Why Jerome Armstrong's political astrology might matter
I can't decide whether I care about Jerome Armstrong's political astrology hobby or not. In order to make up my mind, I'd have to know the answers to the following questions:
a) Did Jerome ever take political astrology seriously? If astrology was just a party game for Jerome, on the level of a Quizilla quiz or a ouija board, then it's a non-issue.
b) Assuming Jerome ever took this stuff seriously, does he still consider astrology to be a valid tool for making strategic political decisions? If Jerome now believes that astrology is complete bunk, then his earlier interest in astrology is a total non-issue, even if he used to buy it. Actually, I'd give him extra points for critical thinking and good judgement if he gave astrology a try and abandoned it because it didn't work, or because he realized it was utterly implausible.
c) Are any of Jerome's current strategic beliefs derived from, or influenced by astrology? Specifically, does Jerome say or do anything today that he WOULDN'T if had it not been for the "evidence" he saw in astrology. I added that rider because, for some people, so-called divination techniques like astrology and prayer are really ways to step back and focus on the big picture, internally. For them, praying doesn't impair their judgement or introduce any new crazy ideas beyond what they believed before they started praying.
We secularists can interpret prayer and meditation as modes of deliberation in which people give themselves permission to take their emotions, their ethics, and their background knowledge into account to reach a considered judgement. Unless God actually talks to people, the "answer" to a sane person's prayer is just where he or she nets out intellectually and emotionally after thinking things over. We heathens call that a "gut check" or a "long walk in the snow", or whatever. If that's what astrology is for Jerome, then his hobby is a non-issue.
d) Does Jerome intend to use astrology as a predictive political methodology in the future? In his work as consultant for Presidential hopeful Mark Warner, for example?
I think that it is a big deal if Jerome still believes in astrology and still uses this crackpot belief system to inform strategic political decisions. Why? Because Jerome's a pro, and astrology is bogus. Reading star charts is no way to make a serious decision about anything.
A lot of people have argued that the notion that the stars determine your destiny isn't intrinsically weirder than the concept of a virgin birth, or the doctrine of the Trinity. In one sense, they're right. There are a lot of crazy-ass beliefs out there that we're culturally prohibited from making fun of.
We've all got some irrational and/or ill-founded beliefs. For example, I'm sympathetic to the theory that humans evolved from aquatic apes. I can't prove it, or even make an especially compelling case for it, but it doesn't usually affect my work. So, I hope you won't hold it against me, even if it strikes you as odd.
However, there's a critical difference between astrology and mainstream religion: If you knew that a political consultant used the Bible to time his ad buys (a la Bible Code) you'd probably be very concerned. Why? Because you know that The Bible Code is totally bogus. Sure maybe for your hypothetical consultant, the code is just an exercise that he uses to get his own thoughts in order. In which case, it's a non-issue. However, if he's actually using the code to make strategic political decisions, you would have every right to be concerned.
It's not enough to say that astrology is just Jerome's hobby without specifying what influence it has on his real-life politics. Some hobbies are totally compartmentalized, but not others. Depends on the
hobby and the person.
Suppose Jerome were a WW2 buff. Maybe he doesn't explicitly mention WW2 on the job or formally introduce any historical methods into his political analysis, but it's still possible that his hobby has a direct or indirect influence on his work. It's hard to imagine that an in-depth study of the military strategy and tactics probably does have some impact on a political consultant's approach to his or her work. Recreational scholarship of WW2 would probably be a good thing for a consultant. But wouldn't you worry if you knew that a WW2 buff/consultant had a hobby website about how the Maginot Line was strategically brilliant object lesson for the Iowa primary?
So, bottom line: If Jerome says that astrology is a bogus tool for predicting politics, or if he insists that astrology has zero influence on his political thinking today, and promises not to resort to it in the future, then I'm totally cool with his hobby. Otherwise, Jerome's astrology is an issue of concern to me.
That said, Jerome's a professional strategist and a leader of the netroots movement. If he admits that some of his strategic decisions have been influenced by methodology that I consider to be completely specious, I'm going to be extra-skeptical about his future prognostications.
I'll admit that as a moonbat lefty Democrat-outside-the-mainstream who believes that Russ Feingold can be the next president of the United States, I felt a little schadenfreude when the netroots' hard-headed, realistic, center right Blogfather turned out to be a closet astrologer. It was the same feeling I had as a ten-year-old when I heard about The Reagans' astrologer. The things grownups believe!
Still, it's important to keep this disclosure in perspective. I generally didn't agree with Armstrong before I learned about the astrology, but I've always admired his achievements as an organizer an organizer and a fundraiser. He did more for Howard Dean than Joe Trippi, and for that I'll always be grateful. I'm sure Jerome's achievements are despite his astrological predilections, not because of them, but I'm not prepared to write him off entirely because he has some incredibly stupid beliefs.
Returning to realpolitik... Is Jerome's astrological past a political liability?
Garance of TAPPED predicts that, "[Jerome's] reputation will not, I'm afraid, ever fully recover (the flaky astrology stuff being worse than the SEC settlement from a pure politics perspective)."
Frankly, I doubt that this revelation will hurt Armstrong or the netroots in the long term. I'm prepared to accept empirical evidence either way. Yeah, Jerome's astrology talk pisses me off--but file that reaction in the same category as my aquatic ape theory--heartfelt but not 100% defensible.
So, in lieu of a conclusion, I'll give the last word on Jerome Armstrong's beliefs about astrology to Jerome:
Another Update [2006-6-25 14:13:39 by Jerome Armstrong]: Oh yea, on the astrological stuff. I have done the new age type things over the years—life’s never boring that way. Down that line, I dabbled with planets and predictions in the most abstract manner, as one of several different predictive mathematical disciplines, when coming out of finances and into politics during my early blogging days (nobody is surprised that remembers the early 2001 days here), and since then have completely tapered out of it over time. So yea, the cons got me on this one being a little out of the ordinary… It has nothing to do with what I consult with in online political strategy. But hey, like JP Morgan once said, “millionaires don’t use astrology, billionaires do!” I hope to see those wingnuts that are obsessed with every little thing I do at the next bikram yoga or vipassana meditation session in DC-- but fair warning that I believe we evolved from monkeys!