I’m going to split this up, perhaps into as many as four entries over the next two days, both for ease of writing/editing and to try to make it easier on those of you who are interested in reading through all my accumulated thoughts. As I said earlier in the week, if this bores you, you hate everything I stand for, etc, please be patient for a couple days before I return to less divisive subject matter. I encourage you to share your thoughts, theories, observations. Feel free to argue with me and with other people who comment. This blog is largely a vehicle for me to remain in constant contact with my friends around the country. I know many of you have very different views from me. I respect that but ask that you realize that I, and others who share my views, are depressed, irritated, and upset by the national results. Since most of us know each other, I know we’ll all be respectful of our friends with different viewpoints. But if I, or anyone who comments, says something that drives you insane, I would suggest e-mailing the offending party privately rather than turning the comments into a flame war. We don’t generally have enough comments here to worry about that, but with emotions frayed it’s easy to cross the line. Remember, we’re all friends and we’re all on the same team again today.
This first post will look at what I thought were the dominant themes Tuesday night.
1) The insane cautiousness of the networks in calling presidential races. Not unexpected nor unwelcome, but it was funny to see Rather, Jennings, Brokaw, Blitzer, and Matthews going to great lengths to explain how even some states where 80%+ of the vote had been counted were still too close to call. Brokaw kept talking about “voting models” they were looking at. I’m sure they were, but couldn’t they just say, “Because of the confusion of four years ago, we’re going to wait until we’re absolutely sure this race won’t tighten up before we call it.” Adding to the entertainment was how quickly they called Senate races. Almost every incumbent outside of Kentucky and South Dakota was awarded their seat with 0% of the vote counted. So much for consistency.
2) Exit polls are crap. We should have learned our lesson four years ago. But as Chris Wallace told John Stewart Monday, “We’ve just changed the name this year. It’s still the same process as in 2000.” I know some lawyers read this; do voters of all parties have grounds for a class action suit against the good people at VNS for pain, suffering, and exceptional annoyance? I’ve got a lot of free time. I’d be happy to lend my name to the cause.
3) Christian Conservatives. There have been many great moments in the modern Christian Conservative movement. Helping Ronald Reagan win in two landslides. Facilitating the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. Tuesday may have been the movement’s finest moment. There were rumors that the war in Iraq and President Bush’s lack of fiscal conservatism might cause CC voters to stay home this year. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Between the gay marriage ballot initiatives and the desire to at least get out and vote for local and congressional candidates, even those CC voters who weren’t sure about Bush made it to the polls and then managed to give him their vote. As the night wore on, we kept hearing how counties in Florida and Ohio that went for Bush four years ago were going even bigger from him this year. Those were the CC voters making sure their friends and neighbors who sat 2000 out got to the polls this time around. Not only do CC voters control the south, they’re sucking up the old Reagan Democrats by getting them to vote on culture rather than economic issues. There is no voting block as powerful as the CC is today. Bush owes them, something that I’ll touch on later.
4) The 9/11 effect. Where was it? The race was largely the same as it was four years ago. Bush flipped New Mexico and Iowa, which were both narrow losses in 2000, and lost New Hampshire, which was a close win last time. In an electoral college sense, 9/11 had no effect on the race. Most of the raw vote increase in Bush’s total can be attributed to the CC voter effect. I would imagine some of his cushion, though, came from swing voters who voted for him simply because of homeland security/war on terror issues. I’m sure the pollsters will figure out what that number is in the next few weeks.
5) Although Bush won Florida easily and had a phenomenal GOTV effort to hold Ohio, as I said above this race wasn’t much different than the last election. Bush got a few more electoral votes, and a clear majority of the popular vote. But the nation is still sharply divided between secular and religious, urban and rural, progressive and conservative, coastal and interior. Most enlightened commentators expected the race to be very close. It’s just amazing to me that with everything that’s happened in four years we’ve had such little movement. Democratic visions of capturing Florida proved to be a pipe dream. But Ohio was achingly close. If Bill Clinton had been healthy enough to travel more, perhaps he could have flipped Arkansas and Nevada. One wonders if John Kerry sounded like he was from Austin rather than Boston, if the Virginias would have been in play. We were incredibly close to having another president win by capturing the electoral vote while losing the popular vote. Strange days indeed.
6) Tuesday night was unlike any election experience I’ve ever had. It was more like watching a sporting event. The exit polls made it seem like a Kerry win was in the cards. As the night wore on, states that were rumored pick ups were staying red. The upper Midwest took entirely too long to get results from. Then Florida broke, followed by Ohio (according to NBC and Fox) and the six hour epic was over. Four years ago, when Gore was initially awarded Florida, I still didn’t think it was over as we had no idea how Washington, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, and the upper midwest would go. That night felt very different, at least to me.
OK, that’s my overall theme entry. In the next one (perhaps tomorrow) I’ll look at things from more of a political than personal perspective. It will be focused on what happens now rather than what I saw last night. After that, I’ll have bullet point account of other things I found interesting, upsetting, uplifting Tuesday night to wrap up my coverage.