Wednesday, November 03, 2004

What happened

Before my perspective is made still murkier or contaminated by the gigabytes of hollow punditry now spewing each second into the radio and TV post-election ether, I'm going to record here my own more or less innate hollow opinion of what's just happened. It is Well, assuming that enough Democratic voters to swing the outcome were not thwarted in their desire to vote by the failure to receive absentee ballots or by having their patience overtaxed by long lines at the polls in their district or by rigging of electronic polling machines or intimidation by challengers or other dirty tricks (at least some of which certainly took place), then what I'd say we've just learned is that, at a rate just a little bit higher than what would be expected were it down to pure chance, voters this November 2 (and in the weeks of early voting leading up to it) chose George W Bush. In other words, Bush seems to have gotten 51% of the vote, and thanks to our confidence in the law of large numbers, that is a statistic quite significant enough for him and his backers to take to the bank.

Now what does this mean? How did it happen? In interpreting this outcome I feel a temptation to divide the electorate into thinkers and nonthinkers, but I'm not going to. I'm going give the majority in both camps the (let's call it) “deficit of the doubt” and assume that those on all sides are largely emotional and irrational gut-thinkers. So I would say that what this particular statistical result suggests is that the electorate's diverse ideas of Bush/world are marginally more comforting or comfortable to them than are their diverse visions or ideas of Kerry/world. In other words, and to veer still deeper into unoriginality, I would characterize this outcome as a marginal victory for an ideology. Or for an ideological marketing campaign. I now start to wonder how this margin and how the diverse ideologies of the electors on either side will proceed to evolve. Pertaining to the speed of change, I think many significant shapers of the ideologies in play have been of-the-moment, and that far from everything about these ideologies reflects that methodical long-range Reagan/Limbaugh/Rove/(Goldwater?) Republican revolution that's been working up steam so long I suppose we should expect its effects to persist awhile. But in particular I wonder: How much of this margin came from the ads and the explicit campaign talk? How much from years of Fox News, absence of journalistic inquiry and attention to the wrong things? How much from John Kerry not taking the tack of Howard Dean and not just calling the reality of this administration as he sees it but showing something of the true horror and anger he must feel? How much from people's willingness to believe the incredible if they find it more comforting?

I think religion, or something like religion, is tied up in this margin in a subtle way that's actually a lot more influential than the overt, affiliative I'm-with-the-Pentacostals way much talked about. Perhaps I'm just repeating myself about ideology...except I think I'm having an additional thought, which is that dogmatism is a habit of mind that goes with capital-R Religion, and that I think religious people, by virture of this habit, carry around a more dogmatic and robust political ideology...hence the Republicanization of the Bible thumpers. I think that's related to my temptation to talk about non-thinkers. I'm thinking that to the extent that Republicans have more supporters among the prescribed, pulpit-o-centric religions, there's liable to be more non-thinking going on among them. We Dem's and the Naderites, of course, have the New Agers and the Hare Krishna's and the Deepak Choprists, but I suspect this constituency doesn't rival the Bible-belt in number or in electoral-vote sway (then again, maybe we have these people to thank for the electoral votes of California?). Of course, we liberals delude ourselves in other ways that perhaps cause grief to our immediate families, friends and colleagues, but at least we're not voting for plutocratic war-mongering fascists.

Um, that's what I think, this November 3rd.

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