The Thinker

Election 2004 Postmortem

The body is not quite cold but it is definitely cooling. If I were John Kerry and John Edwards I would not necessarily concede defeat, but I would be preparing the concession speeches.

This election was hard for anyone to call since polls were almost always within the margin of error. I stepped out on a limb in a number of entries and predicted Kerry would win the election by a comfortable margin. In June I suggested a 5% spread. Instead it looks like Bush has about a 3% margin on the popular vote. It remains possible that Kerry could win the electoral vote, but it seems very dubious. There would be a certain karmic rightness if Kerry won the electoral vote and lost the popular vote, since it would essentially cancel out the 2000 election and restore a certain sense of balance and fairness.

But yesterday was clearly not what the Democrats hoped for. In addition to likely losing a very narrow presidential race, Republicans picked up 3 seats in the Senate and sent Tom Daschle home permanently to South Dakota. In the House although a number of contests have yet to be decided it looks like Republicans picked up four seats. The Republican lock on Congress looks like it will continue and extend itself for some time.

In the Retro vs. Metro war, Retro seems to have won this round.

In trying to understand the election what puzzles me the most is how Bush could possibly win. In any other election he would have been shown the door due to his dismal performance. So I felt it was a safe bet to say he would lose. The key I think was turnout. I think that people were voting this time not so much for candidates but as a statement of their values. I really doubt that all that many Bush supporters are truly enthusiastic about the guy. I never was terribly enthusiastic for John Kerry. But I did care about projecting my values and the values of my “clan”: internationalism, peace, respect for the environment, etc. The same was true for the Republican base. When it became apparent that the Democrats were waging a very effective get out the vote effort it became clear to anyone who cared to get involved. So both sides turned out their bases in droves. That was a wrinkle I did not expect and I suspect was the main reason my predictions were off. I need to keep this lesson in mind in the 2008 election.

Personally both my family and myself are very scared. To us George W. Bush has not just been a bad president; he has been a reckless president. Now we get to look forward to four more years of the same. If the past is any guide it won’t get better.

But karmic forces remain at work. Bush cannot undo the damage he has done. Iraq will continue to be a quagmire that will defy solution. He will be fortunate if his popularity in his second term ever rises above 50%. The fundamental problems he introduced remain and the way he has tried to solve them has exacerbated our problems.

So if there is a silver lining to this it might be that in 2006 voters will be a lot more motivated to change directions. Only time will tell how long it will be before we wake up as a nation and acknowledge the disaster that is the presidency of George W. Bush.


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