Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Harve Presnell -- "They Call the Wind Maria" (1969)

Away out here they've got a name 
For rain and wind and fire
The rain is Tess, the fire's Joe 
They call the wind Maria

That's not "Ma-REE-uh," by the way -- it's "Ma-RYE-uh."  As in "Mariah Carey" (who was named after this song).

In George Rippey Stewart's 1941 novel Storm, he gives the storm which is the protagonist of his story the name "Maria."  Stewart later had this to say about the pronunciation of "Maria": "The soft Spanish pronunciation is fine for some heroines, but our Maria here is too big for any man to embrace and much too boisterous." He went on to say, "So put the accent on the second syllable, and pronounce it 'rye'."

Sheet music for "Maria"
Stewart's novel inspired Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Lowe to write a song about a storm named "Maria" for their 1951 Broadway musical about the California gold rush, Paint Your Wagon.  They used Stewart's pronunciation of "Maria."

Stewart's novel also inspired military meteorologists to start giving women's names to storms in the Pacific during World War II.  In 1953, a similar system of using women's names was adopted for North Atlantic storms.  This continued until 1979, when men's names also began to be used.  

Sandy can be either a male or female name, but the recent Hurricane Sandy was a lady, not a dude.  (They alternate male and female names, and Sandy was preceded and succeeded by storms with male names.)

Sandy had a devastating effect on large parts of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.  Here's a shot of what Sandy did to the Seaside Heights, NJ, roller-coaster:

Sandy also may have been the determining factor in the 2012 Presidential election.

CBS and Fox reported that exit polls indicated that Hurricane Sandy and President Obama's response to the storm's devastation may have turned what was perceived as a neck-and-neck race in Obama's favor.

Over 40% of the voters surveyed on November 6 said Obama's response to the hurricane was an important factor in how they had decided to vote that day.

And 15% of voters said Obama's response to the "superstorm" was the most important factor in how they voted.  Given that the President's response was almost universally praised by the news media, it is reasonable to assume that virtually all of those people voted for him.

(To say that a voter was favorably impressed by Obama's response to the hurricane really means that he or she was favorably impressed by the favorable news coverage of that response, of course.  It's one thing for a President to appear concerned and empathetic on the evening news programs, and quite another for his administration to do a good job managing the myriad of nitty-gritty tasks that need to be performed to restore life in the affected area to normal.  It's too early to give the government response a final grade -- maybe it will get an A+, maybe it will get a C- . . . only time will tell. )

Many of those voters would certainly have voted for Obama even if there had never been a Hurricane Sandy.  But it seems likely that quite a few of them had not made up their mind when Sandy struck, and that the favorable perception of the President in the aftermath of the storm was the tipping point for them.

So Sandy almost certainly did one of two things.  It turned what would have been a narrow Romney victory into an Obama victory.  Or it turned what would have been a narrow Obama win into a much more comfortable Obama win.

Taxicab lot in Hoboken, NJ, after Sandy
Reasonable people can differ over which of those two things Sandy did -- but I don't think anyone is arguing that Sandy helped the Republican candidate.

MSNBC commentator and Obama supporter Chris Matthews agreed with this view.  On election night, he said "I'm so glad we had that storm last week."  (A few days later, Matthews confused carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide when talking about greenhouse gases.  I'd say it's time to put Mr. Matthews out to pasture, but whoever replaces him would probably be just as dumb.)

This is the last 2 or 3 lines that will discuss the 2012 election.  I chose to feature "They Call the Wind Maria" not only because the mighty wind we called Hurricane Sandy may have had a decisive effect on the election's outcome, but also in recognition of all the windiness that the self-proclaimed political experts have loosed upon Washington, DC, and the rest of the United States in the two weeks since the voters spoke.

Was Hurricane Sandy his fault?
You should discount all the talk about the GOP being caught in a demographic vise, or claims that Romney lost because of a gender gap, or blah, blah, blah.

You can also safely dismiss those pundits who say that Republicans will never win the White House again unless they dramatically change their platform.

Let's look at recent history.  President Obama, a Democrat, will serve eight years.  Before him, a Republican was President for eight years.  Before him, a Democrat was President for eight years.  Before him, a Republican was President for 12 years.  (OK, OK, technically it was two Republicans -- Ronald Reagan and the senior George Bush.  But Bush was Reagan's Vice-President, and won largely thanks to Reagan's popularity.)

Do you see a pattern here?  Our last three Presidents all won re-election over uninspiring opponents.  Clinton and Bush had lots of problems in their second terms, which sealed the fate of the men their parties nominated to succeed them.  Second-term Presidents often push things too far -- after all, they've got nothing to lose -- and the voting public often becomes fatigued with a party after eight years.  So they vote for the other guys.

The 1984 Presidential election map
In my lifetime -- which spans 16 Presidential elections -- only one party has managed a three-term winning streak: the Republicans in 1980, 1984, and 1988.  Will the Democrats equal that by winning in 2016?

Anything is possible.  But I'm going to bet that the Dems' winning streak will end at two.  After all, that's been the predominant pattern for 60 years.

One final historical note.  Only once in those 60 years has the White House changed hands in two consecutive elections -- that was in 1980, when Ronald Reagan defeated the Democratic incumbent, Jimmy Carter (who had won the 1976 election thanks in large part to the GOP's Watergate hangover).  

As noted above, the only time one party won three straight elections was when Reagan's VP was running.  Other sitting veeps who have been nominated -- Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, and Al Gore -- have failed.  (I'd bet dollars to donuts that Joseph R. Biden, Jr., won't succeed where those three have failed.)

Based on that, it's hard to argue that anyone other than Ronald Reagan is the most successful American politician of the last 60 years.  He's clearly the greatest President of my lifetime to date, and I doubt that anyone better than him will come along before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

Governor Christie and President 
Obama: the new "Odd Couple"?
One final non-historical note.  Assuming that a Republican is elected in 2016, it won't be New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  (Trust me on that one.)

As I said above, this will be the last 2 or 3 lines to mention the 2012 election.  I feel happy about some of the results of that election, and unhappy about other results.  But I mostly feel glad that the damn thing is over.  I'm looking forward to a few years without campaign ads on TV and annoying Facebook posts that I feel compelled to make snarky comments about.

Unfortunately, I'm not going to get those few years.  A week after the 2012 election, a friend of mine who lives in Virginia got this in the mail:

The next campaign season has already begun!
You see, Virginia will elect its governor and certain other state officials in 2013.  And Maryland -- where I live -- will elect its governor and all its state legislators in 2014.  

Sigh.  There's no rest for the weary, boys and girls.

Harve Presnell as Wade Gustafson in Fargo
Here's "They Call the Wind Maria" from the 1969 movie version of Paint Your Wagon.  The singer is Harve Presnell, whom I remember fondly for his Wade Gustafson role in the brilliant 1996 comedy, Fargo.

Click below to buy the Paint Your Wagon soundtrack from Amazon:

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