The day before the election, a friend of mine who owes me a sum of money for services rendered emailed me and asked if I wanted to go double or nothing on the presidential-election results.
I was sorely tempted to take the bet for a couple of reasons. One, never having had the money he owed me, it wasn't as though I would actually be losing anything. And second, being a devotee of Nate Silver and his FiveThirtyEight blog with The New York Times, I had, at that moment, a 90.9 percent feeling that President Obama would win.
Alas, as a matter of personal policy, I never bet on anything other than myself. I'll make a friendly wager on a tennis match, a game of chess or a free-throw contest, but I don't bet on sports or elections. Being a rather compulsive person, I see that behavior as leading one down a one-way, dead-end street. (I have a friend who retired a millionaire. After the inevitable boredom of retirement set in, he took to day-trading by computer. He's no longer a millionaire.) I also don't gamble in Las Vegas, because the greedy bastards who run the place won't let me use all of my brain.
When I told my friend that I wouldn't take the bet, he snapped, "Why? Are you afraid your guy isn't going to win?"
As mentioned, I was very confident that the president would be re-elected. I had been following Silver's blog for months and was impressed with his method, the clever use of algorithms and his track record. (He had correctly called 49 of the 50 states in the 2008 election.) I even ordered his book and read it. He knows of which he writes.
The mere mention of Silver's name causes a paroxysm among many people on the right. First, Bill Clinton lectures them about math, and now this guy? According to Silver, Mitt Romney's chances of being elected were never better than around 1 in 4. As the days ticked down toward the election, Obama's chances went from the high 70s to the 80s and finally into the 90s.
Silver may have been taken aback by the vitriolic nature of the attacks against him from bloggers and columnists on the right. But then he checked his figures again—and doubled down. Of course, the use of probability is an automatic admission that, under certain circumstances, the other thing could happen. It's just that it's not likely to.
Silver had indeed called 49 of 50 states correctly in 2008, but that election wasn't nearly as close as the 2012 one would be. There were at least nine states, and maybe more, that could conceivably go either way. But Silver never flinched. After making a last-minute switch to put Florida into the Obama column, he finished a perfect 50-for-50. That's godlike stuff.
On election night, I plopped in front of the TV, remote in hand, and set out a-chortling. By sheer luck, I was actually watching Fox News when Karl Rove tried unsuccessfully to use his mere presence to reverse the call of Ohio going to the president. It had to be the most uncomfortable moment on Fox since they kept the camera on Mitt Romney the entire time he sang that patriotic song.
The next morning, I had to take my wife to the airport for a business trip. After I dropped her off, I just drove around for a while, listening to the wailing and gnashing of teeth by the two local right-wing talk-show guys. I have to admit: I absolutely loved it.
Both .1 guys (that's not their ratings or their IQs, but the last digit in their respective FM-radio frequencies) were wildly entertaining and informative. For example, I learned that my having voted for President Obama meant that I was unintelligent and uninformed, and that I had helped sign America's death warrant. That's good to know.
The rest of that day, I got to watch conservative know-it-alls try to explain what in the hell had happened. I got to see political skank Ann Coulter get all choked up when she talked about whether America had hit the tipping point. I don't know about politics, but the tipping point for miniskirts and go-go boots was 1972.
This past week has been a mixed bag. Rush Limbaugh, who had sworn that all of the pre-election polls were skewed, said on his show that, as it turns out, the polls had been dead-on. Sean Hannity started nibbling around the edges of market-based immigration reform. And Speaker of the House John Boehner talked about tax increases without starting to cry. Hopeful signs, all.
There's no time to gloat here, although some of the jackasses on the other side certainly deserve it. There's a lot of work to be done, and it's Grown Folks' Work. I'm praying that the president and everybody else concerned are up to it.
After Obama won the presidency in 2008, the satirical publication The Onion ran this headline: "Black Man Given Worst Job in America." This time, they'll probably say that it's even worser. But I'll tell you what: From where I'm sitting, it's infinitely better than the alternative.