>> Wednesday, November 07, 2012
It's great to be wrong sometimes. Just gotta say it. There I was, afraid we'd be recounting election results into next year, worried about fraud and/or computer errors (or "errors"), worried about Romney pulling a winning lottery ticket somehow, worried about spoilers, just flat-out worried.
And here's the day after, Obama with an Electoral College landslide and an obvious lead in the popular vote. Gahddammit and pass the sham-pagh-knee, sometimes it's good to be wrong.
I thought I'd be up all night. Even the cautious and timid polinerds at NPR were calling the election before midnight. Someone on Twitter had made the observation much earlier in the evening that he'd gone to bed in 2000 thinking Gore had it "in the bag" and we saw how that worked out, but I think we're free and clear of this one being decided by a single vote cast by a man wearing a black dress. To hell with Florida, still not completely in at this writing--303 and 332 are both bigger numbers than 270.
My home state was no surprise. There was a slim, razor-thing edge-of-a-chance that we might go for the President again, but with unemployment still appallingly high, the Democrats in Raleigh being a mess, and, well, let's call it the demographics of the state, I had no real faith we'd side with history a second time. Would have been nice, but, you know, the lack of surprise in this makes it impossible to really be disappointed. North Carolina was in the position of being a "battleground" state--note the quote-unquote, as it wasn't really a battle so much as it was just very, very close in the numbers--that Obama could afford to lose more than Romney could afford to. I.e. Obama could (and did) lose us with no real threat to his likely lead in the Electoral College, whereas Romney couldn't conceivably get to 270 without us in his column.
Speaking of that, I can't say enough times how baffled I am that so many of America's talking heads class doesn't seem to understand the system of government they pontificate about so much. There were people saying this election would be something like fifty-one/forty-nine, which certainly could describe the popular vote (which, as of this writing, NBC counts, actually, as being fifty/forty-eight). And if the popular vote had a more-than-symbolic value, that really would be a close election. But we have this peculiar system where who you actually vote for is a little less important than where you live, and Mitt Romney winning two-thirds of the hearts and minds of Idahoans (with four electoral votes) is a helluva lot less important than Barack Obama winning Ohio (eighteen electoral votes) by a ghostly sliver.
Nate Silver actually mentioned the obvious around 10:30 PM last night in his liveblog of the election:
The differences between national polls, which often showed a very tight race for the popular vote, and polls of swing states, where President Obama usually maintained an advantage, were a source of intrigue this year.
It could be that Mitt Romney’s performance in strongly red-leaning states, which were sparsely polled this year, accounts for much of the difference, allowing him to rack up votes without helping himself in the Electoral College.
I don't intend to demean the brilliant Mr. Silver by pointing out that this is actually a fairly obvious and logical deduction; I intend to demean the pundits who made it necessary for Silver to have to make this "well, yeah-duh" kind of observation.
This isn't to say the election couldn't have been close in other respects. Look at Ohio, which (as of this writing) has been called for Obama with fifty percent of the vote (Romney coming in at 48%, with 90% of precincts reporting according to NBC); a few tens of thousands of votes another way, and those eighteen Electoral College votes could have been Mitt Romney's. Virginia's thirteen votes remained in play very late in the race. Etc. Obama had better firewalls, in that there were several states he carried in 2008 that he could afford to lose (including North Carolina), but he couldn't lose all of them, and that's why, as of yesterday, Nate Silver was showing Romney pulling out a win in one-out-of-ten simulations and around a quarter of the time in simulations won last week. But that isn't "Oh, the country is nearly evenly divided between liberals and conservatives" close, that's "Our crazy electoral system could result in blocs of votes being abruptly shifted from one side to another in a local upset and we won't really know until we're finished counting" close. Again, it's about where people are, not how many of them are there in aggregate.
It occurs to me as I write this that this is part of the partisanship that divides the country and that it's nothing new and is, in fact, a built-in flaw of our form of government in the United States along with the number geography and history have done on us. If two-thirds of the population of Idaho supported Mitt Romney, it's no wonder--considering that a majority of the people the average Idahoan must know--if an Idahoan thinks two-thirds of Americans agree with him about the matter (or, probably, most other matters), and that anyone who disagrees with him is likely a marginal, one-third-of-everyone fringe element who maybe lives in some inconceivably big and remote city and is out of touch with common people like himself. Which isn't to pick on Idahoans, because a New Yorker (living in a state where yesterday's percentages were almost the inverse of Idaho's) probably has a similar kind of problem, two-thirds of everybody he knows being an Obama supporter and "What's the matter with Idaho, anyway?"
Of course, this is the very problem that bedeviled the authors of the Constitution, produced the three-fifths compromise and 1808 bargain amongst other travesties and tragedies of the founding document; and that caused the American Civil War. The geographic patterns haven't even changed all that much post-Civil War, with the red-state/blue-state divide east of the Mississippi basically following the Mason-Dixon line and the border states continuing to be border states. It fills one with a certain fatigue, realizing that much of the mistrust, partisanship and paranoia is both a failure of imagination and also, perversely, not wholly unjustified insofar as nearly everybody one knows might indeed believe the same thing and where are these people who supposedly disagree, and the real problem is that nearly everybody one knows isn't nearly everybody there is, you see.
This is insoluble. Unless we figure out a way to turn the whole country upside down and shake it until everyone's properly mixed up. And let's not do that, gods know, I don't really want to live in Wyoming, there's nothing up there except coyotes and cold winds.
Meanwhile, as a liberal, I suppose I can go back to being irritated or even angry at the people I voted for. Drone strikes. Intrusions on civil liberties. Why didn't you even try to get single-payer? The Republicans were right that you keep telegraphing your willingness to roll over to your enemies, it's just that they should have been referring to themselves instead of Fu Manchu and the Red Menace or the Musulman Hordes threatening Jerusalem or whomever they thought they were talking about. Or, no, maybe I will try to give that one a rest, for just a little while. Not because I'm happy about all of my President's policies, no, or because I think it's wrong to dissent or because I feel some urge to fall in line. It's that I'm very tired, and I'd like to be a little irresponsible for at least a couple of weeks, and besides that, you know, I was scared; because as much as I may disagree with some of the President's policies, we could have had a return of the neocon cabal and a President whose sole overriding concern was an idea of social justice predicated on making it much easier for very wealthy people to game a table that's already stacked and rigged for them, and we could have gotten all the Presidential policies that trouble me or I flat-out disagree with, and a boatload of political horrors. And, besides, the ScatterKat was happy enough to dance when I went upstairs last night and told her the election was being called for the guy we voted for, and I do like it when she dances.