Tropical Storm Isaac and the convention are a bizarre reminder that the ways we discuss weather and politics are more alike than different. Walk into a conversation at the right moment and sometimes you can’t tell which one people are talking about.
“Barry is going to devastate our country,” you hear. “Especially Texas. It is crucial that Texas stock up on vital supplies lest Barry come barreling through destroying all we hold dear.”
“Yes,” you say, jumping in. “And mudslides! Or sometimes a tree falls on your house and blocks the road!”
They glare at you.
Both are subjects on which you get frequent, capitalized e-mails from your elderly relatives.
You wind up (well, you used to) with large maps covered in red areas and blue areas. Now you are left with bewilderingly purple, constantly moving maps, being explained by holograms.
Authoritative people with bad hair tell you exactly what will happen over the next few days. With every development in the art of measurement, we grow more despondent. We can tell you if a butterfly coughs in the Andes. But will it rain tomorrow? Well...
People display statistics. You do not know what they mean, but you repeat them at dinner anyway. As far as you can tell, the most the statistics indicate is that the people reading them to you have no better idea what is going on than you do.
For instance, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that Mitt Romney was leading President Obama by one point – 47 to 46.
In other news, there is a 50 percent chance of rain.
It is these kinds of results that make you throw up your hands and shout, “My dog could do a better job of predicting this, if only because, atop the car, he is better positioned to sense rain.”
You can talk to your taxicab driver about either subject for hours, and he will tell you he knows for certain because of something his knee did or the peculiar way his cat coughed at him as he walked out the door. Everyone has a system of predicting, equally involved, equally wrong.
Turn on the television and — as I’ve noted — the channel most adept at making mountains out of molehills is the Weather, by far. These days I routinely watch the Weather Channel until 3 a.m. I cannot stop, because they are showing footage of some worried parakeets in the Gulf Coast. Also, someone seems perpetually on the verge of explaining what the variegated purples on the map mean, and I do not want to miss it. During one commercial break I bought six generators. Fox News and MSNBC could stand to learn a thing or two.
Every storm is potentially the Storm of the Century, just as every election is The Most Important Election of Your Lifetime. And the people who tell you about each of them are always Certain, then Wrong.
But there is one critical difference.
When the weather is neutral or pleasant, people rejoice. When politics display symptoms of becoming neutral or pleasant, people grow bored or puzzled. One man’s longed-for program is another man’s wasteful expansion of government. But even the people who Actively Like Rain (about whom the less said the better) do not picket when the sun comes out. No one is ever quite so happy about a political event as he is when the sun is shining, a gentle breeze is doing its best, and it is the perfect day to grill something.
The weather always wins.
Donald Trump may take coverage away from Real, Significant Issues, issues such as The Need to Dedicate More Coverage to Real Significant Issues or the fact that Possibly Six People Understand The Real Significant Issues Everyone Always Wants To Talk About, But Not One of Them Is Exceptionally Telegenic. He may bloviate with the best of them and frequently emerge from the depths of an article with the word “blowhard” strapped around his neck. But he cannot huff and puff harder than the weather.
This did not stop him from emitting a press release suggesting that he was “Bigger than Isaac.” But still — he’s out on Monday, and Isaac may not even show.
The weather always wins.