Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Morning-after observations

  • Congratulations, Mr. President! May you lead your nation wisely for the next four years.

  • Well done, Senator Kerry! You ran a great campaign, came back from behind and nearly won. There will be plenty of Democratic hand-wringing; they should try to maintain some perspective. It basically came down to a coin toss.

  • The Republicans should avoid triumphalism. They came this close to losing the election, despite a majority of the popular votes. Though their congressional accomplishments were impressive and should prod some Democratic rethinking.

  • It's nice to be right once in a while. I'm also glad not to have to see the results I expected from a Bush loss.

  • I watched the results on CNN, the only American network I see here in Israel. CNN's main commentators were Wolf Blitzer, Jeff Greenfield, Larry King and Bill Schneider, along with occasional statisticians and lawyers. Once in a while they brought in some goyim for diversity.

  • Despite the smears, this campaign was, for the most part, serious and issue-focused. Election day glitches were minimal. Overall, a model of democracy.

  • After four tumultuous years, it's striking how close this year's results were to 2000's. Nearly every state voted the same way. I'm guessing this pattern will break next time around. It will be interesting to see the candidate and party which make that happen.

  • Bush's solid majority of the popular vote, ironically, points to one of the strengths of the electoral college. Bush won his states by larger margins than Kerry won his. It's a good thing for democracy that he wouldn't have helped his position by trying to run up even larger majorities in his core states, rather than reaching out to the battlegrounds.

  • On average, the polls were accurate. Bush led by 3% in the popular vote; most of the expected battleground states were in fact close, and all of the close states were on the list of battlegrounds. The polls couldn't meaningfully forecast the overall winner because there were too many contested states. That's why we govern by elections, not opinion polls.

  • On the other hand, the exit polls were disastrous. Whether that's due to sample size, or sample selection, or something else, I don't know. But the claim that exit polls are more accurate than random surveys appears to be bunk. If the exit polls were so far off regarding voting preferences, why should anyone believe their figures regarding demographic breakdown?

  • Unlike some Americans in Israel, I have no ethical qualms about voting in American elections: 1. It's my constitutional right. Why shouldn't I? 2. The results affect me directly - not the same way they affect American residents, but then again no two residents are affected the same way either. 3. No taxation without representation - the U.S. reserves the right to tax expats. But mostly: 4. My wife and I cast our votes in solidly Democratic states, so our votes couldn't possibly affect the election results anyway!

  • Bush shouldn't celebrate for too long. He faces some tremendous challenges in governing, and has long outlived his honeymoon. In the long run, Kerry might be grateful to have lost. Few presidents have started a second term in such a divisive environment, though the sympathetic Congress will help. Americans generally tire even of popular presidents after six years, and Bush is hardly that popular to start with. Without knowing who will run on each side, I would say the Republicans are unlikely to hold the White House in 2008.

No comments: