Everything You Know Is Wrong
Another lesson in humility last night.
As I watched the New Hampshire returns come in, insistently refusing to confirm my assumption that Barack Obama would ride the Zeitgeist all the way to the Democratic convention, my editor Dave Wells' parting words came back to me from earlier in the day:
Dave (standing in my doorway, looking at the cartoon I'd filed for Wednesday's paper), "So you're sure Hillary's going to lose tonight?"
Me: "Positive. Her people are saying that anything less than a 10% thrashing would be a victory."
Dave: "So if you're wrong we run one of those 'Dewey Defeats Truman' retractions?"
Me: "Don't worry. It's not gonna happen."
I'm usually pretty timid about predicting how people will vote -- historically I've proven to have a tin ear on these matters -- but this one was carved in stone according to every poll. I was so swept up in the projections from yesterday morning's news shows that I didn't even plan a backup cartoon.
Around 9PM I called Wells, my cheeks stuffed with crow feathers. We agreed to kill the 'Hillary Coronation' cartoon and switch out a cartoon I had finished for Thursday about Bush in the Middle East. It's not an elegant solution -- the Mideast cartoon is premature and it's about Obama, not exactly the theme of this morning's news -- but it was better than being flat-out wrong in predicting Hillary's demise.
But there's the reality. I can't wait until the returns are in to start a cartoon for the following morning's newspaper. So cartoonists have to either make an educated guess how things will turn out and keep our fingers crossed, or draw about something else entirely and risk appearing clueless.
When conventional newspaper deadlines are a thing of the past and everything is delivered live in a continuous flow on the internet, we won't have to worry about these things. I'll just post my cartoons when I've had the chance to respond to events rather than anticipate the news. Sweet. Maybe in time for the Chelsea Clinton inauguration.