Sylvia Browne’s Predictions for the 2008 Election

Sylvia Browne has a history of making “predictions” for upcoming events that are (or may be) of public interest. For instance, celebrity weddings, natural disasters, and elections. Robert Lancaster has a fantastic Stop Sylvia Browne website dedicated to examining her claims, including this article about election predictions.

Unfortunately, Robert had a stroke a few months back (updates here) and is unable to continue his diligent work at the moment. Browne has recently made another prediction for this year’s election, which I will now examine. I’m a poor substitute, but I write this article in honour of Robert and I wish him a continued speedy recovery.

Here is a video link to Browne’s prediction, which she made following a live webcast. I’ll transcribe what she said:

“[Reading fan’s question:] ‘My question is who will be elected? Barack Obama or John McCain?’ [Her answer:] It’s…getting very close and, um, I – I don’t know. I – I really thought at one time…that it might be the – eh – Barack but I’m leaning a little bit towards John McCain now but that sounds like I’m doing a double thing. But I’m still going to stick with Barack Obama…Uh, because I think people need a new regime, I really do.”

Context
This prediction was made on 18 September 2008. At this time, the polls were very close between McCain and Obama, with Obama up a bit following McCain choosing Palin and Obama choosing Biden as their running mates in late August. (Note: I’m not saying these events are necessarily related, this is just a timeline to place Browne’s comments in context.)

Important Points
Note first that according to the timeline above, anybody who was closely following the election at that time could have made this statement.

Note second that she hedges her bets by saying that she thinks it will be John McCain, but she’s going to stick with Barack Obama. Either McCain wins and her instinct was correct (“I’m leaning towards John McCain”), or Obama wins and her choice was correct (“I’m still going to stick with Barak Obama”). This ensures that either candidate winning could be scored as a hit. She even jokes about hedging her bet (“sounds like I’m doing a double thing”).

Note third that the reason she makes the choice of Obama is not because she’s claiming that she thinks he will win, but because she thinks that he should win. This is a soft claim which allows her to hedge her bets once again. If Obama wins, it’s because she said he would. If McCain wins, well she didn’t exactly say he wouldn’t, just that people need Obama.

That all being said, she made this “prediction” on the spiritnow website which is linked via her Wiki page: “I predict the President elected sometime after 2008 will die in office from a heart attack. The Vice President who will finish their term will have an unpopular and mistaken intention to declare war on North Korea. By that time, North Korea will have weapons of mass destruction. In the middle of efforts to declare war, I predict the Vice President will be assassinated. There will be a worldwide investigation into the Vice President’s death with both pleasant and unpleasant surprises. A lot of attention will be paid to one of the investigative congressional committees and serious accusations will be made regarding missing funds. Finally, it will be revealed that their accusations are part of a conspiracy to damage the American people’s faith in their government, with the media manipulated to “fan the flames,” and the committee will be vindicated in the end.”

It certainly sounds like she thinks McCain will win and someone will shoot the first female president, but she doesn’t explicitly say it. Regardless, if the next president doesn’t die of a heart attack within their term, her prediction is in trouble. She also makes several other specific claims about the government in general.

Conclusions
It is important to note that Sylvia Browne has already made predictions about this year’s election that have not come true. She claimed twice that she thought that a democrat would win the election. However, she also said that Clinton would never run and that Kerry would. Given the low approval ratings for the republican party late in Bush’s reign, it is not terribly surprising that she favoured a democrat at this time.

I don’t want to seem like I’m “picking on her” by pointing out other explanations for why she (or anyone else) could make the above statement and be correct without there being anything psychic involved. I hope simply to illustrate that what she has done in the case of predicting this election is not impressive. She is a nationally known psychic with dozens of books and a multi-million dollar business. As such, she should be held to a standard above what the average psychic could predict, and so certainly above what the average person can predict.

Summary
She has made a series of incorrect statements in the past about the 2008 election and most recently she has made statements that are at best unfalsifiable (i.e., either outcome could be considered a “hit”). Ultimately she picked who she hopes will win, in the words of Robert Lancaster, “making her no better than the rest of us”. I agree. Her statement cannot be analyzed for accuracy, because she has structured it in such a way that she could be correct no matter what the outcome. However, I will update with the outcome and provide analysis the best I can.

Just for Fun

  • I predict that Obama will win the election with between 55 and 60 percent of the popular vote.
  • I predict that the US will not be made into a Muslim state the next day.

Let’s see how I do.

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