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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lessons from the election

by John MacBeath Watkins

1) There are no permanent majorities.  Rove sought to build one, and in a couple elections the Republicans lost the House, Senate and presidency.  Liberals thought they had one, and in the first election since their euphoric declarations, they lost the House.

2) Polls that don't include cell phones are crap.  Also, polls that do include them (like Gallup) can miss by a wide margin.

3) Even in a wave election, it's possible to nominate someone so nutty they can't get elected.  Delaware and Nevada are cases in point, and with Joe Miller running well behind 'write in candidate' Alaska may be an example as well.  We can only hope enough people spelled Lisa Murkowski right to put a sane person in the Senate.

4) Voters don't care about policy, only results.  Poll after poll showed people trust the Democrats on most policy issues more than Republicans, but more voted for Republicans.  They are understandably upset about the economy, and they're expressing their discontent.  Had the economy collapsed a year earlier in Bush's term, he would own the recession.  Instead, he left office while the collapse was still in progress.  More of the recession has happened on Obama's watch than happened on Bush's watch, so the fact that things are slowly getting better seems to be irrelevant.  Obama even gets blamed for TARP, the bank bailout signed into law by Bush, which I happen to think was a necessary evil.

5) Corporations are people too.  Rich people, who like to spend money on elections, especially if they can do so without people knowing who they've spent it on.  From a stockholder's viewpoint, this means they may be spending your money defeating candidates you think will do a better job of getting the economy moving, and they may be doing it because they want executive salaries taxed at a lower rate.  The Citizens United case didn't deal with the agency problem that is always an issue with corporations, and it's just one of the problems with the decision.  The 'educational' money can't be spent to support a candidate, but it can be spent to tear one down, so this flood of new money into our politics is going to make the ads you see in the future even more negative.  The sheer meanness of our politics can only get worse because of this.  Or, as Yeats more ably put it:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity. 


Well, that was what things looked like in Ireland in 1920.  It got better, and so can we.  At least none of our political parties has a terrorist wing.  Yet.

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