You know the parable of the big rock in the middle of the desert, right? The parable of the big rock in the middle of the desert is you’re driving in the desert and you see a big rock ahead. You have more than enough time to avoid the rock, there’s plenty of space to get around the rock, you can easily not hit the rock, and you keep driving along and of course you hit the rock anyway. There’s your president-elect and the election night meltdown of expectations and assumptions about the inevitable victor. Guilty as charged. I hit the rock. Ouch.
Back in 2004 I canvased for a while in New York City, collecting money for the DNC on behalf of the Democratic Party and its candidate for president that year, Secretary of State John Kerry.
I did a little story about the canvasing experience after the fact and there was a notable encounter on the Upper East Side that I reported on. This was of course Bush’s re-election campaign after a disastrous first term and I was out there on a sidewalk, people whisking by, and one woman took a look at me with my red DNC shirt and clipboard and rushed past me as she said—don’t worry, we’ll definitely get him this time.
I suggested in the story I wrote that she might not want to be so sure about that. That year she hit the rock that I saw coming. And yet this time around—I totally blew off the rock, couldn’t imagine or fathom the rock, and slowly succumbed to faith over reason and the lure of the unobstructed view. I thought about that story earlier this year in the early summer when I was sure Orange Sunshine would win—I’m calling him Orange Sunshine because I’m trying to stay positive—but then pivoted to there’s no way this can happen and then to a happy semi-relief the more time I spent binge-watching fivethirtyeight.com
More recently I had another opportunity to see the rock before it was too late. I read that the guy who owns Yuengling Brewery, America’s oldest, was a big supporter of Orange Sunshine and remembered my buddy Jim, a friend of a friend who made a great documentary about Yuengling back around 2000.
I wrote a little story about that, too. The brewery is located in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and the filmmaker told me a story while we watched the film together, about one of the scenes where a group of brewery workers is sitting outside the brewery on a hot day, and some are wearing flannel or other long-sleeve shirts—sleeves rolled down. It’s frickin’ 90 degrees, what’s the deal? Jim the filmmaker tells me the deal. The deal was the sleeves hid the swastika and white-power tattoos during working hours. The sleeves were finally rolled up on Nov. 8.
And right before the freaking election on Sunday afternoon I had this weird and very deep pang of worry about Clinton’s prospects as the first female major ticket candidate for president—I was thinking about the failed Equal Rights Amendment of the mid-seventies and the lingering stank of outright male-dominance politics on the spectacle this year. Support for the ERA seemed a no-brainer at the time—how could anyone vote against equality for women?—but hey, I was ten years old, what did I know.
Older and presumably wiser, later in the day Sunday I headed out and glimmed an umbric horizon, Orange Sunshine rising at sunset—and a large massif emerging from the ocean.
Oh, relax, it’s just the Farallon Islands, how can she possibly lose?