The actual story here is just “someone came up with a model that fits 22 of the 23 presidential elections from 1912 to 2000”
But the awkwardly written headline gave me the image of a wizened, wizardly, Cassandra-like prophet, who has lived with the burden of perfect foresight for over a century – except for that one time he mispredicted a horse race in 1954, which still haunts him today
It was his one tiny moment of respite from his perfect, empty life. He had never known love or, indeed, companionship of any kind, because he could perceive no more free will in a human than in a pocket watch. He had sought solace in the notion that he and others truly had nothing in common, that he was simply not human – but then, in 1954, a single crack in the barrier between him and the world opened. He had not known he would be wrong about the horse race, and thus he had not known that as a result he would rush home, collapse and cry for hours, that he would know hope for the first time
Or that his hope would be crushed; that after that single thunderclap the model would never again fail; that while he would cry again on occasion, his tears would never surprise him the way they had in 1954, and that he would always afterwards know the difference, the unbearable difference, between life with the model and life as it might be without it
He is very old now. His peculiar longevity feels like a cruel joke, God adding insult to injury, for every mere minute of life – unraveling tediously, second after second, in slavish accordance with the model – brings him a certain special boredom you or I will never know. He has, of course, asked the model when he will die; it is not for a long while yet, and he has long since stopped hoping that the model might err once more. Lacking any other source of stimulation he ruminates, endlessly and painfully, on what lesson he ought to draw from it all. What was God trying to tell him, in giving him the model and giving him 1954? Should he, instead of retreating home that day to convulse, have rushed out and tracked down the horse whose win he failed to foresee? (Long dead by now, surely.) What made that day special? What made him special?
For he, possessing the model, able to write down its simple logic and its impeccable results, had never been able to share any of it with anyone. The model, as if jealous, never foresaw anyone else coming to know its powers. Except on February 26, 2016, when – and what did God mean by this? – the forecast instead called for him to say a few words about it all to a savvy and short-sighted journalist (why her?).
The journalist asks him what any journalist would. On the phone, aware of her impatience, he bites his tongue and says nothing of the great changes awaiting them, nothing of the aliens, or of the secrets that will be brought forth from the soil, for it was not forecast that he would speak of these things.
Instead he tells her that yes, Donald Trump will become president.
But are you sure, she asks.
I’ve only been wrong once in 104 years, he tells her again, trying to hide the quiver of forbidden hope in his voice.
It is increasingly looking like the Old Man is going to turn out to be right.