My home state of Virginia is hosting one of the 15 nominated contests on Super Tuesday this year. As I write this, I am in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on business travel and on primary day I will be in transit during voting hours. So I filled out my absentee ballot last week, before a few high-profile dropouts shook up the Democratic race.
Whenever I vote in an election, and especially this year, I always come back to the words of Rebecca Solnit, who cracked wise, "I think of voting as a chess move, not a valentine." In an electoral system like ours, where my vote doesn't always matter as much as someone's in Ohio or Wisconsin, and in an election like this one, where my ideal candidate never materialized, you have to deploy your meager resources -- your single vote (or your money, if that's how you roll) -- in such a way as to maximize its impact.
My primary objective is to send Donald Trump packing. Ultimately, I don't really care who defeats him. I do have preferences, and I do have opinions on who is most likely to beat him, but when it comes down to it I just want Trump to go away.
My secondary objective is to flip the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is an evil genius, and without a cooperative Senate even a Democratic president would be half-toothless. I have opinions on which presidential candidate is likely to help with those down-ballot races, too.
Of the remaining presidential candidates, I probably like Sen. Elizabeth Warren the best. She still leans a bit too far left for me, but I think she at least believes in capitalism and markets, and has a strategy for achieving her goals that goes beyond storming the castle with pitchforks.
I don't think she has a path forward for the nomination in a traditional process, though, having struggled through all of the contests so far. Maybe there's a scenario in which she comes out of a contested convention as a "compromise" candidate (although this gives Sen. Bernie Sanders more credit for graciousness than I think he possesses, to say nothing of his surrogates).
As no fan of Sanders, I am compelled to cast my vote for Vice President Joe Biden, who I think is clearly flawed but has the best chance to facilitate my primary and secondary objectives. It is probably the least excited I have ever been in casting a vote for anyone, and that includes voting for my high school homecoming king and queen.
If any of my friends were to be considered "Most Likely to Win an Election," it would be this week's podcast guest, Celi Haga. She has a remarkable personal story -- of which we barely scratch the surface in our conversation, for privacy reasons -- and has put together a career noteworthy for its consistent adherence to empathy, civic duty and good public policy.
She is probably too smart and decent and busy to ever run for office, but if she ever did I would be jealous of anyone able to vote for her.
Celi and I met online, via the dating site OKCupid, back in 2001. But that was way before OKCupid was what it has become now. It actually used to be a pretty cool site, a part of the TheSpark.com empire, the creative brainchild of Christian Rudder and friends.
Back in the days when the Internet was still mostly awesome, TheSpark, itself, was a lo-fi treasure trove of weird and exciting content. The Date-My-Sister Project and The Fat Project (both lost to the Internet Wayback Machine, sadly) stand out in my memory as deeply engaging but the site's bread and butter were its signature "tests" that spit out uncomfortably amusing assessments of your personal character.
OKCupid was originally built on top of one of those quizzes. The matchmaking element actually seemed kind of secondary at the time but I did meet a few people. The only one worth meeting turned out to be Celi.
I go over that story in the podcast, so I won't belabor it here. But I will mention here something I didn't during our conversation. At the time, back in 2001/2002, online dating was still viewed as something worthy of stigma and derision, and so even as friends Celi and I were reluctant to reveal to others our friendship's true origin story.
We actually came up with a story that we were supposed to tell if anyone had asked us how we met: we were supposed to say that I deflected a foul baseball that was heading right toward her at a Baltimore Orioles game. I don't think I ever had the opportunity to spin that yarn, which is sad. It would have been our own little improv game.
So it goes
This episode of the podcast is the third in which I've made some sort of direct reference to Kurt Vonnegut, one of my literary heroes. My thirst for his ability to encode deeply profound wisdom in music-box narratives led me to read just about everything he's ever written.
Vonnegut famously ranked his own books, once.
My ratings differ, a bit. This is my assessment of the ones I remember well enough to rank:
As noted above, I am currently in Florida for a work meeting. I have a love-hate relationship with Florida: I love my parents (residents of The Villages, but I hate nearly everything else about this state. (I make a joke at Florida's expense in the podcast, too.)
As if Florida wasn't already suggestive of a giant phallus, here's a fun fact about Fort Lauderdale: did you know that their municipal water is yellow? That's what my very fancy hotel tells me:
Over the past 30 years or so, this city has tried hard to distance itself from it's bacchanalian history as the mecca of Spring Break. Looking around, you can see that wet tee-shirts and rum shooters are still tied up in the DNA of the place. Pee-colored water isn't exactly helping.
***Next Time on the Hammersla Inquisition
I apologize for the late release of the podcast this week. As I note at the end of the episode, I need to take a bit of time off to build up a production "buffer" and do a number of other adult responsibility things. But I'm already lining up guests for the next batch of shows, so don't stop subscribing. And please tell your friends, because they're probably my friends.
Sending my best,