Fear of what comes next

I am an athletics enthusiast, especially track events. With the delayed Olympic Games upon us it amused and exasperated me to read the heated online debates about who will win gold and who won’t. Online controversy swirled around 3 athletes in particular. As it turned out one of them never met the Olympic qualifying standard, another failed to get selected by his country and the third was disqualified for a drugs violation. So much for “predictions.”

No lesson will be learned by this, probably. But I understand. It’s tempting to predict the future. The problem is we lack the equipment to accurately predict the future most of the time. We usually don’t even have enough information to make reliable odds because future events are governed by chaos and their outcomes can often be surprising.

One of my favorite examples is Michael Moore who “predicted” in 2016 that Donald Trump would win the 2016 election. To this day he is lionized for possessing wisdom and insight the rest of us lack. Until you look at his record, that is. Take the last three elections. In 2012 Moore predicted that Mitt Romney would win. In 2016 and 2020 he predicted Trump would win. Doesn’t that make his track record worse than 50%? Doesn’t that mean his storied wisdom is worse than a coin toss?

And yet, “Give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep ’til noon,” as Mark Twain put it. Popular credit is extended to Moore and others like him for prognostications that were in fact lucky guesses. If you guess right about a future event that does not necessarily mean you were right because you possessed wisdom the rest of us lacked. It sometimes means you were right by accident. In my book people who are right by accident are no wiser than people who are wrong by accident.

I’ll give you another example. For those of you who were in Southern California in the early 90s you may recall a buffoon on local radio back then named Tom Leykis. Leykis has since become fairly famous, but at the time he was on an LA station called KFI. He was a talk radio host, and in the Spring of 1991 anyone who phoned in to his show and dared to suggest that George HW Bush wouldn’t win a second term, Leykis laughed to scorn. Bush was flush from his success with Operation Desert Storm, and he was untouchable, according to Leykis.

We all know how that turned out. One current popular prediction these days is that Donald Trump is going to be the Republican candidate for president in 2024 and that he has a very good chance of winning and that we should all be scared to death. I’m unimpressed. The 2024 election is too far in the future for us to say anything rational about it.

The bottom line is this. No one knows for sure what’s going to happen in 2024. We do know that right now Trump faces three mammoth criminal investigations that could very well see him in prison. Whatever the outcome it’s irresponsible to insist, as many on the left are insisting, that Trump will be a candidate in 2024. Our best focus right now is to work toward getting the Democratic candidate elected, whoever that may turn out to be. I hope it’s Joe Biden, but I don’t know that for sure and neither do you.

   

The future has a funny habit of doing whatever the hell it pleases and, like the past, it will be what it is, “nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line.” We can negatively influence the future by scaring ourselves into inaction. But that would be foolish. Let’s face the future with courage and the wisdom to acknowledge that we don’t know what the future holds, but our chances are improved if we work to make it better right now in the thing we can control. In the present. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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