Pete's Prep: Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018

Crichton's prediction about speculation has come true

In 2002, author Michael Crichton said, “You don’t have to be right, any more. Nobody remembers."

He was giving a speech about how media is moving more and more into speculation, and away from "straight" news reporting.

And much of what politicians say is not so much a  prediction as an attempt to make it come true. It’s argument disguised  as analysis. But it doesn’t really persuade anybody. Because most people  can see through it.


You can’t lose. Even though the speculation is correct  only by chance, which means you are wrong at least 50% of the time,  nobody remembers and therefore nobody cares. You are never accountable.  The audience does not remember yesterday, let alone last week, or last  month. Media exists in the eternal now, this minute, this crisis, this  talking head, this column, this speculation.

Crichton argued that this form of speculation has been adopted in various intellectual fields - including academia. He says it leads to tendency to excess, "crisisization" of everything, superficiality as the norm, resolution is blocked by endless uncertainty and conflict.

Now apply this to North Carolina politics.

By 2010, it was clear that the Democratic leadership of the state had grown corrupt. It also mismanaged the state's finances - resulting in deficits, "temporary" sales tax increases that never sunset, and even the withholding of citizens' income tax refunds.

As a result, Democrats lost their century-long grip on power in the state, and Republicans won control of the legislature.

The GOP set about enacting its agenda, and we were treated to predictions of widespread death, economic collapse, environmental armageddon, and all sorts of other catastrophe. These predictions came from North Carolina's network of leftists, progressives, Democrats, and media - who orchestrate messages and promote each other as experts.

Even though they are wrong. 

A lot.

These folks predicted the Republican tax reforms would bankrupt the state. Instead, we've had annual surpluses.

They predicted the "bathroom bill" would kill tourism and jobs. Yet, we saw increased tourism and record low unemployment.

Yesterday, many of these nearly-always-wrong prognosticators were squealing in delight over a Washington Post article that predicts big problems for the GOP in this election. These folks are promising better governance from Democrats once they ride the predicted blue wave into power.

Without any hint of irony (or knowledge of the past), the article highlights the candidacy of Rachel Hunt:

And the daughter of a legendary former governor is taking her first  crack at a run for office by challenging a Charlotte-area state House  Republican with a promise to renew the legacy of her father, Jim Hunt,  as a champion for education funding.

Perhaps the Washington Post reporter isn't aware of how Jim Hunt ran the Democratic machine in this state for decades - through patronage and a spoils system. His successors would lead the state to billion dollar budget deficits and debt, pay-to-play corruption, and scandal.

Perhaps most voters in North Carolina don't know this, either.

Hurricane preparedness and politics

Speaking of predictions, we're all watching Hurricane Florence, and bracing for its impact. And just like you should have an emergency preparedness plan, so, too, should the state.

Gov. Roy Cooper is holding daily news conferences and giving updates about these preparations. As he should.

It's also good that the state has a "rainy day fund" set aside for this exact kind of event.

It's a reserve that Cooper, his fellow Democrats, and many in the NC news media wanted to raid to pay for ongoing operating expenses.

The Democrat who wants to replace Gov. McCrory, Roy Cooper, has been  one of those critics. Just a few weeks ago, he blasted McCrory for  “building up the rainy day fund in excess of what’s necessary for the  state,” and for letting the money “just be sitting there” rather than  spending it. Cooper’s allies and surrogates have said the same thing for  months.

These Democrats miscalculated, both fiscally and politically. Now,  with an ever-escalating price tag for cleaning up after Hurricane  Matthew, they’ve tried to distract attention from their poor judgment by  demanding that McCrory and legislative leaders immediately call a  special session — in order to appropriate the very rainy-day funds that  they said were excessive before the storm hit!

It was a shameless political stunt, staged even as flood waters were  still rising in Kinston, Lumberton, and other communities. Of course the  General Assembly will need to act. But lawmakers need a thorough damage  assessment and spending plan first. And many senators and  representatives from Eastern North Carolina are otherwise occupied. 

Cooper's position was echoed by his allies on the Editorial Board of the Raleigh News & Observer:

And they’ve put hundreds of millions of dollars into a rainy day fund – a  phony political maneuver that is solely intended as a bragging point,  that they’ve got the state ready for an emergency. But in a true  emergency such as a natural disaster, it would take only a matter of  minutes for legislators to convene and appropriate money. This fund is  bulging while needs in rural communities go unmet.


So far, watching Cooper crawl his way through prepared remarks in his daily press briefings is not inspiring confidence. And if his administration's response to Hurricane Matthew is any indication of how he handles the aftermath of disasters, a lot of people are going to be in trouble.

Which leads me to another point - related to what NC Free Enterprise Foundation's Jonathan Kappler mentioned today on Twitter:


This goes to something I've said often in the years since 2012: "Elections are about what media make them."

This was first clear to me in 2012, when Mitt Romney's campaign was unable to focus media on an economy that was so sluggish, that no president in the modern era had ever won re-election with similar conditions. Instead, the media focused on haircuts, Big Bird, binders of women, canine transportation, and a 47% video.

In 2016, we saw a similar effect as Gov. Pat McCrory prepared for Hurricane Matthew about a month before the election. As he was doing so, he was being attacked by his challenger - Attorney General Roy Cooper - who accused him of swiping $500,000 from the rainy day fund (the same fund Cooper wanted to raid) to pay for litigation costs associated with the "bathroom bill."

Here is a comparison on news coverage via a Google search:

"Pat McCrory" + Hurricane Matthew = 34,200 results

"Roy Cooper" + Hurricane Florence = 107,000 results

Keep in mind, Hurricane Matthew killed 28 people and occurred two years ago.

Hurricane Florence hasn't even landed yet. Expect a lot more coverage of Cooper.

In 2016, after a month of repeated visits to the devastated areas - earning limited media coverage - McCrory lost to Cooper by 10,000 votes out of 4.7 million cast.

Meanwhile, the Asheville local paper has not run a single story on the controversy surrounding the Cooper administration's inability to get hundreds of millions of federal dollars to Hurricane Matthew victims.

As I said... elections are about what media make them.

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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