Years ago, I was in a shitty punk band. Don’t get me wrong, we were pretty good, but I genuinely believe that there should be a genre called “shitty punk” to clarify between the super polished punk music that exists, and the rawer version. That’s a discussion for another time though. I want to tell you about something that literally happened.
I was driving to work one night when the singer of the band called me. I had a feeling he might want to go do something when he asked me, “What are you doing?”
To let him down easy that we wouldn’t be going to check out other shitty punk bands together that night, I said, “I’m literally driving to work.”
He then proceeded to make fun of me using the word literally in a sentence. This was how I learned that people were using “literally” as an emphasis word rather than to mean “exactly as stated.” I tried to explain what literally meant, “Taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory.” I didn’t have that definition memorized, or anything, but I explained that since I was in my truck driving to work, my sentence was correct. He didn’t believe me.
He knew that people were calling out others for using “literally” incorrectly, but didn’t know the actual definition well enough to realize I’d used it correctly. As much as he would hate to hear this, society had influenced a behaviour that he didn’t fully understand the truth behind. He was completely correct when he told me that when I wore t-shirts with band names on them that I was a slave to advertising, but he had fallen for the making fun of “literally” trap, which is strangely not a film starring Hayley Mills. And much like my pal not understanding literally, not everyone understands how the US election works, or apparently how to write a good segue.
Consider the following two statements:
Baseball is played in nine innings.
US elections are called on Election Day.
These are both true statements, most of the time, much like saying “When people use ‘literally’ for emphasis, they use it incorrectly.” When these generally true statements end up not being true, it’s what’s known as an exception, or “a person or thing that is excluded from a general statement or does not follow a rule.”
Baseball is played in nine innings, unless there is no clear winner, because baseball doesn’t allow tie games. I see you opening your mouth. Chant the word “exception” until the rain stops and keep reading. Also, US elections don’t have tie games, so it has some vague (and apparently able to be manipulated) rules for how to handle really close races. In other words, US elections are called on Election Day, when there is a clear “projected” winner, which is not declaring a literal winner. Projecting is really only definitive in singing and vomiting.
If you go with the baseball analogy (which is not an analogy I made up, I heard it from Van Jones) then counting every vote is like the nine innings of baseball. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. If you have a team that is leading 17-1 going into the ninth inning, a lot of the spectators are going to their cars to beat the traffic. It would be exciting if the losing team came back to win, but it’s unlikely. The spectators who have left at this point have projected the winner, even though all the votes haven’t been counted. Votes in this case being at-bats… you get it.
What happened this election is that the regular nine innings just took a long time to complete, and some important states were not willing to project a winner until they were actually in the bottom of the ninth, and some of the spectators were leaving in the seventh inning figuring they’d look up who won after getting a good night sleep until Saturday.
I’m going to give you an analogy now. What if you and a hundred friends knew a guy who wanted to bet you each $1,000 on the results of a baseball game, and around the seventh inning stretch he takes advantage of the fact that you don’t know how baseball works and says, “On most games they project the winner during the seventh inning stretch,” and he knows this is only true if the score is favoring one team heavily. He also knows that they don’t stop playing until the game is over, but he’s not telling you that part. He’s declaring that you and your one hundred friends should pay out now because his team is currently in the lead, and he believes it’s a clear enough lead during the seventh inning stretch that it’s clear who won. It’s not actually clear though. The team who is only losing by two runs at this point has three players on base, and a couple of power hitters coming up to bat soon. The game could turn easily this inning, which is why that guy you know wants you all to pay up before “Sweet Caroline” is sung. He knows that there is still a reasonable chance that the team he bet against could win a legitimate victory because not all the at-bats have played out.
I know if this game is taking a while because of a few rain delays that the spectators might be impatient to know who won so they can get in their cars and go home. I know that this guy really wants to call the game now, because he stands to gain. The problem is that for it to be a fair game, it has to be a complete game. Standing outside one stadium yelling, “Stop the pitches,” while standing outside of another stadium yelling, “Play until our team is ahead,” doesn’t change the fact that the games have to be completed. It’s in the rules.
As with everything that comes up in our wonderful two party system that in the moment would favor one party more than the other, we have to really consider the fact that later it may completely fuck that party over. I know that there is a candidate this year who has been called out a number of times as being a sore loser who is now potentially acting like a sore loser. It depends on whether or not he is right about the other team using bats that aren’t regulation. The simple fact is this. If the election was legitimate and we let him hijack it, then all it will take is for the other team to under-inflate their balls next time. That’s the same sport, right? If we allow for presidents to win on legal loopholes once, they will win on legal loopholes every single time. You may think that’s ok because your team is in power this time, but what happens when someone on the other team says, “There is nowhere in the rulebook that says that we can’t impeach him over and over until we get him removed. Impeach him for what? Well, he didn’t respond to the subpoena during the last impeachment. There is nowhere in the rulebook that says we can’t remove the vice president with a team of lawyers finding something that’s not clearly stated and remove any cabinet members that won’t vote to remove the president with the 25th Amendment by investigating them all until we find something to jail them for.”
Taking control of power through loopholes and legal technicalities is not a road we want to go down, not in a world where through loopholes and legal technicalities corporations can spend as much money on politicians as they want and call it “free speech.”
Someone will take power as a totalitarian eventually if we go down that road. It might be the Republicans. It might be the Democrats. It might even be Google. Do we really want to open up that possibility just because a candidate isn’t ready to go home yet?
You might point out that I’m using slippery slope reasoning here, and you would be right. The thing is that I’ve dismissed a number of thoughts that I’ve had in the past, because I recognized that I was using the slippery slope fallacy, only to watch those thoughts come true. We’ve falsely believed we would never slip down these slopes, because we live in a polite society. I’m trying to keep a straight face as I type that. I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to dismiss these slippery slope thoughts, not in a world where politics is a team sport, corporations have more free speech than individual people, and lawyers can manipulate the law to make it read however they want… not only that they can, but that they literally do it.
Chris McGinty is a blogger who didn’t write a blurb when he wrote this in November 2020. He not only regrets not posting this in 2020, but finds it funny that they are impeaching Trump a second time, and one person is already planning to submit Articles of Impeachment on Biden the first day in office. HEY POLITICIANS! GROW! THE! FUCK! UP! Literally…