Friday, July 30, 2004

Decision 2004

An English friend sent me some questions about the election...

> What are your views on the American election?

I like to try to analyze where things are, what the salient points are, and guess what is coming in the future. One thing I have learned from experience, though, is that my prognostications are almost always horribly voided by the actual process of unfolding events. That's the fickle nature of history: You miss one little thing, like, for instance, reality, and you wind up wrong.

It also spooks me to predict things, because the universe has an irony potential that it needs to dissipate, and it does so in the same way the atmosphere and earth dissipate an electric potential: By blasting the first fool to stick his head up. So as a counter-measure I must say: "I don't mean anything I am about to write..."

My mystery comment, which may prove prophetic, but which is probably just laying the groundwork for you to laugh at me, is: "Electoral College."

On to my laughable analysis...

> Do you think Bush will win (I have to say
> that I think he will, sadly)?

While the polls show things being even at the moment, I don't think they'll stay that way. My gut tells me that either candidate may win, but it will be by a healthy margin.

The historically large amount of money spent on negative advertising to define Kerry has proven ineffective. Kerry meanwhile remains unfamiliar to most Americans. At some point they will come to know him, or some fiction of him, and that will contribute to the large margin, either in his favor or against him.

We could take as our baseline the fact that Bush actually got less votes than Gore in 2000, but due to the events of 9/11 and afterwards, we are in a whole new dispensation, and whatever people thought of him before 9/11 has been totally recast by the day, sanctifying him in the eyes of some and demonizing him in the eyes of others.

Meanwhile the war on terrorism, and the conflict in Iraq, have their own enormous potential to release for one candidate and against another. Some catastrophe in the war in Iraq, or other American defeat or humiliation, or merely the continuation of the toothache, could sink Bush. Revelations about the policy that authorized the Abu Ghraib torture and murder could do likewise. (Yes, I too am amazed that the scandal did not lead to impeachment. But remember, this is America. Oral sex is bad). Equally potent are the ways in which events could assist Bush. The capture of Osama bin Laden at the right moment just before the election, whether genuine or faked, might put Bush over the top. In this regard we must remind ourselves that the average IQ is kept at 100 (despite the trend of IQ creep) not just because it is a convenient point, but because, on average, human IQ is 100. Look around at all your intelligent friends, while I look around at mine, and realize that out there are enough people, American voters, to bring the average IQ back down to 100. And that reality is repeated in droves and droves across this fair land. There are enough people who vote with all the analytical depth of a crowd cheering at a circus. Witness Governor Schwarzenegger.

But as Churchill more or less said, it's the best form of government there is. I mean that sincerely. There is a wisdom that comes from letting all the people vote, in their millions, that would be lost if the choice were up to just you and me and our friends. I have a faith that the world continues to teeter past apocalypse after apocalypse in part because of the wisdom of fools. Left in the hands of just the 'smart ones,' the world would be ashes.

Letting all the people vote didn't happen in 2000, where for example the state of Florida engaged in various tricks to discourage Democrats from voting. Which brings us to the next salient factor: Diebold, the Republican-allied company that runs the electronic voting machines with laughable security gaps, a proven history of improper handling, and no paper receipts, that are being used in many places to "solve" the problem of hanging chads. Fortunately, as I write this, the state of California has all but banned the machines. No, I don't know which of the "battleground" states are using these machines. I have only so many things I can handle at one time.

Then there is the possibility that the administration will cancel or postpone the election in response to a real or phony terrorist menace. I kid you not. A Bush-appointed election official actually used the word 'cancel' in a memo to the White House.

Wiser heads have pointed out that in the event of a natural disaster such as a tornado or flood, a state governor should be able to extend the voting period, to give people a chance to complete the vote, which would allow the national election to continue, and complete, with as many votes counted as possible. Wisdom is not a property of the Bush administration, so don't expect this idea to gain a wide audience.

But in the event of the unthinkable (which has become quite thinkable despite its horror), such as a nuclear device destroying one of our cities, the people who are dead are no longer able to vote, and the polling in that region of the state should just be prolonged until a satisfactory number of survivors have voted.

Which brings me to my mystery comment, "Electoral College." For you European and English folks not familiar with democracy ... (hah hah, I couldn't resist!) ... for those of you not familiar with our system, the Electoral College is an obscure but central mechanism in our process. Everyone loves to hate it because it is so profoundly anti-democratic. The way it works is that when you vote for president, you are voting for that candidate's electors. It is the members of the Electoral College who actually elect the president. And are they bound to vote for the candidate they represent? No. That's what I meant by profoundly anti-democratic. There have been one or two minor incidents, I believe, where an elector did not vote for his candidate, but never, I think, a case where the Electoral College disobeyed the will of the people.

This year could be different. My gut tells me that the current administration is radical not just in the ways we have seen, but also potentially in the way Julius Caesar was radical. Yeah, like that. Like, here's the Rubicon, and here is George Bush's toe, dipping in and testing... That's what my gut tells me.

Now, if there is some kind of crippled election, on time or late, or some Diebold vote manipulation, or an actual terrorist event, or some combination of all of these, then the electoral college may come into play, to reverse a Bush attempt at a putsch, or perhaps as part of a Republican plan to effect one.

I hope you are not fitting me for a tinfoil hat at this point. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Many things in history can happen as a result of people with shared interests acting in concert without even knowing each others' plans.

> What do you think of Kerry? I know that you support his
> election efforts, but is that more because he's not Bush,
> rather than because he is Kerry?

Kerry is competent, honest, and strong and will move this country in the right direction. I would vote for him over any president who has served in my lifetime, aside from Clinton. And yes that includes Kennedy and Johnson and Carter. In addition, I am strongly motivated by the fact that Bush is so truly awful. If Bush were Eisenhower, I might feel differently. Ike would not have gone into Iraq, or allowed torture of prisoners, or undermined the Constitution. He would have tried to protect us, instead of just trying to win an election.

> And, perhaps most importantly of all, how is
> the media portraying it over there?

Well, since I don't watch TV, I don't know the answer to that. From the news I read on the web I'd say they are fair. Although for example I just read a Newsweek profile that damned Kerry with faint praise and made him seem like a strange outsider.

> Here in England we hear absolutely nothing
> about Bush and the election.

I believe that even people overseas can contribute money to MoveOn.Org, which conducts ongoing political campaigns for a progressive policy, and has since the Clinton impeachment period.

> Everything is Kerry Kerry Kerry.

I guess we know who they'd vote for. I sometimes wonder what it must be like to be a European, knowing that America has such a huge impact on the world and its future, and see it governed by fools.

> You'd be forgiven for thinking that Bush had withdrawn
> and it was a one-man race.

It's not. Bush is always on the move.

> But is it like that where it actually
> matters, in America?

All I can say is that while things are even, and fairly 'normal' right now, they will not remain that way all the way to election day.
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