter Snickers) here’s it happening elsewhere, courtesy BJ Nemeth.
9:51pm–John King just whipped it out and challenged Wolf Blitzer’s in La Grande Spectacle of Self Abuse. But he also, without actually doing so, called Florida for Obama. Say goodnight, Gracie.
9:44pm–Ed Gillespie just gave the Romney crowd this (paraphrased) pep talk.
9:42pm– There goes Pennsylvania, the fake battleground state.
9:41pm:Exchange #5 with wife.
Me: “I didn’t know you owned leg warmers.”
Her: “I own leg warmers.”
9:30pm–As Wolf Blitzer pops a Cialis and chugs a Gatorade, this bit of sobering information from Nicholas Thompson.
9:19pm–I would pay $100 for a Shakespeare’s Masterpiece Pizza right now.
9:11pm–My friend G-Rob ready to go on record as thinking that the Republican Governor vote in North Carolina does not mean a Romney win. He’s looking at Mecklenburg and Durham and thinking there could be a vote split in NC. If I bet on these things, this would be a fun one.
9:08pm–This one made me smile. And hey to my friend Tony who is holding up his spot on Australia’s Couch. Come home, man. We miss you.
9:07pm–GOP will hold the house, which was always going to happen.
9:00pm–Kansas (of course) goes to Mitt Romney. Lousiana (of course) goes to Mitt Romney. Nebraska (of course), North Dakota (of course), South Dakota (of course), Texas (come on…), Wyoming (the square state!) all to Romney.
But Michigan, New Jersey, and New York go to President Obama.
Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wisconsin left uncalled.
Obama has 123 to Romney’s 152.
8:55pm–North Carolina just elected its first Republican governor in 20 years. Lock it up for Romney.
8:50pm–So, here’s an admission. I almost didn’t vote this year.
There was a fairly logical part of me that suggested that my vote meant nothing. And, really, it didn’t mean much. My vote changed nothing, and it was never going to. Every race in which I voted was pretty much set in stone.
But something my wife said changed my mind. Even if my vote doesn’t matter in terms of the outcome of this election, it might influence future campaigns. The voting demographics in my community are changing, if slowly. If I failed to vote–no matter how I voted–I could be missing an opportunity to encourage or discourage future campaigns for operating here. Sometimes it’s not about what’s happening today, you know?
8:48pm–If you don’t follow @SenilieDonDraper, you should.
8:34pm–Four times in history the popular vote winner lost the electoral college.
2000-George Bush v. Al Gore
1888-Benjamin Harrison v. Grover Cleveland
1866-Rutherford B. Hayes v.Samuel Tilden
1824-John Quincy Adams v. Andrew Jackson
Interesting thing about that last one. Adams lost the popular vote, but Jackson didn’t get enough electoral college votes. Adams ended up getting the Presidency from the House of Representatives.
8:27pm–Every time Dick Morris tweets, it feels a lot to me like when my high school chemistry professor told me I was going to be a life failure. Its a combination of “this guy should know more than me about this stuff” and “this guy has no idea what he’s talking about.”
8:20pm-Note: My wife is reading as I type. So, this next exchange on America’s Couch should’ve probably been more predictable.
Me (off-handedly holding up my hand): “Snickers.”
Her (Liltingly): “Oh. YOU would like a Snickers?”
Me: (Accusingly): “I’ve only had one.”
[Snickers thrown overhand directly at my face with speed you wouldn't expect from a southern belle]
8:16pm–Exchange #3 with the wife:
Me (hearing another mini peanut butter Snickers wrapper): “Careful over there.”
Her (without turning away from the TV): “Shut. Your. Face.”
8:13–Mitt Romney wins Georgia. Related: College is expensive, the south is humid, and fatty foods will kill you.
8:12pm–If the amount of chocolate intake on the other end of America’s Couch is any indication, my wife isn’t quite satisfied the night is going as she voted today. Also, buy stock in peanut butter Snickers.
8:04pm–It’s been 40 minute since Nate Silver wrote anything on his live blog. This feels a lot to me like when I’m pretty sure I’ve done something to piss off my wife and she just walks around the house with pursed lips. I’m uncomfortable.
8:00pm–Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, and Rhode Island all go Obama. Romney picks up Oklahoma. Everything else undeclared. It’s 64-40 Obama. In related news, none of this is news.
7:59pm–Here come the 8pm closures. Also, here comes a new bottle of Tito’s. Probably should’ve taken off work tomorrow, too.
7:42pm–My friend Karol and I disagree on almost all matters of politics, but on this we’re in complete agreement.
7:39pm–As my adopted home state of South Carolina goes for Romney, I wonder how the candidacy of John Drohan is doing…
7:36pm–President Obama offered spot on Washington Generals as he loses South Carolina.
7:35pm–My wife doesn’t seem to care I’ve developed a snap-crush on Kate Bolduan.
7:31pm–Wolf Blitzer could be in porn. Just offered third money shot in last thirty minutes. In related news:
7:30pm–Obama and the Washington Generals both lose in West Virginia.
7:27pm–If you are in the Nate Silver camp, you’ll want this link: Live Blog: The 2012 Presidential Election
7:21pm–Was afraid Wolf Blitzer might climax when he reported Florida dead heat with 5% of vote in. Have switched to NBC where Brian Williams is keeping it in his pants. But, he did just say, “Dixville.”
7:19pm–Both Miami Don and a woman at the bar where the wife picked up our food remind me: Liquor stores closed in South Carolina on Election Day. No worries. We’re still well-stocked from Mastodon Weekend.
7:12pm–Completely unrelated to the Presidential election, but honestly the most interesting thing to happen in South Carolina this election season…state senator Larry Martin faced a really tough race (which never happens for Republicans in this part of the state). He’s the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I can’t imagine he would ever lose, but I’ve never seen so much money spent in a state Senate race. Martin–a good guy I interviewed countless times–has held the seat for 20 years. This has to be one of the toughest races he’s ever had. Here’s a local story about the race.
7:10pm–Early numbers from Florida favor Obama, but that seems pretty meaningless at this point. State isn’t even fully closed yet.
7:08pm–”The news out of Virginia is not good for Mitt Romney” –David Gergen
7:05pm–Make one drink and America’s Couch gets crowded.
7:03pm–Mules are sweating. Wife recovering. Returns coming in. Mitt Romney has won Kentucky. President Obama has won Vermont. The Washington Generals have lost. Again.
6:43pm–Just for fun tonight, here’s a map to watch. This is Nate Silver’s state-by-state probability map. Will be curious to see how close–if at all–it is.
6:40pm–As I ate with the kids, tried to keep an eye on the exit polls out of Virginia. Out of my peripheral vision, it looked a lot like the exits favored Romney in a big way.
6:38PM–If there is a man who publicly masturbates more than WolF Blitzer who has not yet been declared a sex offender, I’ve not ever seen him.
6:34pm–”The Reticent Republican Factor” might be the most ridiculous phrase I’ve ever heard.
6:32pm–From the fingers of @absinthetics
6:27pm–The kids are on their way to bed. The wife is starting to sound like one of Marge Simpson’s sisters (I blame the Tom Yum Gai soup, but it could be real illness). In any case, I may be in this one alone tonight. For some reason, between taking out the trash and washing the dishes I developed an unexplained sense of dread. Back in the TV days, we borrowed the term “bad juju.” Not sure what it is, but we may have to Break Mule sooner than expected.
6:02pm–So, about half an hour ago, my wife brought home our Thai food. We decided to have a picnic in front of America’s Couch and watch some election coverage. I decided on a whim to ask the older boy some questions on video. This is raw, unscripted, unedited, and shaky, but I couldn’t help but smile at what my boy knew…and what he said at the end.
5:29pm–Alright then. We’re 90 minutes from the first polls closing. Trying to decide what, if anything, would qualify as a landside or resounding defeat for either candidate. What say you?
5:25pm–Bathtime is done. Thai food is on the way. Just had a bathtime concert that included daddy singing…
4:55pm–Another short break as I step in for some light parenting and remembering that this is all just for fun. Bath time and some guitar for the kids before the real fun stars in an hour or so.
4:44pm–I don’t really like Huffington Post, and I do really like Nate Silver. But Howard Fineman makes a good point here.
“All campaigns are about winning -– that’s the point of them -– but this one seemed to have squeezed out virtually everything else…(Nate Silver) was the symbol and bane. His odds-making in The New York Times –- a kind of racing tip sheet that The Times doesn’t even feature in the sports pages –- is the ultimate reductio ad absurdum of horse race coverage.”
4:28pm: Downtime. The early energy of the day has waned for all. It will, if my 4:25 post is any indication, pick up in an hour or so. I’ve made coffee.
I’m reminded tonight by my journo friend Heather and G-Rob of what was an old newsroom truth: election night meant free pizza.
See, TV newsrooms are cheap places. It may look otherwise, but it was not uncommon for well-coiffed TV folks to pack sack lunches and dinners. Why? Lunch and dinner breaks almost never existed, and if they did, there certainly wasn’t enough time to go home and eat. What’s more, most local TV people don’t make big money, and eating out every night can get really expensive. Going out of town on a story was a real treat because if you left the DMA you could actually expense your dinner (provided you didn’t get any alcohol, appetizers, or dessert).
But on election nights, the TV stations went all out and provided boxes of take out pizza. It would grow cold and rubbery by the end of election night, but it tasted amazing. And it tasted free. I still remember standing there at midnight in the November 2000 election watching the chaos and eating cold pie.
Nostalgic? Yeah, but probably not so much that I’ll order pizza tonight. Feels like Thai take-out to me. After all, I support Drohan 2012 and his ginger chicken agenda.
4:25pm–Another exchange with the wife (two hours ago):
Me (hopefully): “When is an appropriate time to start drinking?”
Her (deadpan): “Dinner?”
Me (deflated): “Dinner?”
Her (sounding like a mom): “I think that’s appropriate.”
4:00pm–Ignorance of the law apparently is no excuse. Just received this fascinating bit of information from G-Rob about an South Carolina Attorney General opinion. According to SC Code Ann 7-25-100,
8. It is unlawful in any election for a voter to: a. allow his ballot to be seen by a person…
According to follow-ups provided by G-Rob, South Carolina Elections officials and the AG interpret this to mean photographing or taking video of your ballot (or even your electronic screen representation) is illegal. The law is apparently an antiquated holdover from times when people would be paid to vote in a certain way and had to prove his/her vote. Thus, breaking the law could result in $100 fine or a year in jail.
3:57pm–Recent exchange with wife:
Me: “Woops. My pants are on backward.”
Her: “I’m surprised you’re wearing pants.”
3:48pm–Somehow I’ve managed to last this entire day without turning on television news. That will change in an hour or so. I’ll be all over the internet and switching between CNN and the networks. I’ll also be on CNN.com and the very well done NPR Election 2012 site.
3:35pm–For a slightly more incendiary (but probably much more realistic) look at today’s election, here’s Pauly with:
3:17pm–For those who like to hate on Nate (or just love some good-natured ribbing), here’s a 538 parody account: @fivethirtynate
3:05pm–So, what I can gather from Obama opponents is that we should somehow view his victory with a smaller turn-out as a referendum that essentially de-legitimizes his second term. Is that right? If not, where am I getting it wrong? Even if the President had a perfect four years (which, admittedly, he didn’t even come close to), he still wouldn’t have had 2008 turnout. It was never going to happen. So, if tonight is close and looks more like 2004, am I supposed to think that reflects on him more than the ambivalent electorate itself?
2:52pm–A better written explanation of the sabremetrics being applied to this election from Adam Gopnik.
2:34pm–Old friend asks in private message:
Given how much you seem to keep up on all of this, I assume you read or at least know about Victoria Collier’s, “How to Rig an Election,” article in last month’s Haper’s. Today, this little video pops up on youtube. Now, reports are that this particular machine has been taken off-line, already. So there probably is little to say about these computers right now. You generally have some interesting thoughts on such controversial issues, some I agree with and some I don’t. So I’m curious if you have an opinion on the computers that now count millions (estimates I have seen are between 40 and 70 million) votes across the country.
Well, first I would caution anyone from taking the video at face value. It looks legit, but who knows? Second, I’d say there almost certainly exists problems like this that both sides could and should be wary of. Third, if we’re going to get really afraid, I’d point to the Ohio Secretary of State story that came out, and say…well, well, well.
With all of that said, I’m not overly worried about fraud. Yes, it exists, and yes computers probably make it easier to defraud an election on a wide basis. That said, I also think there’s no way we will (or should) get away from using computers to track voting. What’s more, I also think the use of computers could help us better track fraud and corruption in the voting process. Using the correct software, computers should be able to immediately identify voting anomalies and patterns that don’t fit the norm. Rather than worrying so much about whether the use of computers open elections to fraud, we should refocus our concerns on how to use computers to make our elections safer and more legitimate.
2:26pm–Okay. I’m back and in this for the long haul. Nine hours left. Here’s how I spent the last two. In brief:
Time to run 5 miles: 39’47″
Time standing in line to vote: 1 minute
Time to vote: 2 minutes
12:55pm–Okay, so I’m six hours in, and it’s time for a quick break. I’m going to run and vote (not necessarily in that order). While I’m away, you can follow me on Twitter. While I’m gone, here’s what I’m curious about:
Have at it. I’ll be back in…well, however long it takes to vote and run five miles.
12:49pm–Via Ken P in the comments: Wayne Root putting his name and reputation on the line with this: “Mitt Romney will win the presidency, and it won’t be close.”
12:39pm–Okay. Step back. Breathe. Not working? Do this. Go over to Tao of Fear, your one-stop shop for all conspiracy theories, and watch this collection of brilliance from Bill Hicks.
12:29pm: For those of you who like your election possibilities to look like the female reproductive system, I give you this via my friend Cliff.
12:10pm–It’s lunch on the East Coast. I haven’t eaten. In fact, I literally just changed out of my pajamas. There is a plumber here looking at my garbage disposal. His name is Vince. He is grunting. Meanwhile, write-in candidate (for any race) John Drohan is taking your questions at Bangkok Thai.
11:48am–I don’t even know how to approach this. I don’t even want to bring it up. But, Ive already seen one friend mention it on Twitter. And there’s this entire section on Drudge.
So, what am I to make of this. There are two equally ignorant lines of thought here: 1) The people who suggest rioting is an appropriate response to an Obama loss and 2) The people who believe people actually would riot in the event of an Obama loss.
Let’s address the first one first.
Pop into Twitter and read do a search for “Obama” and “Riot.” Then spend the next ten minutes shaking your head what you read. It’s three parts bravado, one part anonymity, and one part, “Oh, please.”
But, yes, it’s there. It’s there, and it’s ugly, and anyone who dares mention civil unrest over a Presidential election is defeating his or her own cause in a way I can’t even comprehend. If you want to support your cause, go vote today and encourage others to do the same.
But…let’s be honest, too. The idiots on Twitter spouting “gonna riot” are not gonna riot. They just aren’t. And to suggest that it’s a legitimate probability–or in Drudge’s case, dedicate an above-the-fold section to it–is exactly what you know it is.
(This is NSFW)
11:34am–UnskewedPolls.com unskewed itself a little in the past couple days. Still predicting a strong Romney win, but not quite as laughable as before.
11:22am–Four years ago, the last time America elected a President, I wasn’t even in the country.
11:08am–Joe Hill (who, if you don’t know, is Stephen King’s son) speaks a bit to how I feel.
10:59pm–I am still wearing slippers. The uber-Canadian cartoon Caillou is on TV (note: that kid is a whiny brat). My kid is playing a live version of Angry Birds and throwing stuff all over the living room. I was waiting on lines to go down at the polling places, but friends report lines still long at 11am. I need to go for a run before my head explodes.
10:55pm–Reminder, write-in candidate John Drohan will be holding his last campaign stop today at a Thai restaurant. He’ll be having Ginger Chicken.
10:46am–A valid point to consider before you open up on Nate Silver, this one from the often funny but now serious Julius Goat.
“Everybody who believes Nate Silver will be forever discredited if Romney wins tonight, and should never be heard from again… I presume that you believe the inverse is true of every pundit (George Will, Peggy Noonan et al) in the case of an Obama win. Right?”
10:45am–CAMPAIGN ANNOUNCEMENT: Write-in candidate (for any election) John Drohan has announced the following:
“I’ll be eating lunch at Bangkok Thai and will be available to answer any questions about their Ginger Chicken dish. I have them leave out the bell peppers.”
10:27am–I really expected the pushback on my Nate Silver love would come first from the Romney camp, but so far, it’s been largely from journalists. Said one–also a friend–on my Facebook page:
As a former member of the news media, you know as well as anyone that reporters don’t ‘lie’ to ‘sell advertising.’ Regardless of what Aaron Sorkin wants us to believe, most news reporters are just trying their best to get it right without getting sued or being accused of blatant bias. Are the media hedging their bets? Absolutely. And they can afford to hedge, because it IS a tight race. The popular vote is well within the margin of error in virtually ever major poll. On the other hand, your evidence that the many vast and disparate entities that comprise ‘the media’ are conspiring to lie to the American public is a single predictive model put forth by a New York Times blogger? A model with a track record that dates back… to 2008? Not exactly Nostradamus. Even you – a fan of Nate Silver – admit his math could be wrong. There’s a ’91%’ chance Obama will win? That means there’s a 9% chance he could lose. A four-outer could bust Obama on the river… and Nate would still be right. Essentially, no matter who wins, Nate wins. (Now *that’s* a model for success.) Seems to me, Nate Silver is the one who is selling advertising these days.
Honestly, I don’t wish to implicate local journalists in my indictment. Most locals do their dead level best to be objective within the bounds of their job. Locals know that their job is not analysis, and most don’t try. That said, national and cable journos do analyze, and I assert their analysis is either completely ignorant or disingenuous. I won’t even incude MSNBC and FOX (neither of which even bothers to hide bias anymore).
The point isn’t that CNN and the like set out to lie. It’s that they set out to fill their hours with analysis that is, at best, partisan and not rooted in anything but “feel.” And even if it’s not a lie, for CNN to perpetuate it shines a light on the question of “Why?” It’s not to enlighten. So what is it then?
Listen, I don’t know if Nate Silver is accurate. I only hope he is. I hope he’s close, because in an age where lies and spin are the norm, I need something to believe in. I have a hard time believing in people. I can believe in numbers, and right now, Nate Silver seems to be someone who shares my religion. If he turns out to be a charlatan, I’m probably going to become a nihilist.
10:04am–So, here’s the thing. We’re a middle class family living in middle class neighborhood. While I’ve been fortunate enough to take the day off, we’re pretty average otherwise, and while I’ll assign an insane amount of importance to what I write here today, here are some things at the forefront of our mind.
9:48am–While we’re waiting for anything substantive to come in, here’s a screen shot from the anti-538 site, Unskewed Polls. I pulled it a few days ago. I stopped laughing…well, not yet.
9:44am–An important note and defense of journalism from G-Rob, a longtime journalist and friend:
Dear Rich from comments, to say we’ve portrayed this as a coin toss just for ratings is almost accurate but not quite. The truth is it’s a reflection of a deeper trend in “journalism”. Make sure both sides of everything appear equal to avoid the appearance of “bias”. Climate change deniers, vaccines cause autism, and Romney could win PA all get equal footing. It’s not bias as much as fear. With TV audiences splintered and shrinking we’re not trying to gin up more viewers as much as we’re afraid of pissing off or offending any of the ones we have left by offering facts that challenge their previously held beliefs.
9:33am–Rich asks in the comments:
So Brad, as a journalist, do you feel like the portrayal of this race as tied is an effort to look correct no matter what happens or an effort to keep viewers/readers pulled in a long as possible to maximize ad revenue. I don’t want to come off as “that conspiracy guy” and suggest that journalists would provide a ginned up narrative just to promote their own financial interest, but it certainly doesn’t seem impossible. What are your thoughts on this?
If you’re an objective thinker who is happy to rely on numbers and statistics, the media’s portrayal of a tight race is disingenuous at best, and a conspiracy for higher ratings at worst. It’s simply not a tight race. If the national popular vote was the what elected our President, then it would be fair to call this a tight race, but that’s simply not the case.
If I were in the position of defending the national media’s narrative, I would say the following: “As an objective reporting organization, we’re not in the business of predicting races. National polls–our longtime indicator of a candidate’s performance ability–suggest a very tight race. We’re only reporting this fact. That is our job.”
Of course, that’s disingenuous, as the cable news outlets routinely fill hours with people/pundits whose sole job is to make predictions. Making it even worse, most of those pundits are not independent thinkers. They are operatives for one of the parties who–as a living–support talking points and false narratives. It’s a farce no matter who you are for.
The reason I support Nate Silver’s attempts at boiling down the race with statistics is because I believe that he isn’t concerned with who wins as long as he gets his model right. If he does get it right and tweaks it as close to perfection as possible, he makes all of those CNN hours obsolete and exposes them for what they are: bad political theater.
9:26pm–From the “journalists don’t understand math” department, this from Grange95.
9:20am: BREAKING: There is a write-in movement taking place across America. It began in an Upstate South Carolina Congressional race. Now, people across America are writing in John Drohan for races everywhere. I contacted Drohan who confirmed he will accept any and all nominations. “”Run for office?” he said. “I ran a marathon last week. Should be easy.”
Rapid Eye Reality firmly offers its endorsement for Drohan…really, for any race across the country. Drohan…write’em in!
9:05am–Important note from Lee, a guy who knows numbers, in the comments:
“Sadly, the pundits have set themselves up to freeroll the election. They’ve announced that it’s a jump ball, so whichever candidate wins, that’s within their model. Nate has had the courage to say what his models tell him. If Obama wins, then it’s not a surprise. If Romney wins, the pundits will announce that Nate doesn’t know anything.
Some of us will recognize this for what it is, but as you say, if we’re watching 538, we’ve stopped listening to the pundits anyway.
8:35am–I need to make this admission at the outset: I’m going to be operating with a deep bias today. It’s not for a candidate. It’s for science, statistics, and math. If you don’t know Nate Silver and his 538 blog, you’re probably not paying very close attention to this race. Silver’s statistical model called nearly every state correctly in 2008. This year, he and his methods have become the most divisive topic among people who care about this kind of thing. Romney supporters question Silver’s model. Hard core Romney supporters question Silver’s objectivity. Wingnuts question…well, everything that doesn’t fit inside their little box.
But the simple fact is, despite how you feel about Silver, he’s not calling the race for one candidate or another. He’s expressing the probable outcome of this race based on his modeling of the state and national polls. For Silver’s model to be right suggests that most of the pundits, the media, and anyone who believes Romney is a lock is deluded.
The simple fact is this: attacking Silver is a ridiculous conceit at this point. No where is he saying that the President will win re-election. He is saying only this: it’s very likely the President will will win re-election, but there is a decent chance Governor Romney will win. As someone said they other day, “If Nate Silver told you leaving your house meant there was a ten percent chance you’d be hit by a car and killed, but a 90% chance you’d live, would you consider that a lock for living?” No. You’d stay home.
Poker players understand this. They know Obama is a good bet, but they also know something unexpected could happen and Romney could win. Any poker player who doesn’t get this should probably stop playing poker.
All of that said, Silver’s model may be off. If it is, it’s still not a loss for Silver. He can adapt the model and move on. Math can still win.
And, yes, I want the math to win. Not because I want Obama to win, but because if the math is even close to right tonight, it will make expose the media’s tight race narrative for the lie that it is. Furthermore, it will hopefully go a way toward taking the witchcraft, lies, and talking points of pundits and putting them in the garbage where they belong.
8:26am–Of course, we shouldn’t make more of those long voting lines than necessary. Here on the East Coast, those lines formed in the hours before people went to work. They will thin out as people rush to make it to work in time, to earn the money that funds the taxes that go toward funding the elections for which people wake up early to vote so they can go to work to earn the money to fund the taxes…well, you get the point.
8:12am–Half of Mt. Willis voting block has arrived home, cold and weary, but having exercised her right to vote.
8:08am–Local journalist Gordon Dill‘s precinct. He reports 91-minute lines.
8:02am–Wife reports it took her 51 minutes to cast her vote at our local precinct, one that will probably go 70-30 GOP.
7:58am–So you know where I’m coming from here: I’m used to be a traditional journalist. I’m not anymore. But for a decade of my life, Election Day was an all-day work affair. I can’t quite shake the need to be doing something all day. Of course, taking day off from my real job means I also am responsible for this. Trash Truck Watch 2012.
7:38am–Via my friend Lee, watching this play out from across the Atlantic.
7:27am–The wife has reported in from our precinct. She’s apparently not going to be home for a while.
7:10am–Ten minutes ago, I awoke from hours of nightmares buried within dreams, thinly-veiled symbols laced in Russian-style fairy tales, terrors of watching armed men break into my home while my family slept and having no way to stop it from happening.There was brief relief when I woke from the dream to discover it was an impossibility because the invasion was happening in my childhood home where my children have never slept. But it only got worse from there, because I was never really awake when I woke up in the dream. I’d go farther into it, but nobody wants to hear about somebody else’s nightmares, and I don’t want to write about what happened next. That’s all just a long way of saying that when I woke up ten minutes ago, my wife was standing in the middle of our dark bedroom. And not with a knife, thank heavens.
“I can’t sleep,” she said. “I’m going to vote.”
“Take a picture for me,” I said, and rolled back over in bed.
That was the moment I decided what I was going to do today. I didn’t go back to sleep.
I didn’t take much time off from work this year. I realized I had a lot of time coming to me that I had to take before the end of 2012. So, I took today off, not knowing entirely what I was going to do. In the back of my head, I sort of thought I’d write about it, but as of last night, I’d decided that wasn’t going to happen. My heart wasn’t in it. It seemed pointless. But after last night, I think my brain needs a data dump. So, follow along if you like. This is probably going to last for the next 16 hours or so, so settle in for a suburban warrior’s election day in America, Live from America’s Couch.
I didn’t think I needed medical attention when the first guy leaned over me and asked, “Are you okay?” I told him I was and that I just needed to catch my breath. He believed me long enough to go find a medic who believed me less but was kind enough to let me take my time. I’d apparently (and this is all a little hazy) made it about ten feet from the finish line before sitting down on the ground cross-legged and dropping my head between my knees where I sat long enough to cause some amount of concern for my well-being. Some time later, I stood, collected my medal, and walked through the concourse of Fluor Field. I swayed and stumbled from the first base side to third base where I heard my brother (who finished his first half about seven minutes ahead of me) scream–full-on joy–”Bradley!” I sat down again. On the ground. Again sort of hazy. Took off my shoes, saw the destruction, let my brother–a medical professional–pour water over my head. Ate some pineapple. It wasn’t supposed to go like that.
I spent a lot of time standing on chairs last weekend. Several dozen people from 17 states (and Canada) traveled here to take part in the third Mastodon Weekend. Addressing them all–at a poker tournament, at a cookout, and at the race finish line party–required pulling up a soapbox. Each time, I looked out at friends’ faces and saw nothing but happiness. These people had all come together for a weekend that promised nothing but companionship and silliness. It delivered on both.
There was a time in my life when I would’ve spent an entire week and 10,000 words recounting what happened here over the weekend, but, honestly I couldn’t do it justice. Even I can’t explain the feeling of watching one of my best friends in the final .2 miles of his first marathon, his son by his side and three dozen people screaming for them. I can’t describe what it felt like to worry for my friend and running mentor when I didn’t see him come toward the finish at exactly the time I expected. I can’t even fully describe what it was like to see 30 people destroy pound upon pound of BBQ when I could barely stomach half a plate. If you want to know it, you’ll just have to come visit sometime.
What I can describe is the pure love and happiness I felt over the course of the weekend. I got to see my brother, sister-in-law, and cousin play with my kids. I got to see a young woman I’ve known since she was two run a half marathon (and place in her age group) on her 14th birthday. I got to see the love of my life shake off a bad race experience from last spring and run the half marathon she wanted to run. I got to see good friends improving their lives and their spirits in a way I never would’ve expected.
As I said above, when I crossed the finish line, I thought, “It wasn’t supposed to go like that.”
But that was selfish, because what I was thinking was, “It wasn’t supposed to go like that for me.”
Yes, something–and I’m still not entirely sure what–had gone wrong. Yes, I’d PR’d by nearly ten minutes. Yes, I’d finished on the run. But the pictures of the finish told the story. My legs looked to be running forward while it appeared my body was falling backward. Despite what I thought was perfect training, my body didn’t cooperate that morning. I was supposed to run a 1:55:00 and I ran a 2:00:28. And it made me a little sad. It took me several days to admit it, but I was unhappy with how the race ended for me. Fortunately, every other thing that happened in the 72 hours of Mastodon Weekend made me so happy that it made the pain, the jacked up feet, and the disappointment worth it.
Along the way, I got to watch my brother and friends achieve beyond what anyone would have ever expected for us five years ago. I felt pure friendship as Grange gave me a look that calmed me down in the middle of the sixth mile (and then somehow went on to cover the remainder of the race nine minutes faster than me). I felt renewed encouragement when Andrew hit me on the back as he passed me in mile 8. And I felt–yes, I’ll say it–pride when I passed him again two miles later. Once we crossed the finish line, we saw Chilly–who had just started getting heathy this year and ran for the first time on May 1–cross the finish line about half an hour before we expected him to. The cheers were deafening. Finally, though I didn’t know it until much later, I felt so happy when I saw a photo of my finish and saw my friend Drizz just a few steps back finishing right behind me. He was probably there all along, and I didn’t know it until much later.
And that was really the point of it all. This past weekend, I got to surround myself with people who would hold me up when I needed it. I got to be around people with whom I shared a friendship and love that most people aren’t lucky enough to have. Honestly, though it was never an option, I could’ve quit that race and still been the luckiest guy on the course.
We’ve all changed a lot over the years. We’ve celebrated and suffered together. It’s what makes friends. Really, when it comes down to it, it’s not the running and the races that are the thing for me. It’s the feeling of knowing there are friends there with me.
This afternoon I told my wife, “I’m thinking about doing something stupid.”
Her face clouded. “Old Brad stupid or New Brad stupid?”
It doesn’t really matter what the answer was. The fact that there is a distinction between the two pretty much sums up what this weekend meant to me. We changed, and, finally, it’s for the better.
Thanks to all who came. Thanks to the people who were generous beyond all reason (I have two really good bottles of Templeton Rye in my cabinet if any of you need a way to pass the winter months). Thanks for the friendship. It took me several days to realize that even though I didn’t hit my goal time in the race, there wasn’t a luckier guy to cross the finish line. We all get very busy. We don’t see each other or talk as much as we should. But I think back to this picture of Drizz coming in behind me, and I realize, when it comes down to it, these people are always there, ready to catch me, ready to give me pineapple or run for a banana, ready to hold me up. Always there in the background, and always friends.
For a full gallery of Mastodon Weekend 2012, see this page
It was just after 10am. I was midway up a California mountain and standing in a group of 200 people so pumped up on testosterone and adrenaline that the simple act of guttural primal screaming wasn’t an effective exorcism. They had to jump up and down, shove their hands in the air, and pound their fists into other fists.
And I was crying to the sound of the National Anthem. A recorded version of the National Anthem.
I feel the need to get that out of the way at the beginning of this. I don’t want to wrap it into some ridiculous revelation at the end–that I was the weeping guy at the beginning of the Tough Mudder, an event that calls itself “Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet.”
And let’s just get this out of the way, too. When I crossed the finish line and grabbed my celebratory beer (the first beer in more than four months), I had tears in my eyes again.
So, there’s that.
Well, it’s more than that, and I can only explain it like this: just before all the wet-eyed silliness began, I thought about my friend Dan’s advice he offers before every race: “Remember how lucky you are to be able to do this.” And then I thought about my dad who had died just ten months earlier. And then I looked to my right and saw my brother there beside me. And I looked back and saw the rest of my team—old friends, new friends, people aching for adventure and achievement unlike any they’d experienced before.
“Remember how lucky you are…”
So, a few hours before my shoulder nearly got ripped from my torso, I was already a teary mess and thankful the dry-dust ski runs turned my face into a muddy map before too many people noticed.
Up until that moment, and frankly maybe not until much later, I wasn’t entirely sure why I was there risking grievous injury.
I know now.
Some days later, Colin, an ultra marathoner I met through the poker business who went on to become an inspiration, said via Facebook “There’s a revolution going on right? Of people challenging themselves, conquering their fears, doing amazing things. Or is it just the people I’m lucky to know?”
It was something I’d wondered myself. Was it simply selection bias—that I’d chosen to pay closer attention to people who were pushing themselves to their limits instead of waiting for sure atrophy? Was it that many of the people of my age are facing a form of midlife crisis that results in marathons, ultras, adventure races, and whatnot? I didn’t know. It was probably good deal of both.
Something was, indeed happening, though. To wit: Mastodon Weekend—an irregular party of irregular people here in Greenville, SC—began as a weekend bacchanal bent only on finding new and creative ways to combat age and sobriety at the same time. The only thing we raced back then were street rickshaws—and, yes we both paid off the drivers and gambled on it. It was something to behold and a four-day marathon in itself.
In 2011, we didn’t host Mastodon Weekend. Instead, we went on our annual trip to Las Vegas with a whole new idea in mind. And as we stood around the bar at the Aria in Las Vegas after the half marathon we ran down the Strip, a few of us stood looking at each other—sober, elated, and pumped up on so many endorphins that…well, I won’t lie. There were expressions of love that night.
By and by, the man who goes by the name Badblood suggested some weeks later that we turn Mastodon Weekend—an event so completely anti-fitness that we were drinking in bars that served shots with bugs in them and ordering 20oz steaks because the pound-sized ones were for wimps—into a weekend in which we would run. Far. What’s more, we would try to get as many of our friends as we could to run with us.
And so it will happen in about ten days. For the past several months, people who might never have considered running started getting ready. Before the weekend is over, there will be people celebrating their first 5ks, half marathons, and full marathons. One of them even got so involved that he changed his race registration from 5k to half marathon in mid-training.
Still, it didn’t answer Colin’s question as well as I wanted. I may never really know if it’s a full-on revolution of will and grit, but it forced me at ask myself, “Why am I doing it?”
I thought about it for days, and then this afternoon, my three-year-old kid answered the question for me.
The garage looked as though the producers of “Hoarders” had staged an episode at my house but abandoned the project when it became clear we were more of an “Intervention” family. I was standing in the middle of the mess with that typical hand-on-the-forehead, I can’t believe this has happened again posture. My post-work, 5pm, let’s-make-the-most-of-this-day gusto withered like a too-cold fall blossom.
I know there was a time we cleaned the garage. Spring-cleaning day. It’s such a clear memory. I remember turning to my wife and saying, “Agree with me now: if either of us messes this up, the other can use shame as a weapon.” She agreed. Shame worked as long as shame usually does, which is—by my experience—about a week, unless nudity or arrest is involved.
But forward I trudged into the mess, an adventure race all its own, a place where I find gas cans capped with latex gloves, balls of damp Silly String, and, oh-we’ll-never-speak-of-that detritus. I remembered that shame had failed as a weapon, and I was in a full-on suburban dad sharpening-his-anger-spear froth.
It was Dos, my three-year-old kid behind me in a Missouri Tiger shirt, Pittsburgh Steelers pants, striped socks, and camouflage sandals.
“Daddy? Can you shoot hoops with me?”
I looked at the bigger new mess I’d created out of the old mess and started to speak. He cut me off.
“Can you shoot hoops with me Sunday?”
It was something he’d been asking a lot. Can we go to the zoo Sunday? Can we go to the pumpkin patch Sunday? It was seeming like Sunday was going to be a really busy day.
“We might, buddy, someday…”
I stopped talking, because I realized he wasn’t asking to go Sunday. He was asking to go Someday. And he was asking to go Someday, because too many times, my response to what he wanted was, “We might someday.”
There, in the middle of the disaster in the garage, I felt like crying again. The kid was so conditioned to hearing “someday” that it had become a verbal crutch for him, a bit of hope that they thing he wants to do will happen someday. And I was responsible for it.
It’s probably very common for a kid to hear it. Someday you’ll be older. Someday you’ll understand. Someday you could be President.
And then they start to think it themselves. Someday I’ll be a baseball player. Someday I’ll ask that girl on a date. Someday I’ll be a rock star.
And then, by the time they are adults, the great lie of Someday has manifested itself into a false-faith-reality. They aren’t going to be a baseball player. They aren’t going to be President. They aren’t going to be a rock star.
Here in middle adulthood, a place that feels more like adolescence and puberty than adolescence and puberty did, we find ourselves discovering that we’ve fallen into the cult of Someday so badly that we forgot that someday almost never comes on its own, and the longer we sit and wait for that elusive day, the harder it will ever be to find it.
I’ve learned some late lessons in the past year about the uselessness of waiting. It’s folly at almost every turn. Although there is pride in patience, the act of waiting is one of weakness, fear, and laziness. I know this because I’m guiltier than anybody I know.
I looked at that little boy and wondered how I would convince him that there is no Someday, or if I should. I didn’t have an answer. I walked in circles looking at trash and broken lawn equipment, and I tried to promise myself that I would never say it again. But I couldn’t do that, because I try not to lie to myself. The only thing I could do, it seemed clear, was live as an example. Even if I haven’t to this point, I can only hope that if I’m true to myself that it will somehow trickle down to my sons.
I still don’t know exactly why I’ve spent that last couple of years trying to be better than I was before. There are lots of reasons, but few that are easy to articulate. That understood, Badblood said something the other day that rang true:
“There’s a certain pleasure in doing things you never thought you’d be able to do. Pain goes away eventually,” he said.
I’ve spent several days trying to define what that pleasure is, and tonight I think it has a lot to do with the realization that someday doesn’t have to be some ethereal, no-calendar day in the future. It can be now. The path to it doesn’t have to be a road race, or a mountain, or some muddy obstacle course. It only has to be the thing you want, the thing you are afraid to admit to yourself that you can do.
I cried a little bit on that California mountain because I realized I’d let too many Somedays pass. I cried a little bit because I was doing my best to make good on the time I’d wasted. It wasn’t about that race. It was about the people beside me, my brother and friends good enough that they might as well be my blood.
I’m never, ever going to be a pro runner. I don’t care to be. That’s not why I’m doing this. I’m doing this because I’ve wasted a lot of my life on Someday. I’ve wasted a lot of other people’s time in the same way.
And so for each step I take along the road, or for each new seemingly impossible thing I try (and I feel confident there are more to come), it’s about more than the miles, the endorphins, or even the feeling of accomplishment. It’s about convincing myself that I can do the things that I’ve always doubted I could do.
I may have some real regrets in my life, but they’re almost all based around how long it took me to realize the lie Someday tells. The peace I’ve found, however, is that I can’t count on anyone to fix that for me. There’s no waiting around for someone to take charge and fix the problem.
It’s up to me alone to run Someday down and turn it into today.
Scroll down for updates throughout the night
The fact that I’m doing this again speaks to one of two things. Either I have a criminally inflated sense of ego, or I was so disappointed in the relative lack of import in the first Presidential debate that I’ve returned tonight in hopes of redeeming myself. If we’re lucky, Big Bird will come out on the Danville, Kentucky stage wearing a prosthetic phallus of some sort. With Christmas lights on it.
So, what did the people of America’s Couch do since the first 2012 Presidential Debate? We did our jobs, participated in youth sports, exercised, ate leftovers, and settled into the deep down feathers of America’s resting place. We checked that our voter registration–a futile, symbolic designation in our particular voting district–was up to date. We participated in more youth sports. We cooked at home and recycled. We paid our monthly taxes, paid our private healthcare premiums, and made doctor visits we’ll have to pay for out of pocket. We made s’mores on our patio, drank local beers, and watched our university alma mater lose to an academic school. That’s how the people of America’s Couch spent the last week. We worked, paid our due, and stayed out of every one else’s way.
Now, from our spot on America’s Couch, we return to watch what might be one of the most celebrated and meaningless practices in political theater, the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate, a contest of almost zero real consequence between a hyper-disciplined, hardbody life nit and undisciplined, suave, one-time plagiarist with gaffe problems (who also happens to be the sitting Veep). And, yeah, we’re going to live blog it…live from America’s Couch.
8:07pm–I don’t know how the rest of America prepared for tonight, but we did it with a home cooked meal: seared scallops with jalapeño/bacon creamed corn and roasted parsnips. And wine. Yes there was wine. Meanwhile, we’re trying to decide how little attention to pay to the fact our eight-year-old son turned on the TV today and watched enough of “Sex Games” on Cinemax to probably qualify him as an expert in human sexuality. My protestations to the wife that “It was simulated sex!” don’t seem to be holding up. This is all because I didn’t turn the channel after getting my Denzel Washington fix last night. Maybe you can sleep without watching Denzel talk softly and shoot somebody in the head, but I certainly can’t.
8:15pm–There are 45 minutes until the debate begins. We’ve chosen to spend it making sure this bottle of wine tells no tales tomorrow and watching NFL THursday. My wife is insisting Kurt Warner has had some work done. Trying to decide whether to watch the debate on CNN as usual or give this wine a real test and watch FOX. The latter is almost as as unlikely as me making it to 9pm without breaking into the Tito’s vodka.
8:23pm–”That’s one thing Nashville does,” the wife said. “Look at that! They support their losing team.” Probably something to be said about politics there, but…well, there was wine.
8:38pm–So, I’ve spent all day thinking, “Damn, that Paul Ryan is tall drink of water. I’d like to party with that guy.” Why? Because he had the courage to do this.
All that, and then I learn that Ryan is all upset about Time publishing these photos today. His aide complained they were promised the pictures would never be published–an account Time disputes. I’m of two minds on this. First, the dude is cut up. I’d be proud if I looked that good. But, two…come one. You know who believes “no one will ever see these pictures?” You fill in the blank, because every punch line I came up with would get me fired, pilloried, or engaged to a second marriage, and I, for one, don’t believe in bigamy.
8:59pm–Paul Begala just declared both of these candidates are as “nervous as a hooker in church,” which is as tired an analogy as Begala’s relevance in anything post 1999.
9:01pm–There is a Commission on Vice Presidential Debates. There is a COMMISSION on Vice Presidential Debates.
9:04pm–I am sitting here wishing, apropos of nothing, Biden had started the debate by turning to Paul Ryan and saying, “How do you like them apples?”
9:06pm–Paul Ryan is less than four years older than I am. He was a senior in high school when I was a freshman. Nothing on him, but most of those guys were complete pricks, as I recall.
9:07pm–So, yeah, the wine is gone.
9:08pm–Joe Biden spent the past two weeks perfecting–PERFECTING–the shaking-my-head-rueful-smile this-kid-is-too-much look.
9:09pm–”That’s a bunch of malarky..Not a single thing he said is accurate.” –Joe Biden, playing the role President Obama forgot to play last week, which was a person with testicles.
9:11pm–Let’s just get out in front of this. A moderated debate is a lot better than a non-moderated debate.
9:13pm–Rapid Eye Reality’s independent media and political consultant Mr. G-Rob asks “Given the issues in this election, can Martha Rattatz be impartial given her dating history?”
9:17pm–”All this loose talk? What are they talking about?” –Joe Biden, probably not talking about that widow’s peak, which Mr. G-Rob insists points toward Ryan’s “Crystal blue eyes, blinding white smile, his adorable dimples?”
9:19pm–New drinking game. What Does the Ayatollah See?
9:20pm–”Facts matter.” There is your headline of the night.
9:23pm–Biden has been friends with Bibi for a couple of decades. My acquaintance BeeBee recently had hormone replacement therapy and discovered the joys of prostitution. I feel fairly certain the experiences are different.
9:25pm–What’s the score in the Steelers/Titans game?
9:26pm–That hometown unemployment exchange was a good one for Ryan. Prediction: Romney loses next month. Ryan wins Presidency in 2016.
9:29pm–Via RER contributor Mr. G-Rob: “If the old trope: ‘Which candidate would you want to have a beer with?’ matters at all, this has to be the single most lopsided election in all history. It’s Biden right? In fact, I think Clinton is the last person to enter Biden’s airspace there and I still think Biden’s a winner.”
9:32pm–Biden Rope-A-Dope with stimulus money made this half hour.
9:34pm–Mr: G-Rob: “Here’s a thinker: Who was hotter in their Prime, Martha Raddatz, Cokie Roberts, or Diane Sawyer?”
9:35pm–Okay, so imagine this moment five minutes from now.
Biden: “You are the nuttiest, the stupid, the phoniest fruitcake I ever met.”
Ryan: “You, Joe Biden, are the most arrogant, self-centered –”
Biden: “Shut Up! Shut your fat mouth.”
Ryan: “Make me.”
Biden: “Make you? My God, I’m, I’m gonna, I’m gonna bounce you off every wall in this office.”
Ryan: “Try it and you’ll be walking funny tomorrow, or shall I say funnier.”
Biden: “You know, you know I always wanted to pop you one, maybe this is my lucky day huh?”
Ryan: “You disgust me, I hate you.”
Biden: “Are you as turned on as I am?”
9:39pm–Mr G-Rob: “The correct answer was Diane Sawyer”
9:41pm–By the way, if you don’t recognize that script above, you need to read this: “”The Best TV Show That’s Ever Been”
9:43pm–Every time Biden says “Martha,” I can’t help but think of Hank yelling for his wife in “Breaking Bad” to check his delivered his rock boxes for damage.
9:45pm–Halfway through and I’m down a Mule. What we’re seeing here is an actual debate. It’s two human beings fighting the issues, bare-knuckled, like men who care about how they come out. Why? Biden has nothing to lose, Ryan has everything to gain.
9:47pm–Mr. G-Rob: “Does Cokie Roberts look exactly like David Bowie?
9:48pm–This Ryan line on not enough rich people to pay for Democratic spending is perfect. It’s exactly what GOP needs to do to combat the Democratic argument. Biden should’ve jumped in a broken him up.
9:52pm–”Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy?”
9:53pm–Place your bets. How long will it take me to make this next Moscow Mule?
9:55pm–Two minutes. With fresh limes.
9:56pm–I want to make out with Martha Raddatz. I don’t even care what she looks like. She is winning this debate.
9:58pm––Bringing up Iraq, a war we entered based on false intelligence, reminds me of this episode of Radio Lab. During its segment about capital T “Truth” it looked back on America’s excuse for getting back into to the chemical weapons game when I was a kid. When you have a chance: “Yellow Rain.”
10:02pm–The Steelers are losing to the Titans. This debate is a better game.
10:04pm–To be fair, I wouldn’t want to debate either of these guys.
10:06pm–Paul Ryan’s grasp of military strategy and policy is fairly impressive. At the very least, he knows more than almost everybody watching.
10:07pm–Mr: Rob is casting for new reality shows.
“If Sarah Palin could get ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ can I get a season or two of ‘Joe Biden’s Delaware?’
Paul Ryan’s ‘Wisconsin?’
Mitt Romney’s ‘Planet Kolob?’
Barack Obama’s ‘Kenya’
10:08pm–”Afghans to do the job. Afghans to do that job.” If that isn’t remixed, I’ll eat my hat.
10:09pm–“The last thing America needs is to get in another ground war in the Middle East.” –Joe Biden.
10:11pm–A smart friend:
“Why does the policy [of sending more military to Libya] not apply to Syria?”
“It’s a different [fucking] country, [you fucking idiot].”
10:13pm–That was interesting. Paul Ryan said boots on the ground only happen if American security interests are in jeopardy. Humanitarian concerns won’t get troops. Really?
10:17pm–I mean, really? We’re only concerned with American security concerns? That’s what we’re going to boil down to?
10:18pm–Joe, that your religion defines you doesn’t endear you to me, but this line nailed it. “I refuse to impose that on other people like my friend the Congressman.” Knocked it out of the park, there.
10:21pm–There won’t be a Presidential debate as substantive as this VP debate. I don’t know what that says about the election, but it says something.
10:25pm–I mean, is it really possible the two VP candidates are smarter and more charismatic than the Presidential candidates?
10:28pm–Imagine that. A ticket for the executive office that has two guys who disagree almost completely but have to find middle ground before acting as the executive branch. A little less than 20 years ago, I wrote a long paper on this very subject…the executive branch by committee. I recall my professor laughing at it. I remember feeling a little naive at the time. Looking back, I think I wasn’t quite as naive as I thought then.
10:32pm–Scoring the debate:
Gold: Martha Raddatz.
Bronze: Candidates (tie)
Now, back to the NFL
Scroll down for updates
I’ve got a great couch. It’s shaped like a U and stuffed with down. It sometimes pokes me in the hindquarters with actual feathers, which I’m sure probably qualifies me as a Republican (the gross feather abuse, not the ass-stabbing, although there is some argument to be made…nevermind…I don’t care if you have a wide stance). I’m not, however, a Republican. If I have to self-identify, it would be as independent, which is almost as farcical. Almost.
Blogging, from what I’m told, is dead. Microblogging is where it’s at. It’s what the kids who know acronyms do. I microblog, and I suspect that if I weren’t widening my stance around this blog right now, I’d be pounding on Twitter like a tough piece of meat. But, it occurred to me that there was once a time when I would live blog big moments, and those live blogs and moments would start a long conversation with my friends (and enemies!). We do that today, but it’s lost to time on Twitter.
To sharpen the irony just a little bit, I posted to Twitter that I was considering doing this very thing. Twitter’s Trisha Lynn said she’d read if I wrote it, and that was enough for me.
So, tonight, from America’s Couch, an unvarnished conversation about America, time-stamped, superfluous, and off-the-cuff.
8:09pm: But first a cocktail. You didn’t think I was going to do this without help did you?
8:20pm: It’s a Moscow Mule.
8:21pm If you don’t know me well, here are some things that may help you along here: I am a 38-year-old married father of two. I was raised in a Republican home, but have spent most of my adult life as a largely non-partisan social liberal. I was once a television reporter who covered politics for nearly ten years. I am middle class American, born and raised in the conservative stronghold of southwest Missouri (Hi, John Ashcroft!). I’ve spent the last 13 years living in the south, most of that in Upstate South Carolina. I voted for Obama in 2008, and I am among the people who wish he had done more. I am, by almost every definition, middle class. I also pay out of pocket for my family’s health insurance. Finally, I’m pretty big on cocktails with limes in them.
8:37pm: While you wait, here’s how I spent the day a couple of Saturdays ago.
8:39pm: My friend Mr. G-Rob sent me a link today confirming much of what I believed about where I grew up: Southwest Missouri made the Todd Akin candidacy, and southwest Missouri could save it.
8:41pm: I’m watching debate coverage on CNN, which I think qualifies me as a closeted liberal who is in the tank for Jimmy Carter.
8:43pm: We were promised a flying car, but we ended up with a 3D printer that can print weapons. Am I reading this right? — 3-D Printer Company Seizes Machine From Desktop Gunsmith
8:49pm: Quick, is it treasonous to refer to the Michelle Obama and Ann Romney hug as “Hot Girl on Girl Action?” Asking for an SEO consultant.
8:51pm: I don’t mean this as a political statement, but Ms. Romney looks like her batteries might need charging.
8:53pm: CNN analyst just said the President wants to speak to Americans on their couches. Feeling very prescient. Also, tipsy.
8:55pm: Quick, this is very important. Will there be a commercial break during this debate? There is a drink concern. A mule doesn’t last 90 minutes.
8:58pm My wife is sock-foot ice skating on the hard woods. This is how we get our debate on.
9:00pm: Friend just posed the question, of the 50 million people watching this debate. What percentage will be intoxicated?
9:02pm Jim Lehrer is somebody’s guardo camino. I guarantee it.
9:03PM: The Obama/Romney handshake held on a little longer than I expected it to. Working on a “Hot Guy on Guy Action” headline.
9:04pm: Happy Anniversary, honey. I got you a Republican.
9:06pm: They are seriously wearing Republican Red and Democrat Blue ties. Stripes for Republicans. Dots for Democrats.
9:07pm: Happy anniversary, Mr. President. Now, let’s talk tenderly about Ohio.
9:09pm: First asked question, first dodged question. That one goes to President Obama. And this is the reason why moderators are largely no better than me sitting here on my couch. Ask a question, get a stump speech.
9:10pm: My friend Elise points out: “Romney wins the flag lapel pin size contest”
9:12pm: “Mr. Romney, do you have a question you’d like to ask the President directly?” “Yes, but first I’m going give you pre-prepared rant.”
9:14pm: On America’s couch, we fold laundry and drink citrusy cocktails. I wonder when the last time eiher of these men folded laundry was.
9:17pm: Mitt Romney scores first for referring to himself in the third person. Also, first to refer to his sons as liars.
9:19pm: “It’s math. It’s arithmetic.” I think what you’re trying to say, Mr. President, is, “It’s science.”
9:20pm: First Clinton nod comes 20 minutes in (which, I’m told, is faster than Clinton himself).
9:21pm: Jim Lehrer, “Just so y’all know, I have no responsibilities here whatsoever. As long as you’re all okay with that, I am.”
9:23pm: Mitt Romney: “I know there are debate rules here, but I want to do things my way. That cool, America?”
9:26pm: Jim Lehrer: “Theoretically, we’re still in the first segment. Theoretically, I might have soiled myself.”
9:28pm: What we’ve learned here so far is that Mitt Romney loves big bird, but China…wait, what?
9:29pm: You know who would moderate the hell out of this? Senile Don Draper.
9:31pm: Half of America just heard: “Simpson’s Balls? If you want to take it, make some adjustment to it…”
9:33pm: I have a cocktail emergency.
9:34: Via the king of clever Hard Boiled Poker: “Obama ground game chewing up clock. Where do I see how many timeouts each has left? ”
9:36pm Mr. President, I think we agreed not to talk about the nice young ladies we met in Vegas…
9:38pm: We’re a third of the way through, and my preferred political consultant (Mr. G-Rob), calls the debate for Romney. I think he’s right so far.
9:40pm: I’m trying to define in five words or less the smile Mitt Romney wears while the President is speaking. My best attempt so far is “Funereal optimism grounded in wincing.”
9:42pm: Do yourself a favor and don’t use the phrase “liberal media” around my wife after she’s had a Moscow Mule.
9:43pm: Romney: “If you’re 60 years old or older you don’t have to listen anymore…wait! I had a zinger! Come back, Grandma! Come baaaaaack!”
9:45pm: We’re halfway through. No commercial break. I can feel the scurvy coming on.
9:46pm: My grandchildren will someday learn that the first black President lost the race for his second term when he failed to also mention his affection for Big Bird.
9:49pm Mr. President, I implore you. Engage the Al Green gambit. It’s your only hope!
9:50pm: Romney’s Spin Room ops are currently trying to figure out how to explain away Romney’s assertion that you can’t have people opening banks in their garage.
9:53pm: Mitt Romney, talking over old feeble men since 1980.
9:57pm: Four minutes, one bathroom trip, two Moscow Mules made. Did I miss anything? Of course not.
9:59pm: On a serious note, I don’t go to the doctor until something falls off, because of the cost. Straight up. And neither of these men cares about that.
10:00pm: And down goes Obama. “I had five seconds until you interrupted me.”
10:01pm: The only thing Obama had going for him in this debate so far was that Romney was the one running all over the old man moderator. He just gave that up. First the lapel pin, and now this.
10:03pm: The best thing we’re going to get out of this: FiredBigBird.
10:06pm: Live from America’s Couch, my wife doing…I can’t event begin to explain.
10:07pm: Freelance Fake Political Consultant Mr. G-Rob nails it in the comments.
This race will be tied after this debate. Romney is CRUSHING Obama who seems like a tired, cranky asshole.
Since we can freely admit that content and data are meaningless…Romney seems energized and easily understandable.
Obama seems tired and detached.
10:10pm: Grange95 responds in the comments…
@ G-Rob: Debates haven’t had a meaningful effect on polls since Kennedy-Nixon. This is all American Kabuki for the political media.
10:11pm: Wait….kabuki….is that the thing I accidentally clicked on on the internet the other day where all the guys were…nevermind.
10:12pm: My wife has found art in CNN’s undecided voters streams. She’s slurring something about “Flatline. Look at it. Flatline!”
10:13pm: Trivia time. Jim Lehrer and I went to same journalism school. Know who else went there? Brad Pitt. But Lehrer and I graduated and Pitt didn’t, and we know how that worked out, right? Am I right?
10:15pm: Fifteen minutes left, and Romney just spiked the ball with religious tolerance. Welcome to the rabbit hole, ladies and gents.
10:17pm: “This never would have happened if Jim Lehrer was still alive.” –Mr G-Rob
10:19pm: To put this in terms we all understand…this is the Arizona Cardinals vs New England Patriots game from this year. Somebody showed up expecting to win, somebody showed up prepared to.
10:22pm: Via Mr. G-Rob, Twitter’s SilentJimLehrer.
10:24pm: Every time Romney says Massachusetts, the 13-year-old in me fully expects him to say “masturbation.”
10:25pm: It might be the Mule, but all of a sudden I looked at Mitt Romney and I was sure–sure–he was the guy who tried to get me to go to an adult video store with him when I was 18 years old.
10:27pm: He wasn’t. I should really point that out. I’m almost certain.
10:28pm: Jim Lehrer: “We flipped a coin, and I’m sure there was some rule about what happened next, but, you guys just do what you want.”
10:29pm:Hemorrhoidal Wince of the Elite.
10:31pm: Fifty million of us watched this. Every one of us should call someone in Ohio and tell them what we think. I’m going to start with that girl I met in New Orleans in 1994. Wait, she was from Wisconsin…will that still work?
10:33pm: For all the hugging at the end of this thing, I wonder how the hippie voting block still gets so little attention.
10:34pm Wolf Blitzer reports Romney held his own, which, as we all know is called Massachusetts.
10:36pm:: And so it ends, except for the fact that we now have to endure two more of these. A few things to keep in mind. First, there will be few if any people in the media who give this to Obama. That’s because Romney was better tonight, but it’s also because it’s in the media’s best interest to make the race closer. Otherwise, why would we keep paying attention? Second, as my wife points out, this was the first debate, and this could easily be an Obama rope-a-dope. He’s not going to bring his best game in the first one. It’s still a three point win by Obama in November.
In conclusion, imagine yourself in a kabuki theater with a recently-fired Big Bird who is holding his own. That, friends, is what we should take away from this evening. A self-abusing Muppet with employment issues.
My son learned to roller skate less than 48 hours ago. He’d be ashamed to admit it, but there were tears at first, but then lots of skating. Twenty-four hours earlier, I took him on his very first father-son bike ride. We rode eight miles, the farthest he’d ever ridden at one time. I took him for ice cream. His had M&Ms in it.
Two weeks ago, my eight-year-old son started second grade. He tested into fifth grade reading. He found $2 on the hallway floor, turned it in to the school office, and held the door for a lady on his way out. Tonight is his class Open House. There’s a slideshow.
My son sleeps in a twin bed. It’s piled with stuffed animals. It’s a wonder he can sleep there. Each animal has a name. One is called Baby. One is called Brandon. There are at least 20 more. I don’t know all their names, but my son does. He is somewhere in the too-small-space between a baby and a man, and science still hasn’t found a way to slow down time such that I can love my boy like this forever.
This morning, I read my Twitter feed and nodded at each one of the 9/11 remembrances. I nodded and nodded until I reached this one from an Afghanistan war veteran named Richard Allen Smith (aka rockrichard), retweeted by my friend Grange95.
I read the words again to make sure I hadn’t seen them wrong.
“There are troops fighting in Afghanistan right now that were in second grade on 9/11/01.”
Even after a re-reading, I did the math in my head, sure that someone had carried the wrong number in the subtraction. I, like you, remember 9/11/01 because it was yesterday. I didn’t shower or shave for 48 hours. I worked at the TV station until there was no more work to do, and then I drove around in my car talking to my friend Marty halfway across the country. We’d known each other for a decade at that point, but we still didn’t know what to say that night. I remember 9/11/01, because no real time has passed since.
But it is true. Those second graders of 9/11/01 are 18 or 19 years old today, and some of them are in a mountainous hell right now fighting a near-invisible enemy. Some of those soldiers in desert camo fatigues woke up on the morning of 9/11/01 in a bed full of stuffed animals, wet down the cowlick in their hair, and went to second grade. That night, the PTA meetings were all canceled. Those kids’ parents probably never thought their nation’s tragedy would result in their little boys and girls serving as ground troops in a decade-old war.
I remember second grade. I was in love with Emily Kinney, but I asked my teacher Mrs. Bennett to marry me. Love was a weird thing in the early 80s. Our classroom was the second one on the left, just a couple of doors down the Hilldale Elementary hallway from Mrs. Haseltine’s first grade class, and smack dab in the middle of Vietnam and the first Gulf War. I didn’t event think about the hell of combat until I was a senior in high school ten years later.
I don’t pretend to understand war, how it starts or ends, or what purpose our country hopes to further achieve in Afghanistan. I’ve known too many good soldiers and their families to ever speak ill of their mission. What’s more, this is a day to remember a country once brought together in tragedy and aimed at a common good. This is a day to remember the innocent victims and valiant heroes who died at the hands of radicals eleven years ago. No one has forgotten them, and no one of our generation will.
But right now I hear my son coming home from second grade, his voice still immature, coming up the stairs to tell me how his test went. His teeth are new, crooked, and probably bound for braces. His hair is getting shaggy and will probably need a cut soon. He has a Pokemon book in his hand. He’s never known the America that I knew before 9/11. He’s never known a life without war. And in the time that has elapsed since 9/11–a day we can all still feel aching in our gut–my little boy, the child that turned his boy-father into a man, could be carrying a gun across a desert as a soldier in the American military.
Sometimes I think we forget what war means to our soldiers, to our country, and to our way of life. I think it’s only today that I’ve fully appreciated what war means, because I can see how close my son is to that pure hell. It took just a few words from a veteran for me to realize that the people fighting and dying today were my son’s age when this new American wartime began…just yesterday.
“I am as nervous as I’ve ever been.”
That was my son this morning, up before the sun for his first youth triathlon. At eight years old, he would be among the youngest of the hundreds of children in the event–a 100 meter swim, five mile bike ride, and 1.3 mile run. The boy took small, slow bites of whole wheat toast slathered in peanut butter and honey. Although he’s a kid with a flair for drama, it was too early for one of his patented one act plays. He was serious. He was nervous.
This entire story could be about my son. It could be about his fear of his first bike ride without his mom. It could be about a longer swim than he’s used to. It could be about his worry—his chief fear—that he wouldn’t be able to cross the finish line like the big kids. I was nervous for him, and I can’t adequately describe the pride of watching him overcome his fear and turn it into grit. Was he the fastest? No, but that was never the point. The point was giving him an opportunity to test himself, and more, give him an opportunity to be proud. That’s our story, but not the most important story of the day.
When you watch a group of children—hundreds ranging in age from 8 to 15—engage in something so physically grueling as today’s event, it inspires a lot of emotion, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to wanting to get a little preachy about childhood obesity or out-of-touch parents. But those aren’t the most important stories of the day either.
The last quarter mile of the youth triathlon was a gentle uphill climb to the finish line. After watching our kid gut out the swim, grit out the ride, and transition to the run, we settled in on the sidewalk about a tenth of a mile from the finish. As we waited for our son to run, we watched the kids come in. That’s where the story was.
The humidity this morning had climbed above 90%.
“My entire body feels sticky,” my kid said. And I understood. There is nothing fun about trying to exercise in South Carolina on a humid day. I was soaked after setting up his transition area.
These kids were in the final stretch of 30-45 minutes that would be a struggle for most of the adults I know. For some of them, it was easy. Most, however, had the same look as my son as they climbed toward the waiting crowd.
And so, as we waited, we offered children we didn’t know a few words of encouragement and a round of applause. That’s when I saw the story of the day.
It didn’t happen with every child, but the vast majority of them turned their heads toward the cheers and transformed into smiling, driven machines. For every “finish strong” or “you’re almost there,” we saw a child dig down into her heart and dash for the finish. It only took a few words to take a child on the verge of collapse and turn him into a churning engine of pride and accomplishment.
I know this feeling. When I was in the final stretch of the Las Vegas half marathon last year, I thought I was going to collapse just short of the finish line. I’ve spent most of my life thinking I wasn’t good enough, and on that day in Vegas, I felt no different. That’s when I heard a crowd of my friends chanting for me, a sound that pushed me the final steps to the end.
Now, however, I was watching it happen over and over again and with children 30 years younger than me. Inside each of them was a well of potential they didn’t know existed until they heard a crowd of people telling them they could do it. It happened with my son, which gave me immense pride. But more so, it happened with children I’d never met. Just a few words and some applause changed those kids in an instant.
I thought about it for most of the day, and as I go to bed tonight, I wonder what we might be able to learn from that moment. It doesn’t matter if it’s a kid who likes to swim, bike, and run, or a kid who likes to build things, or a kid who draws cars. How many children might succeed if we just took a second to cheer them on?
My kid threw a fist in the air as he crossed the finish line. He didn’t care about his time. He only cared that he finished. And he cared that once he got his medal and a bottle of water, he had someone at the end to give him a hug.
is that one night everything will go perfectly, the boys will eat their dinner without complaint–with compliments!–and offer almost no protest at bedtime. You will pour a glass of wine, sit down to watch the news, and settle in to an overstuffed couch for some overdue, mindless rest.
What is not in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is that just a few sips into that wine, there will come an ominously definitive thud from the floor above. It’s not one of those noises that makes an over-imaginative mother ask, “Did you hear that?” It’s a horrific, full boom that elicits profanity from any adult in earshot. The wine is forgotten. The banal coverage of the political convention drones on in an ironic soundtrack to your sprint.The dog barks at nothing. At the top of the stairs, you and your spouse converge with the older boy who is already looking for his clothes because he knows it’s time to go to the emergency room. The thud told that much of a story.
What “Parenting” magazine doesn’t prepare you for is that moment when you swing your toddler’s bedroom door open and see the confused, surprised eyes of your three-year-old son as he tries to understand what just happened to him. Even as you kneel to pull him up into your arms, you think about the conversations you had with your spouse in which you fought the idea that the kid was ready to be in a big boy bed and graduate from his crib. You insisted the kid wasn’t brave enough to try to climb out, and even so, he wouldn’t be tall enough to get over the rail. And now, as the crying begins in earnest, you look up to see your entire family in front of you with scared eyes, and you know it’s your fault.
What you don’t learn in the childbirth and parenting classes is how to tell the difference between head injury vomiting and vomiting brought on by uncontrolled crying. As you stand with your entire family–the big one is now wearing a Brazil soccer jersey and is ready to wait it out in the ER–in the kids’ bathroom, you hate yourself for wondering how much a trip to the ER would cost, and then hate the system that makes you even consider how much it would cost. There is vomit everywhere, and you can actually smell the dinner you made, undigested and tracking through the grout on the tile floor.
And so, because you’ve learned none of this before, you clean and dress your younger son, and you look to Dr. Google to teach you the symptoms of concussion in a three-year-old, and you learn all you can in a short period of time–that crucial few minutes of deciding whether it’s time to go to the hospital. The kid can tell you his name, his brother’s name, his street address, his dog’s name, and his pre-school teacher’s names. He can walk a straight line. His pupils are the same size. And so you’re only left to keep him awake. And there is only one way to do that.
You forget about the wine, because–although you probably wouldn’t admit it to anybody else–you’re terrified that if there is something really wrong with your son and you have the least bit of alcohol in your blood, you’ll be blamed by the police, the media, and your peers. Deep down, you realize that–despite the fact you cooked dinner, made sure the kids’ teeth were brushed, read them a story about a dinosaur’s dinner manners, and tucked the boy in–that you are to blame for the kid falling headfirst onto his floor.
So, what they don’t tell you about parenting is that in some deep act of apology, you’ll go through a long series of medical tests, turn on “Puss In Boots,” and make popcorn–the real kind, not the microwave stuff. You tell yourself it’s only to keep an eye on the boy for a couple of hours to make sure he’s okay, but you know that you’re also trying to find an act of contrition worthy of the fates sparing your kid what might have been the unthinkable. And during that time, you have to explain to the big brother that you’re not “having a party without” him, and you concede without another word that it’s time to get rid of the crib, and you pound mercilessly on a computer keyboard while the boy snuggles with his mommy, giggles at the cartoon on TV, and shoves handfuls of popcorn in his face.
See, what they don’t tell you about parenting is that one of the greatest feelings you’ll ever feel as a daddy is realizing that your son is going to be okay.
The fiber swam—viscous, milky, sexual—on the other side of the amber glass. I pressed my eye as closely as I dared. My heart felt precious little shame as I thought, “That must be what it looks like in the moment before human conception.”
It was a Friday night, and I had shoved the inverted bottle of ginger beer into the handle of my oven. It was the only place I could find to hold the bottle upside down while I hand-rolled and cut my limes. A lime pressed and rolled against a hard surface is easier to juice, but that really wasn’t the point. The sediment was the thing, and it was distracting me from the limes.
Not enough has been written about the subject of sediment distribution vis a vis cocktail excellence, but in the twilight of that Friday night I knew I was doing it right. I was a voyeur, a Tom, peeping though the glass at the silky ginger fiber. It loitered with purpose in the middle of the bottle.
I was preparing to make my second Moscow Mule of the night, and the only thing delaying my progress was shameless sensory arousal. I breathed slowly as the ginger made its erotic journey around its 12-ounce, lightly carbonated womb.
On March 26, 2012, I received an email from a friend. His nom de degenerate is Grange95, a pseudonym he uses to protect his identity in a world where drinking and gambling are common but preaching their gospels is sometimes a sackable offense. The subject line of the e-mail read: “The Definitive Moscow Mule Recipe.”
I knew the e-mail was coming. It was the fire to the delivery smoke that clouded my doorstep days earlier. The first box contained four copper mugs. The second was a case of ginger beer. I opened both and then stepped away, afraid that the ensuing alchemy would erupt before I had the opportunity to put on protective equipment.
The greeting of the email got right to business and avoided any pleasantries.
Grange (who had sent the boxes special delivery in advance of his email) wrote, “I trust your resourcefulness as an uber-faller and professional citrus-tosser will allow you to procure a supply of vodka and limes.”
(There’s a certain Inside Baseball code embedded in those words you might not be able to decipher if you haven’t been a longtime reader here. Suffice it to say, I know my cocktails, and I can hit a small space with a smaller lime at 30 yards and do so in a condition that would be considered dangerous for most people. Or, put another way, I’m no rookie. Let’s leave it there.)
The e-mail also came with a warning: “Fourteen Mules make you think you can play piano in a fancy martini bar, even without having taken piano lessons. Fifteen Mules make you fall off piano benches. My personal recommendation is to stop somewhere in the 11-12 range.”
The first time my wife had two Moscow Mules in a row, she kicked me in the eye during a romantic moment.
We needed practice.
I let my right hand hang out the window. It surfed the air like a child’s fingers on a station wagon road trip. My friend Lori pulled into a dark parking lot off West Sahara. Herbs and Rye looked like a dive. It was my only free night in Las Vegas, and this was the only place I wanted to be.
When I find something I like, I evangelize. Shamelessly. In 1999, Yahoo unveiled its LAUNCHcast product, a precursor to today’s Pandora-style streaming radio. In 2005, I discovered ECCO shoes. When I fell in love with both, I spent hours convincing others to experiment with me and join my travels on a new road to enlightenment.
So, over the four months since Grange’s e-mail, I had experimented, shared, and evangelized to almost everyone I knew. It was such a simple cocktail, and yet so very refreshing. I felt everyone needed to know about it.
To make the drinkable portion of a Moscow Mule, you need vodka, ice, a lime, and ginger beer. To serve it, you need a copper cup. These are the essential elements, but they in no way begin to tell this story the way it needs to be told. Finding the essence and finding perfection are two different things. One can take months. The other can take a lifetime.
The search for the perfect Moscow Mule is an evangelistic road similar to my ECCO shoes quest, but on this one I often need a designated driver. So, after countless Moscow Mules with my wife/guinea pig, that DD on that night four months later was a friend named Lori. She’d scouted Herbs and Rye and spotted the elusive Mule in the wild.
A giant man with a Thor-like hammer stood on the other side of the bar. He stuffed ice into a canvas sack (I’d learn later it’s called a “Lewis Bag”), put it on the edge of his bar, and beat it with his giant wooden mallet. It was simultaneously violent, artful, and erotic. I’d never been so turned on by a sweating 300-pound man in a black vest.
Thor went to work in a way I had never seen. It was at once robotic and fluid, like a wax museum bartender animated into a performance artist. By the time Thor finished, I had in front of me what amounted to a Moscow Mule sno-cone made with Fever Tree Ginger Beer and garnished with a paper-thin piece of lime peel.
And it was wonderful. I had two.
While I drank, I perused the Herbs and Rye menu. It listed its offerings by era, starting with the pre-Prohibition years and working its way up to the 1960s. I let my finger slide down to the Moscow Mule description where the menu read: “Was a marketing ploy by John G. Martin of Heublein Inc. as East Coast distributor of food and spirits.”
It was dark in the bar, and I hoped my barmates didn’t see me blanche.
A marketing ploy?
I’d been led to the perfect dark off–Strip bar in Las Vegas to drink what I considered to be the world’s best cocktail. In a moment, the drink I’d come to think of as my signature cocktail was no more than a marketing ploy? I felt cheated and somehow wronged (and yet, still, very refreshed). Fortunately, the Mule and conversation had kicked in, and my lament lasted only as long as it took to order the second drink.
Thank heavens for deeper research. Later (after something called Corpse Reviver) I went deeper into the story of the Mule Marketing Ploy and discovered the phrase on the menu was not only ripped off from a web page, but also failed to tell the full and amazing story of the Moscow Mule.
John G. Martin worked for the same company that made A-1 Steak Sauce. During his time at the company, he came upon what he thought was a golden opportunity, the kind of once-in-a-lifetime lark at which people of my ilk would jump: he had the chance to buy the Smirnoff vodka distillery.
Think on that for a moment. You work for a company that makes steak sauce, a substance based entirely on mitigating the offense of a badly-cooked piece of meat, and you are presented with an opportunity to buy a Russian vodka distillery…a substance that can exist on its own in a shimmering, radiant pool of 80-proof perfection. It looked like kismet.
What you might not know, and what Martin failed to predict, is that Americans didn’t really like vodka in the post-Word War II era. It was a drink for the savage Russians. Nobody was buying what the A-1 vodka-hawker was selling. Hence, Martin’s vodka distillery purchase became known as Martin’s Folly.
Martin traveled the country. He ended up having dinner at the L.A. Sunset Strip’s famous Cock ‘n’ Bull, a place with a surplus of ginger beer (the owner had been brewing it, but failing miserably at selling it). In what could only be described as very refreshing serendipity, the restaurant’s owner had a friend who had inherited a copper factory.
You see where this is going, right? Three hustlers have a bunch of stuff they can’t sell and combine it to create one of the most refreshing cocktails ever made. It was like the chocolate and peanut butter people running into each other in the office hallway, but with a much better, much more intoxicating payoff.
That, friends, is how a man from a steak sauce company came to create the Moscow Mule.
Further research suggested to me that the tale might be a bit on the apocryphal side, but it’s no doubt close enough to convince a man well into his second Mule. Or to put a finer point on it…I believe it.
I sat on that Las Vegas barstool thinking of steak sauce and vodka, and just before I closed the Herbs and Rye menu, I couldn’t help but notice the place offered a 60-ounce ribeye. Old John Martin would’ve had a heyday in that joint.
Meanwhile, Lori, who had inspired, encouraged, and facilitated my trip to Herbs and Rye, ordered a Kentucky Mule—a bastard cocktail made with bourbon instead of vodka.
The big man behind the bar didn’t even deign to look in Lori’s eye when he said, “We don’t alter the classics.”
If you have come this far (a place I can promise you is nearing the halfway point of this tale) you might need some further enlightenment exactly what makes a Moscow Mule.
For that, let’s turn back to Grange’s definitive recipe. It’s reprinted here with his permission.
The Definitive Moscow Mule Recipe
Mis En Place:
Gather the following items, arrange in a semi-circle on a semi-clean, acid resistant counter top.
1) Fill each mug approx. 1/2 full of ice cubes.
2) Pour 3 oz. (2 shots) vodka over ice (NOTE: the daring and the drunk can just eyeball it at 1/3 full).
3) Squeeze juice of three or four lime wedges into vodka; drop in wedge if you require a “garnish” (PRO TIP: if you really like lime or have scurvy, add a fifth wedge; use four or five wedges if using smaller limes).
4) Top off mug with ginger beer.
5) Stir gently.
7) Repeat (CAUTION: Stand up at your own risk. The Mule can kick.).
Makes approx. 12 beverages (counting can be difficult after three Moscow Mules).
Print that part out and keep it with you at all times. I’m not even half-kidding.
“There it is!” my wife said. Her finger stabbed at the bar menu so hard she almost put a hole through the page. She let loose a sound that was undeniably, shamelessly, “Woot woot!”
“Ryan said it would be there,” I said.
I had already seen the Moscow Mule in the wild, but I’d not yet spotted a feral Mule in my own habitat. A friend had tipped me that we might find one at a new bar in Greenville’s West End.
A blonde bartender–her shirt cut low, her hair pulled back–leaned in.
“Which drink?” she said.
“The Moscow Mule,” my wife said. Her giddiness mirrored mine.
“I thought that might be it,” the bartender said. Before long, I realized why. Within minutes of our Mules arriving, three women at the far end of the bar ordered a round for themselves. Ten minutes later, a man who couldn’t find a seat along the rail, stood behind us.
“I’ll have one of those Mules,” he said. Word was getting out.
Stacey Wingate arrived in Greenville, South Carolina in June of 1999. He’s lived in this city for almost exactly as long as I have. It’s home, and a place where he recently stepped into the position of bar manager at one of the newest restaurants in town, Breakwater. He’s the type of bar manager who memorizes his customers’ names and drinks. He creates cocktails and infuses vodka by the gallon. The night we arrived, he had cucumber-mint martinis and watermelon Manhattans.
Wingate makes his Mules with Russian Standard vodka, Goslings ginger beer, and cubed ice. Like any man I respect, he doesn’t like to serve a Mule outside of a copper cup. He keeps them high on a shelf over his cash register.
“People steal them,” he said. “They are not easy to get. People get a little more brave after a couple.” (Note: there is no piano to take over like Grange’s martini bar, so people have to do something when they get deep into a Mule ride.)
Wingate’s vodka distributor brings him a couple copper cups at a time, just enough to keep up with the lime-sticky fingers and their attachment to Breakwater’s vessels.
“I have my own copper cups,” I said, hoping to allay any of Wingate’s fears about me thieving one of his.
“It’s a good drink…” Wingate began before stopping to think. “Well, it’s a good drink any time, but it’s especially good in the summer time.”
And then he said the words that forever endeared me to him.
“It’s…refreshing,” he said.
On the night I shoved the bottle upside down into the oven handle, I recalled a conversation I’d had over the phone just a few hours earlier.
“You’re looking for a bottle with sediment,” I’d told my younger brother. And I meant it.
Finding ginger beer in the wild isn’t an easy task to begin with. You’re probably not going to find it in your local Safeway. Once you do find ginger beer, you still may be a long way from finding the best. I’ve sampled more than half a dozen ginger beers since this journey began six months ago. Before we get to what kind you should be picking, I need to reinforce a very important point.
If you’re going to travel the Mule road, you don’t want to take the first step without this knowledge: ginger ale and ginger beer are not brothers. They are barely cousins. Ginger ale is Pat Boone to ginger beer’s Little Richard. Mass-market ginger ale is the best-selling soda water flavored with ginger. Ginger beer is brewed—fermented!—with ginger. You’ll never see a bottle of Schweppes with milky ginger root sediment in the bottom. As Grange said, serving a Moscow Mule with ginger ale is like serving tofu and calling it steak. That stuff won’t fly in Herbs and Rye, I guarantee you that.
My brother had called from halfway across the country seeking advice on the best ginger beer for his new copper mugs. That’s when I started talking about sediment.
There are many ginger beers on the market. They’re all fine for making a Mule, but few have sediment, that viscous, fibrous floating ginger root that, to me, defines a Moscow Mule’s essence. I’ve found only two ginger beers that meet my full approval. The best is Fever Tree. If you can find it and afford it, make your Mules with nothing else. In lieu of that, I recommend the ginger beer made by The Ginger People brand (sometimes found at Whole Foods). I’m sure (I hope) there are others with the right amount of sediment, but I’ve not found them yet.
But that’s not entirely the point, either. The point was that my brother—with whom I speak over the phone only when it’s required that we articulate a point very clearly—had called to ask advice on the proper ginger beer to top his Mule. That, like the sediment, was the thing.
The day Grange introduced me to the Moscow Mule was the day I began sharing it with other people. Chief among those people was my wife. For reasons I can’t fully explain, the Moscow Mule gave us a new reason to sit outside, a reason to sit and watch the fireflies, and, at the risk of getting a little corny, a new romance (remember, she kicked me in the eye). I’ve never felt closer to my wife than I do today, and I’d be blaspheming the Mule if I didn’t give it some credit for that.
Even beyond my schoolboy romance with my wife, the Mule has become a thing among my friends. We’ve named a poker game after it. We’ve angled for which four people get to consume the next round (I only have four cups right now, and there will be none served in a glass). What’s more, friends all over North America have seen the chatter and bought their own copper mugs. This weekend I traveled to another city and brought my copper cups with me. When I got home yesterday I re-named my fantasy football team the Moscow Mules.
It’s ridiculous in the best possible way. I even have two dear friends who avoid alcohol. Both of them—at different times—have surprised me by asking for a sip…just to see what it was like.
There is no art without conflict, and in the case of my education in the art of the Moscow Mule, it came down to the ice.
Recall, when Grange sent me his recipe, this was his note on ice:
“Must be 2 cm per side, made from water drawn during a new moon from the Ogallala aquifer.”
He followed that quickly with this: “PRO TIP: Any ice from the closest freezer will work fine.”
That ambiguity set me on a path toward a bastardization of everything my mentor considered pure. Beginning in March 2012, I made my Moscow Mules with crushed ice. Today, I make my Moscow Mules with crushed ice. As far as Grange is concerned, I’m playing Kenny G. on a kazoo.
There is a chance he will comment here and explain himself fully, but if I can presume to assert his position, it’s this: crushed ice waters down a drink where cubed ice does not. It’s that simple.
I can’t disagree with him. I like to drink good single malt scotch, and I drink it neat. Not even a drop of water. When somebody has worked very hard to perfect a flavor of a liquor, I want to appreciate that flavor.
But I’m also a man who appreciates an aesthetic. In my head—no, in my heart—crushed ice represents refreshment. Cubed ice is structured, uncomfortable, and noisy.
And, so, it’s on this position that the student drifts away from the teacher. Yet, despite this, there is a mutual trust and respect that we maintain. After all, we’re not in this entirely for refreshment. It’s all part of a greater effort to fight the scourge known as scurvy. Thank goodness limes come four for a dollar.
People ask why, and I can only think of those bastards Bartles and Jaymes. If you’re not from America, or if you were born too late, you may not remember the ad campaign that supported a line of so-called wine coolers. From the time I was in fourth grade until the time I was a junior in high school, two old fake men sat on a porch and convinced America that the process of making a good drink was something that could be reduced to bringing home a four-pack of bottles. They capped it all off with what became the iconic, “and thank you for your support.”
So, yes, people ask why, and I think of those two old men and how disconnected we have become from everything we put in and on our bodies. I’m just as guilty as everyone else. We’re busy. We’re in a hurry. We’d rather do something other than take time to actually make a drink. Why waste five minutes mixing when you can open a bottle and pour?
For me, it’s the like chicken. I can buy a roasted bird just about anywhere, or I can spend a couple of hours roasting my own, making stock from the bones, and making chicken salad from the leftovers.
Or it’s like my dear friend who refuses to shave like most men. Instead, he creates foam with a badger-hair-bristled brush and applies the cream to his face before shaving. Like the chicken and me, it’s a matter of feeling an integral part of the things you do to and put in your body.
What might have started out as a marketing ploy became something bigger in the lives the people it’s touched over the past 60 years. Bartles and Jaymes made pre-mixed drinks part of our too-busy culture. It made turning a bottle cap the most involved you’ll ever be with your drink. But John Martin’s Mule marketing ploy is something else. The cocktail requires time to make. It requires a search for the perfect ginger beer. It requires a copper cup. It’s more than a drink. It’s an event. It’s a quest.
And, for me, it’s about a process. I like being involved. There is a certain comfort in making something for myself and others. It’s process of creating something better than the sum of its parts. It’s a matter of not just falling in love with a drink, but falling in love over and over again with the people with whom you share that drink. It’s something very simple that solves—even only temporarily—a lot of the complex problems a day can bring.
Also, it’s very, very refreshing.
I am a fallen believer in the power and will of a modern President. I should admit that from the start. I have no enemy in the office, and I have no friend.
There is a natural, human desire to be a part of something. There is peace in being part of the team. As you might now, I believed–right or wrong–that I was part of something in 2008. The man who would be President made me believe that he was looking out for the values and ideals I held pure and true. To date, he has largely not done that. I should not have been so surprised.
I don’t judge, no matter what you may think. If you truly believe in your candidate, I applaud your will to take part in the process. It’s not your opinion that bothers me. I’d kill to hear your opinion. Yours, that is.
I bring it up to say this: because you support a man and that man supports an idea should not mean you by default support that idea. That’s not fair to you. You are allowed to support a candidate without implicitly supporting every one of his ideas.
If support of a candidate automatically implies support of every one of his ideas, then we all become, by default, their pawns. You probably don’t do this, but that’s because you’re smart. I’d venture to say that a majority of Americans aren’t lucky enough to be as smart as you. That’s the problem.
Both sides of the aisle know it is to their benefit to make us part of the team, hand out the talking points, and make sure they’re repeated. They do this because it works so incredibly well. When the choir all sings in the same voice, it’s beautiful and people listen. Just make sure to hold the “o” on “Ditto” as long as you can. It sounds better that way.
I don’t bring it up because I care terribly how the November election plays out. You might be surprised to learn that I honestly don’t care that much. To those with whom I share values, I know that isn’t easy to read, but my belief in substantive positive change for the average American has withered.
The average American? Who is that? Nearly every person I know and love. Unless you were at Soby’s today paying the equivalent of a decent car for a plate of food and a stump speech (or at a fundraiser like it in the near future), the average American is you.
It doesn’t matter if it’s Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Your seat at the table comes with a price tag you can’t afford.
Soby’s, you say? Well, that’s where this started for me this morning.
2010 per capita income in Greenville County, SC: $25,931.
Price of lunch with Mitt Romney in Greenville today at Soby’s: $25,000
That was my cry this morning on various social media sites as the Republican nominee for President visited this city for a million-dollar fundraiser at one of our downtown restaurants. I further noted that my last meal at Soby’s cost $150, a sum at which I would’ve blanched ten years ago, but today is an amount I can spend for the occasional decent meal. I’m fortunate.
But $25,000 for a lunch with a Presidential candidate? What does that buy? Well, one would hope it’s more than shrimp and grits (which, by the way, are pretty damned good at Soby’s). One would hope, indeed.
That was my point. Extrapolated with some degree of level-headedness and appreciation for the fact that I actually think about what I say, my intended point was that American politics has reached a point that requires this kind of fundraising, and that there are people—people with whom I can in no way relate (and neither can you, I’d assume)—who will spend that kind of money for an hour in front of a man who might—might—be President one day.
It’s accepted as de rigueur. As a people we acquiesce to the old trope: “It’s what’s required to get elected.” In short, we don’t question it. We let the figure fly by us on the news stations and barely blink. We people who might be able to afford the odd $150 meal don’t take heed of the fact that it takes the per capita income of the city to get a semi-private meeting with a man who might be President in six months, or could just as likely be on the lecture circuit (where you won’t be able to get a ticket, either).
It’s not the presumptuousness of people asking for that kind of donation. It’s not that people will actually give that sort of donation. It’s what we people without the means should infer from it. There are dozens of people in each of our cities who have the financial means to get a special meeting with a man who could eventually be the leader of the free world, and those are the people who pay for the campaign signs.
More importantly: we aren’t them.
Here’s your “Like, duh, obviously” statement of the day: these people are given that access because of their money. We average Americans for the most part cannot get that access because we don’t have the means to part with $25,000 for lunch. Hence, in the run-up to the election, our only value to the candidates is our willingness to sing with the choir. And the only way they can get us to sing is to pay the choir directors a lot of money. Follow the circle around, and you’ll end up looking in a restaurant window at a plate of shrimp and grits you don’t get to eat.
So, that was my point: not whether money is the driving force behind politics (of course it is), but to take notice of the fact that it would take the per capita income of Greenville, SC to get an hour at Soby’s with a Presidential candidate. In our moments of “like, duh, obviously,” we lose complete sight at just how much money that is and what could be otherwise done with the cash.
That was my point.
But because it was Mitt Romney and most people know I tend to align better philosophically with the current President, my point—as happens frequently in political discourse—didn’t hit its target.
Said one friend and coworker, “The per capita income in Greenville County would be higher today if it wasn’t for Obama.”
Commented another, “In MN Obama lunch twice as much.”
In a matter of seconds, because the player in the story was Mitt Romney, my disgust at a $25,000 fundraiser became an excuse to fight over which man should be President, a subject about which I think I’ve made myself very clear. I’ll admit, I quoted Romney’s 13% tax statement in the same thread (I thought it spoke to the point of the $25,000 fundraiser), but that was after the conversation already took a sour turn. And even if it wasn’t, that doesn’t change the point.
I ask this question with all sincerity: is it possible to have a discussion about this election and criticize the process–or even a candidate–without the conversation devolving to how the other guy will destroy America? Is that possible? Has it reached the point that if I want to make a point about anything that I automatically have to disavow the other side, too? I suppose I could preface everything with, “President Obama is just as bad,” but it really slows the punch. And I like the punches to be quick, because I’m not aiming at the man. I’m aiming at what he—no matter who he is—represents: a process that, no matter how much we want to believe, truly doesn’t serve us.
So, I’m doing my best to look at this year’s election cycle without doing the “your candidate versus my candidate” thing. It’s easy for me, because neither man represents me. And while it’s pretty presumptuous of me, I’d venture to say neither man truly represents you either. No matter whether it was $25,000 in Greenville or $50,000 in Minneapolis, I know very few people who have that kind of money to drop on a meet and greet with a potential or actual President, and those I do know with that kind of scratch certainly aren’t reading this.
So, to you, my fellow average American, I pose the following:
I wonder if it would be better if we as an electorate worked under a different system of discourse, one in which criticism of a candidate or an idea doesn’t automatically imply a defense or endorsement of another candidate. Perhaps we could move ahead with more efficiency if our first response to criticism of our man or his ideas isn’t “well, the other guy is just as bad or worse.” Because, under those systems, we limit ourselves. We become de facto, unpaid proxies for people we don’t know, who don’t know us, and—if we’re all being honest—probably don’t have us in mind on a regular basis.
If it matters to you, Mitt Romney doesn’t share my values. Barack Obama claims to share many of my values but won’t stand for them. Neither man is my candidate, and it’s unlikely either man will get my vote this year. With all of that said, I think it’s to our benefit to discuss how little we actually mean to both candidates, and to have that discussion, we have to rise above our choir chairs and realize that no matter how much both Presidential candidates may want us to believe it, the battle for change is not between Republicans and Democrats. We are all on one team. I’ll let you figure out who sits under the other flag.
In the end, what I find sort of amusing is that those people who forked over $25,000 apiece on their lunch hour (raising a reported $1.5 million) probably won’t have the kind of access they think $25,000 (or $50,000 in the case of the Obama event) buys. No, once November comes, and the newly-elected President sits down in the Oval Office, the shrimp-and-grits guy from Greenville probably won’t get a meeting.
Twenty-five grand just doesn’t buy what it used to.