Make Up Your Mind

The latest polls say Obama and McCain are in a statistical dead heat right now. According to CNN’s newest “poll of polls” which averages recent polls from Newsweek and Gallup, Obama and McCain are tied at 45% with 10% of voters undecided. Everything that we have heard so far from the media suggests this should be an extremely close race to the end and that neither candidate, barring some unforeseen event, will pull away. What amazes me is that this race is even close, given what we have seen play out for the last eight years and the developments for both of the campaigns.

First, I would like to deliver a message to the “undecided” voters. How in the blue hell are you undecided at this point? Besides being senators and carbon based life forms, is there anything that is similar between McCain and Obama. They differ on essentially every major policy issue facing this country (the economy, Iraq, energy). Look, I don’t care who you vote for as long as you have a good reason for voting for whomever you decide upon. You can vote for Mickey Mouse for all I care if you can make a sound argument for why his policies would benefit this country. Is it a lack of access to information that is causing people to be undecided? I just feel if you have access to “the internet,” “television,” or these magical devices called “newspapers” you would have made your decision a long time ago and wouldn’t still be making up your mind. If you honestly have not made a decision at this point after about a year plus of hearing what Obama and McCain plan on doing, then I don’t think you ever will. As an advocate of a participatory democracy, I normally wouldn’t say something like this, but if you can look me in the eye and tell me you honestly don’t know who you’re going to vote for than please just stay home. Sit this one out because you obviously don’t care about the direction of this country and have not done any kind of independent research into the election.

Another aspect of this election that surprises me greatly is the overall closeness of the election. I recall an article I read during my glory days of college by Alan Abramowitz that presented a rather simple and effective way of predicting presidential elections. There are three factors he proposed that could be used to accurately predict an election: the popularity of the incumbent president, the current state of the economy, and the timing of the election. Well let’s take a look at these three factors. First we have the popularity of the incumbent. President Bush’s approval is currently bouncing around the low to mid thirties so I think it would be safe to say incumbent popularity is not a victory for McCain. The other factor that needs to be examined is the state of the economy. It is anything but strong, as on Monday the Dow lost 504 points in a plunge reminiscent of the Great Depression. Established corporations are collapsing (Lehman, Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae) or on the verge of collapse (Washington Mutual). The average citizen is paying more for just about everything with a dollar that is weak. Once again, this is another factor that does not bode well for the Republicans, given Bush’s reign for the past eight years and their control of Congress from 2002-2006. The third factor Abramowitz proposes to adequately predict elections is the timing of the election. Basically if the previous two factors are not in the incumbent party’s favor and they have controlled Washington, this is an indicator people will likely vote for the non-incumbent party.

Abramowitz’s model was shown to be very accurate in predicting presidential elections when using past data to match up with his model. His components are very logical and show other factors such as candidate personality and campaign events to largely be random distortions that do not have a major impact on the eventual outcome of the campaign. Given this model, we would expect to see Obama with a rather sizable lead and be on the way to a blow-out victory. Bush has one of the lowest approval ratings ever for a president, the economy is looking dreadful with no prospects for a quick turnaround or even that the worst has passed and the Republicans controlled all aspects of Washington for half of Bush’s presidency and held a majority in the House for the first 6 years. Why then is this election even close? Why Obama and McCain are currently tied in the polls and looking like this election could go either way?

The only explanation I can come up with is the uninformed voter. And this might not even be people who necessarily don’t pay attention to the media. This is more the person who looks at the letter that comes after the name, R or D, and makes up their mind that way. My favorite political commentary on this kind of thinking came from the illustrious Chris Rock. He once explained that he doesn’t like to label himself as Republican or Democrat, or liberal or conservative because he can go either way depending on the issue. Now I’m paraphrasing, but he basically says intelligent people like to hear both sides of an issue before they make up their mind. You now, make a reasoned response based on an evaluation of the facts. I’m not going to pretend I haven’t made up my mind or don’t know who I feel would be the best candidate for this country. Given the current facts, I don’t see how someone could vote for McCain-Palin. The policies of Bush have largely failed and on the major policy decisions, McCain tends to side with continuing the policies of Bush.

I would be holding back if I failed to discuss McCain’s pick for Vice-president Sarah Palin. Hi Sarah. How are you doing? Remember when Matt Damon likened your candidacy to a bad Disney movie where the hockey mom from Alaska wakes up and she’s going to be vice-president? Do you have a dog with an uncanny aptitude for athletic activity? I bet you never thought you would find yourself here. Oh, how I loved when pressed on your foreign policy experience you brought up the fact that your state is “really close” to Russia and there are even some parts of Alaska where you can see Russia. I was close to Mexico once in Arizona, so I guess I’m an expert on Central America now. Perhaps most distressing is when you sat down for your first major interview with a member of the press, Charlie Gibson of ABC. You were asked if you supported the Bush Doctrine, which says the United States reserves the right to act preemptively against potential enemies even if lacking support of the international community. Your first response was “In what respect?” When asked further about what you interpret it to be, you responded that you believe Bush has gone after terrorists and even though there have been mistakes, democracy and elections give the opportunity for new leadership. Failing to mention preemption in any manner, Gibson asked point blank if you agree with the point of the Bush doctrine that we have the right to attack first if we believe we are going to be attacked. You finally replied that if an attack is imminent, we have a right to defend ourselves. How a major candidate could not know one of the most important developments in U.S. foreign policy blows my mind

Look, I’m not telling you that you have to think the same way I do or vote the same way I do. What I am saying is that you should look at the facts independently and come to your own decision. I feel those facts point to a rather obvious decision, but that’s just me. What I do ask, no matter which way you lean or who you affiliate yourself with, forget about the R or D that comes after the candidates’ names. Evaluate their policies and beliefs for what they are and come to your own decision. That’s what true democracy requires, people choosing what they think is best for the country. All I’m saying is that you need to think of the policy and not the party when coming to your decision about what’s best.

–M. Night Crawler

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