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 In technical terms, the Electoral College system is what statistical analysts categorize as a useless, outdated system that was created when America consisted of disjointed agricultural communities and that defies all logic in the modern world where we have things like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.