Editor’s Note: Wow, this is turning into quite the interesting election season already. Bernie Sanders mounting a credible challenge to Hillary... Donald Trump leading the Republican pack by a mile ... if only Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann would throw their crazy into the ring ... well, that might be too much to hope for ... let’s just be thankful for what we have.
My Greek forefathers were citizens of a high civilization involved in nearly all the important advances in the ancient world. Yet, despite inventing mathematics and science, they remained superstitious enough to take seriously prophecies from the priestesses at the Oracle of Delphi, who ran their scam for centuries by being purposefully ambiguous.
When the Persians invaded Greece in 480 BC, the Oracle advised the Athenians to “hide behind your wooden wall.” Some took this to mean building a palisade around the Acropolis; others interpreted “wooden wall” as the Athenian navy. When the Greek fleet defeated the Persians at the Battle of Salamis, the Oracle received credit for having foretold the victory. Had the Greeks lost the battle, it’s a safe bet that followers of the Delphic priestesses would have proclaimed, “You should have built that palisade.”
As another endless election cycle begins, the politicians and pundits will be doing the prophesying, and both parties will patriotically alert us to the dangers that await us if the other side wins. They won’t be obscure Delphic prognostications, but they’re likely to be about as accurate as the Right’s 2012 forecasts regarding President Obama’s re-election.
Newt Gingrich (who wrongly foretold that Bill Clinton’s election would cause a major recession) predicted $10.00/gallon gas if Obama served a second term. Of course, presidents have little control over this; however, prices are now averaging about $2.75. In 2012, Mitt Romney claimed unemployment would remain above 8% for the next four years. It’s now well below 6%. Donald Trump predicted a stock market crash; instead, it’s at record levels, continuing the upswing it’s experienced throughout the Obama administration.
Then there’s Rush Limbaugh’s evaluation of an Obama re-election: “The country’s economy is going to collapse.” According to this first-year college dropout, “I know mathematics, and I know economics. I know history. I know socialism, statism, Marxism. There’s no if about this.” I’ve checked, and this scholar’s projection wasn’t even close.
The great advantage of prophecy is that it’s always in the future. So, when the talk radio wingnuts warn their sheep that, “If elected, Obama’s coming for your guns,” they can’t ever be wrong until Obama has left office. By then, of course, Hillary Clinton will be coming for their firearms.
The other great advantage of prognostications is that, even when they include specific dates, no one remembers them for very long. It’s human nature to be amazed by the rare successful prophecies and to forget the far more numerous failures. And no amount of failed prophecy ever keeps the gullible from believing the next one. If it did, the Seventh-day Adventists would have closed up shop in 1844, when large numbers of believers gave away their worldly goods to await the End of Days.
In 1969, a Jehovah’s Witness repeatedly advised me that there was no reason to bother with college, because the Witnesses had divined that the Second Coming would happen in 1975. They’re not doing a lot of bragging about that revelation these days, but they’ve still managed to stay in business.
For this election season, I have a few predictions of my own. First, we’re about to hear more superlatives than ever before. The GOP always calls each Democratic presidential candidate the “most radically leftist” ever, so Mrs. Clinton will be following in the footsteps of Obama, Kerry and Gore.
Real estate mogul Donald Trump has already called Clinton the “worst secretary of state in the history of America,” just as Arkansas preacher Mike Huckabee has called the Obama/Clinton foreign policy “the most feckless in American history.” Clearly, these two historians are familiar with every state department in our history.
The negative superlatives will really flow if the Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders, for whom the label “avowed socialist” is already being spoken with the same venom as the phrase “convicted pedophile.” This ignores the reality that most of the developed world is now socialist, and the U.S. has basically been socialist since FDR. After calling Obama a Marxist and a Muslim, it will be hard for conservatives to come up with epithets for Sanders sufficiently extreme to truly incite the faithful … maybe a Maoist and a Martian.
At some point, the nearly 20-car pileup that comprises the current GOP field will dwindle down to a frontrunner and seven others. I predict that, at that point, some smart-mouthed pundit will refer to the remaining hopefuls as “Donald Trump and the Seven Dwarfs.”
Based on the current field, many liberal columnists will be calling the eventual GOP nominee, “the most fanatically right-wing candidate in American electoral history.” I’m pretty sure I’ll be writing that, because I predict that, in 2016, the Republican standard bearer will be the most fanatically right-wing candidate in American electoral history.
I also forecast that no Republican will use the term “class warfare” during this election cycle. Conservatives have come to realize that income inequality is an issue voters care about, so they’re responding with the same old policies — no minimum wage increase, tax cuts for the wealthy, ending the estate tax and trickle-down Reaganomics — while feigning an interest in the poor and the middle class. It’s also unlikely we’ll hear the phrase “trickle down” very often, but Reagan’s holy name will be invoked more often and with more awe and reverence than Jesus’s.
Liberal comic Bill Maher recently predicted that the GOP ticket will be Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina, because they’ll need a Hispanic and a woman. Given Republican attitudes toward women’s rights and immigrants, let me be the first to second that prediction.
At the other end of the political spectrum, Rush promised to move to Costa Rica if Obamacare became law, but sadly, he’s still here. (Maybe he found out Costa Rica also has socialized medicine.) I prophesy that celebrities on both sides of the partisan divide will promise to move to Canada (or Kathmandu) if the candidate of the opposing party is elected. I also predict not a single one of them will actually do so.
And finally, we’re sure to hear the GOP accuse the Democrats of trying to turn the U.S. economy into Greece. That would make the transition less traumatic for me, because, if Ted Cruz becomes our next president, I’m moving back to my family’s olive orchards in Salonika or our oracle business in Delphi.
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