With the election cycle winding down to the last month or two, I would like to make some observations for the record.
I have always been sort of a maverick, always seen things differently, always liked to tweak the smug views of others. Richard Clarke would recognize me as a compadre. Some of this I have published before.
First, I love the unusual, the chance to be a part of a time that stands out in history. I would like to have an election result which calls future generations back with a "do you believe that, way back in 2004, ....?"
So, someone has calculated that there are over a hundred different ways for the electoral race to end in a tie, 269 for each candidate. But wait. Once we vote for a slate of electors pledged to a party's candidates, there is nothing but party loyalty to hold those electors to their pledge. Electors can, and have, voted for someone other than those for whom they have pledged. In 1988, for example, Margaret Leach of Huntington, West Virginia refused to cast her ballot for Michael Dukakis, although he had carried the state and she was on the Democratic slate.
Which brings us to an absolute dream result. If the electoral college is tied, and West Virginia goes to Bush, one elector on the Republican slate has already announced that he is undecided. Mayor Richie Robb, mayor of South Charleston, has said that he is mad at President Bush. While he says that it is "unlikely" that he will cast his ballot for Kerry, he said he might cast his ballot for some other Republican, such as Dick Cheney. But he COULD give the victory to Kerry. One man.
If Bush was at 270, a change by Robb would keep Bush from claiming victory. If it is a tie, and Robb DID cast a ballot for Kerry, Kerry would win. In these cases, the results of a presidential election would come down to the vote of one man. A truly remarkable 15 minutes of fame.
A second dream result would be for Bush to win the popular vote, while Kerry wins the electoral vote. This one seems possible. There have been several elections in which the winner of the popular vote did not become president. The last time this happened, the rancor and hatred it aroused lasted until the next election, that is, this one. I would hope that Bushies can say, like Dennis Miller, "I'm for Bush, and I don't want Kerry to be president, but if he is elected, on November 3rd, I get in line behind him. If he is elected, the day after the election, I am a Kerry man." Maybe the Bush supporters can show that they are Americans first, unlike those bilious, vitriolic Democrats.
On political boards, including Spinsanity when I first came to it, over a year ago, antiBushites could not write his name without attaching "unelected," "selected," "illegitimate," or some other adjectival phrase indicating that Bush somehow had not won the office according to the law, and should not be in it. On Spinsanity, at least, there has been less of this since the election season has started. But some of the offenders are still there.
In the best of cases, and this seems likely, Bush wins the popular vote, Kerry the College, the lawyers celebrate full-employment day by filing a hundred lawsuits. Eventually, it comes down to the supervisor of elections in one state enforcing the law as written, being overturned by the State Supreme Court, and it goes to the Supreme Court. There, the Court upholds the state law, and Kerry becomes president. All i ask in this case, or, actually, even if Kerry merely wins the presidency without the popular majority, is that those who so spoke about Bush spend the next three years attaching the same adjectival phrases to Kerry's name. Something like, "you filthy Republicans must admit that Kerry's new health policies will help solve a nasty situation, and the results of the new studies show that it will be cheaper than thought, so you must admit that Kerry was the right choice even if he is an illegitimate president." On the other hand, those who leapt to bush's defense by noting the legality of his election would repond to this in like manner: "Kerry's health policy is merely another liberal boondoggle, but I must insist that you refrain from calling him an illegitimate president, since he was elected according to the laws of the land." Wouldn't that be refreshing?
Now some random observations:
1) This may be the first presidential election in quite a while where the Democrats out spent the Republicans. A look at the top contributors to 527s shows that top Democrats contributed several times what the top Republicans have. Maybe all we have proven this year is that when the public is closely divided, the presidency is up for sale.
2) In a campaign in which truth checked out early, the Democrats win the contest for the most absolute lies. Both campaigns engaged in shading the truth, cherry-picking figures, subtly misrepresenting the facts, and other techniques of high spin. One would think that neither would have any need to simply lie, stating counterfactuals that even the casual observer would know were not true.
As examples of the former techniques, let me cite one example. In talking about Kerry's health plan, Bush likes to say that it is too expensive and can't be paid for. he often goes on to say, "Senator Kerry has proposed new spending worth 2.1 trillion dollars. With a 't.'" Notice the subtle switch to "total spending" while talking about health care. And you can be sure that his campaign didn't pick some random study, but the one whose figures best suited them. Bush goes on, "Even if he raises taxes on the top two brackets, like he said he would, that will raise just 600 to 800 billion. That's a gap. That gap has to be paid for. And guess who will pay for it. that's right, you will. The middle class."
The Kerry campaign responded. Spokespersons have said that the health plan will cost 600 billion dollars, "well covered by the 850 billion dollars that will be raised by eliminating Bush's tax cut for the rich." We are left to wonder what the truth is.
Now, both sides have used many tricks to obscure or enhance the truth. The Bushies excel here, counting procedural votes and votes for multiple instances of a bill together to come up with a high number of Kerry votes for or against something. the lump votes against tax cuts with votes for tax raises. They make Kerry seem much busier than he actually was. Unfortunately, they are the only source of information for Kerry's record, since the latter candidate has remained mum on his voting, for the most part.
But I have been unable to find the kind of actual lies in the Bush opus that have the last few months become the daily staple of Kerry's stump speeches. Kerry has claimed that "their policy is to raise Medicare premiums 17%," that "Bush will cut your Social Security benefits 25%," and many others. Let me examine one.
Kerry has said that Bush is planning a draft, which absolutely misrepresents what Bush has said. It is a lie. To his credit, Kerry has occasionally offered the reasons why he thinks the president will be forced to institute a draft. He cites the stretched military, the need to stay in Iraq and win, recruitment problems, re-enlistments which may be beginning to fall off, and that the stopgap measures like forced extensions of duty will eventually be impossible to sustain; All this is true, and makes a good argument. What Kerry doesn't say is that these arguments apply no matter who is president in the coming year. One might add that Kerry's promise to increase the size of the Army by 40,000 men makes his argument absolute for HIS presidency. So, the honest thing for Kerry to have said is that a draft will have to be instituted, and that he is not ignoring that reality.
But there is a reason why he would never say that. We in America do not reward honesty. Recently, Walter Mondale's assessment that a raise in taxes was needed sealed his doom. George Bush's father, in a move of honesty and political courage, told us that we needed a raise in taxes despite his promise not to raise taxes, and we rewarded him by voting him out of office. His successor is now lauded for raising taxes and righting the economy.
On many issues, the candidates are simply silent. That is because the truth would doom them. Such topics include Social Security, the unfunded mandate of Medicare, the growing burden of runaway entitlement programs, the huge growth in the size of government, and the interrelated problems of energy sustenance, environmental stewardship, and dependence on shifty allies and enemies for energy. All we get here are vague promises and political dogma.
Neither candidate is willing to call for a general sacrifice in a time of war, and to counter our debt and achieve strategic goals. They know that we will punish them if they do. They give us exactly what we have forced them to give us.
3) Provisional ballots may turn out to be a full employment plan for lawyers. If we continue to see voters as complete idiots who cannot take any responsibility for seeing that their wishes are properly cast, we may be facing a two month post election day court battle every election. One can imagine lawyers trying to change the law to spread elections across the calendar so that they don't have all their work at one time. The denigratory term for lawyers, "ambulance chasers," will be replaced by "election hounds."
4) Charges that the Republicans are trying to suppress the "Black vote" are just stupid. One cannot imagine that Republicans would ask someone to keep a Black voter from the polls, and when told "that's old Kawami Jones, he's a Republican, look at his Bush-Cheney button," that the Republican would say, "keep him from the polls anyway." The truth is that both parties would like to suppress their opponents votes, and increase their own. Are you surprised? I'm waiting for the party which will drive buses around town from early on election day, and announce through a loudspeaker that they will take anyone to the polls without asking their party affiliation, and without asking for whom they plan to vote. Unless a party does that, we should see all those overwrought displays of fake moral indignation as just more political acting. And in some cases, race baiting.
5) There have been several attempts by foreigners to influence the election. As it looks now, only one stands a chance of being successful. The Guardian's "pen pal" campaign was met with disgust, and rightly so. Endorsements and quasi-endorsements seem to have had no effect.
The one exception seems to be IAEA head Mohamed Baradei's blatant attempt to influence the election in favor of John Kerry. His release of the al-Qaqaa information at just the right time is a direct attmpt to save his position. Bush has stated that he will oppose another term for Baradei. The release of this charge with a minimum of data was calculated to provide grounds for exaggerated charges. The Kerry people put the spin machine in high gear, and the Republicans, failing to learn from Kerry's slow response to the Swift Boat charges, were slow to respond. If the election is very close, and Kerry wins, it will be absolutely true that this election was determined by an outside influence, one man, Mohamed El-Baradei.
I should note for honesty that Baradei did issue a statement that the timing of the release of this material had nothing to do with the election. If you believe that, you will also believe that Hillary (and many others) has "no plans to run for president." You would be like an embattled baseball manager, who, on hearing his general manager give him a vote of confidence, takes out a long term lease on a home. you would be the sort who believes the star of a new movie, making the talk show rounds, when he says that "it is really a great movie, one of the best productions I've been involved in, the director is incredible...."
6) We have all heard that the undecideds break against the incumbent. Actually, this is simply a usual example of a more general rule. Undecideds tend to break towards the most undefined candidate. Kerry has taken the natural advantage he had in this regard in running against an incumbent with a visible record, and made the avoidance of defining himself the central strategy of his campaign. He talked more about what he is not than about what he is. It may well be the winning strategy.
As for me, and this is as close as i will get to telling you how i voted, i asked very little from Kerry. I didn't vote for Bush, I don't like his policies, even the ones his supporters love. I opposed the war. Ralph Nader, for whom i voted in 2000, is not on my ballot. My vote was there for Kerry to take. All he has to do, (the election is not here yet as I write this), is to tell me what he would like to do to solve some problems, and how his Senate record the last 6-8 years gives me confidence that he will try to do what he says he will do. I am willing to overlook his (and other members of Congress') absolute responsibility for the Iraq war. His election would make more solid the divided government we have now, hanging now by the thread of the Senate Democrats' ability to block legislation. We Americans, and I, personally, like divided government. It means that government does less. Those who control government seem to think that they must govern, and they think they need more government to do this. This virus infects both Democrats and Republicans.
Let me end with one more dream. Let's say that we have an electoral tie, and the presidential vote goes to the House of Representatives. it is probable, almost a lock, that the several state delegations, one vote apiece, will elect George Bush. But the vice president is elected by the Senate in this case. It is quite possible that the Democrats will pick up a couple of seats in the Senate. If so, they could elect John Edwards the vice president with Bush as president. Now, that would be history. We all know how Bush relies on his vice president.
That first meeting between the vice president and George Bush would be very interesting. So would the first meeting of Vice president Edwards and the energy industry. I predict that John Edwards would keep the minutes secret, citing executive privilege, and noting that such privilege allows people to speak with complete candor. And O'Reilly's veins will pop out when he hears of this new example of secrecy in government, a new example of a government that is not looking out for the folks.
When we step back and look at this rancorous election, we are forced to agree with Ralph Nader, that in the long run, it will not make much difference in our daily lives, not in the solution of our social ills. We may wonder why we risked heart disease to inject so much ill will into this campaign.