Monday, October 27, 2008

Did You Hear The One About The Two Polls?

Like a lot of people I'm watching the polls these days, trying to get a sneak-peak at who destiny will give the unenviable task of trying to straighten out the current mess. Not surprisingly, the numbers vary from poll to poll, sometimes widely. Surprisingly, practically all of the polls address the election in terms of the popular vote, failing to take into account the only thing that really matters, the Electoral College.

For international readers not familiar with the difference, the popular vote is what most people outside of South America and Cuba think of when they think of an election. Taking the country as a whole, x% of the votes were for candidate A, y% were for candidate B, and 0.000001% were for the green party candidate. Whoever's percentage is bigger is declared the winner. One person, one vote. (Contrary to popular belief, this is true even in New Jersey. We just happen to extend our definition of "person" to include Disney characters and dead people, that's all. You got a problem with that?)

This simple majority-rules model is how every election in America is decided except, of course, for the big one, for which was created the Electoral College. In technical terms, the Electoral College system is what statistical analysts categorize as a useless, outdated system that was created when America consisted of disjointed agricultural communities and that defies all logic in the modern world where we have things like mass communication. Under this system, once 51% of the voters in a state have voted for a particular candidate, all other votes - for either candidate - don't count for anything. It's rare, but possible, for the majority of votes to be for one candidate (let's call him, say, "Al") and for the mathematical quirkiness of the Electoral College system to put another candidate (say, "George"), into office like some twisted real-life version of The Twilight Zone. This would happen even if "George" were the only candidate on the planet even less qualified than "Al." All this is hypothetical, of course, but you get the idea.

The presidential election has something in common with High School Musical 3, and it is this: I wish they would both be over with already and just go away. With 8 days left and trailing in the polls, McCain is sounding more like Palin, rather than the other way around, and that's not a good thing for anyone not on Saturday Night Live. Hail Mary's are exciting if you're playing football. In leadership, they're just sad. None of this is to suggest the election has been decided. At the same time, the McCain campaign has entered the polls-don't-vote-people-do phase, with increasingly frequent severe episodes of my-opponent's-not-patriotic and blame-the-media. That's usually the next-to-last stage of the political dying process, right after denial, anger, bargaining and just before acceptance. Let's just hope McCain, or more likely his substance-challenged (but impeccably dressed) running mate, don't start talking about Wildcats.


Unrelated Item: Recession? What Recession?

I heard a news report yesterday that said 65% of people surveyed are planning to spend less for the holidays this year than in previous years. The survey must not have included anyone from Paramus, NJ.

Paramus, in northern New Jersey, for decades has been the center of the retail universe, with no less than four mega-malls punctuated by several bizillion strip malls. On Saturday I stopped into one of the mega-malls, expecting that the wind, chilly rain and the even chillier economy would have made the place at least a little sane. Instead, it took about fifteen minutes of driving around to find a distant parking space in a lot so big there are shuttle buses going from one section to another. At first I thought someone moved Christmas to October and didn't tell me. Bergen County, where Paramus is located, is a Republican enclave in a state that is otherwise solidly Democratic, but I would have thought someone there would understand economics.

8 comments:

Jake said...

Having officially voted for the first time, it's nice to sit back and watch this finally wrap up. Watching McCain's campaign unravel itself with all the advisers turning on each other and whatnot.

I think about abolishing the EC a lot and what would happen. Of course it was created to protect the rights of the minority - but honestly, it does not add THAT much weight. We're a whole country, right? I've been yelled at before for "not being in touch with what real/the majority of Americans stand for" because I'm from the very liberal East coast. But if the majority of people live on the coasts, aren't I in touch with the majority of Americans?

Here's an interesting graphic representing the amount of campaign time and money spent in 2004 -- http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/dc/2004CampaignAttention.png/800px-2004CampaignAttention.png . The argument that candidates spend all their time appealing to the coasts is debunked - and actually, the majority of the Plains states are ignored as well. Look at the system working! *rolls eyes*

Besides... after all that, East/West coasts views are right anyway, so we SHOULD have more weight. ;-)

a corgi said...

will be glad when this election is over; neither one will be able to solve America's problems but I early voted and picked who I thought was the better candidate of the two

perhaps the people in NJ were out window shopping; I notice that our malls are always packed too, but are people buying? we intend to spend less than holiday season

enjoy the week

betty

miss alaineus said...

we woke up in detroit to a newscast that informed us that only 14% of voters here are voting for obama because he is an african american....that is the type of statistic i am fed up with....again, if we were advanced as we CLAIM to be, obama's race and palin's gender would of both been non issues--they would simply be candidates!

ps, isnt that the part of new jersey that the movie 'mall rats' was supposed to be about?

thanks for the support. i really appreciate the 17 people who think i am doing the right thing by making the kids actually learn something!

DB said...

I agree that the Electoral College is an inefficient, anachronistic devise, a left over from colonial days. But the main thing wrong with it is that it is that it isn't fair. Less populated states get more than their fair share of the votes, as you know. What would make it work is if they ammended it to be a number of votes equal to the number of representatives in Congress, instead of the representatives and senators. The only possible use I can see for the thing is that if the country really ever did fall apart so much that our cummincations were broken down, we would still have a body to make the decisions. Sort of why there are still monarchs in some countries

oldhousegal said...

I read an interesting article in the paper today (yes, I still read actual newsprint) about the Electoral College. According to the article, it made perfect sense at the time it was created. Of course many things made sense at that time (such as denying basic rights and even personhood to women and slaves) that we would find abhorrent today (at least most of us would), so it probably is time for a change -- hey, where have I heard that before?

I will also be glad when the election is over. I'm so tired of each guy doing his best to tell us that the other guy is a crazy, radical, unstable fool. The fact is, we are ALL crazy, radical, unstable and foolish from time to time (though some of us fit that bill more often than others!). Let's get over it and stop this fantasy that somehow Presidential candidates have to be perfect. Maybe then we could just talk aout the issues?

And please, please, please can we stop complaining about taxes? I don't like paying them myself, but how else do we think things like schools, snow plowing, police protection, and Social Security get paid for? Would we prefer to get a bill every time we need a service? "That'll be $2000 m'am for that fire we just put out at your house. Care to put it on your Mastercard?" At least then we couldn't be outraged about our tax dollars going to benefit those "other people" ("other people" meaning "anyone not exactly like me").

And while I'm on this rant, can we also stop talking about "pork"? It seems to me that the definition of "pork" for most people is anything that benefits someone other than them. If it's for your community, then it's a critical and needed project.

Whew. I feel like a new person now!

Tawnya said...

I will be SO glad when this election is over with.... I am fed up with both of them... Time to move on already people. I am hating the election as much as I hate HSM, all of them..... That's a lot!!!

Jake said...

Yeeesh, his campaign is really imploding by the day.

Exhibit A - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCaOCWYpPk4

Martha said...

::Sticking fingers in ears and singing:: I can't wait for this election to be done and over with!