As I lay in bed this morning listening to the customary newscast from NPR, designed both to awaken me and render me aware of the doings in this world of ours, I was greeted by two items of interest: (1) the continued chorus of pollsters opining on what the results of tomorrow’s primary elections will be; and (2) the retrospective suggestions that the Patriots might have allowed their unbroken streak of wins to have rendered them complacent in the face of the Giants.
Clearly we are dealing here with various species of false prophecy. That anyone can take pollsters very seriously after their recent and notorious failures to take the pulse of the nation (or at least of Iowa) never ceases to amaze me. And yet we are right back listening to them as they pontificate on the probabilities. In the case of the Patriots, we have some good evidence of the detrimental effects that expectations can produce.
What is this urge to know what is to be before it is? There seems to be a separation between expectation and reality, and an urge to turn the one into the other. I mean, what good are exit polls? Surely the actual vote will be revealed in a few hours, and the results will be fully known; so why this continued staring through a glass darkly when we can be assured that the electoral eschaton (or at least telos) is not at some remote remove, but it will have arrived by 11 p.m. — unless delayed by hanging chads or counts too close to call?
I also reflected on the extent to which polls and early primaries may have a detrimental effect on the electoral process as a whole; as people move from second guessing or merely guessing, or using their votes — not to vote for the person they actually wish to see elected — but for the person that the pollsters tell them seems to be the most electable, in a posited contest the actual opposite candidate of which has not yet even been chosen.
I am reminded of a story from a few years back of an episcopal election in which the candidate won on the first ballot by an overwhelming majority — much to the amazement of people who, it is said, voted for the candidate not because they thought this was the best person to be bishop, but because the candidate was a very nice person whom people liked and towards whom they wanted to express their fondness.
The fact is, your vote is your vote. None of us has control over anyone else, and using one’s vote as an imagined means to manipulate the outcome of an election or express some secondary opinion about the state of things — beyond the force of one’s own preference — can, quite simply, backfire. The law of unintended consequences is binding on us all.
In any case, this was all running through my mind as I sat down to say the morning office. And what to my wandering mind should appear, in the first verse of the first lesson (Proverbs 27:1)? “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” That seems to say it all, for patriots and Patriots alike. So my word to athletes and voters is: do your best and vote for the person you actually want to see in office; do not allow your expectations or desires to cloud your performance or your judgment.
This has been an unpaid political announcement. And I approve of it.
Tobias Haller BSG