As I mentioned on a Ricochet podcast last week, I have an annoying habit of holding commentators responsible for their predictions. If a sports writer tells me the Red Sox are going to the series, and we get to the end of the season and they’re under .500, I remember it and, well, I’m a little less likely to pay attention to that guy’s prediction next time. Likewise, if a political writer like Dick Morris writes a book telling me that Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton are going to be running for president in 2008, I’m going to lose interest in what he thinks is going to happen in 2012. This applies even to people I admire for their insight and general brilliance like Charles (America will never elect a man named Barack Hussein Obama during war-time) Krauthammer and Shelby (Why Barack Obama can’t win) Steele.
Two people I know whose political predictions have been remarkably accurate are pollster Pat Caddell (also on the podcast) and writer E.J. McMahon of the Manhattan Institute’s Empire Center. These are guys whose insights I parrot whenever I want to create the entirely false impression that I have some idea what I’m talking about.
And I’ve noticed something: they’re both kind of dour! Not personally – they’re delightful personally – but politically, they often have a very bleak outlook. They generally think politicians will act stupidly and corruptly and the electorate will respond emotionally and ignorantly, that – to steal a line from Yeats – the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity.
The accuracy of their predictions suggests, though doesn’t prove, that their underlying cynicism about the human political animal is likewise accurate. Which worries me. This really is a dire moment in American history, a dramatic crossroads at which we’re going to have to choose between the left’s suicidal hatred of western culture, and the right’s often stumbling but nonetheless vital belief in the principles that made us great and free. Is it too much to hope that the people are going to figure out which is the wiser road by 2012?