Saturday, November 08, 2014

Election Results

As I write this, it's still several days away from "the most important election in history." Even without knowing the outcome, however, I can predict certain things. The winners are crowing about how they have the kind of ironclad mandate that only comes with racking up 50.1% of the electorate. Meanwhile, the losers are busy working on their finger pointing, while simultaneously staring at another 2 or 4 or 6 years of life at the law firm as a junior partner, and wondering if they can put themselves and their families through the same meat grinder come next election cycle. Was I right or was I right?

But beyond the results themselves, what did we learn? One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. And yet every 2 years we go through this collective exercise in frustration called an election. In it we endeavor to select people to run our lives and and our world, but who campaign on anything but the issues. It's character assassination, pandering, promises that no one thinks they can keep, obstructionism and action plans that always seem to be at least one year longer than the term for which they are trying to get elected. Is it any wonder that voter turnout is around 56%, and drops to the mid 30's in the off years?

Still, some truths emerge. What's astounding is that while they seem apparent to everyone, from voters to candidates to political operatives, no one takes action on them. If you doubt me, write these down, and seal them in an envelope to be opened in 700 or so days. I will wager a ten-spot that very little will have really changed.

Robocalls don't work. There should be a special place in hell for whomever invented this technology. I don't care who is endorsing you; calling me twenty times and paying back a recorded message will not make me think about you any differently. If you're like me, the second you pick up the phone and hear that "click," you can't hang up the phone fast enough. And if you have several lines, and they all start to ring within half a second of each other, you just walk away, assuming you don't yank the phone cable straight out of the wall first.  

Direct mail is a waste. We keep our garbage cans in our garage. To go from our mailbox to the kitchen you have to pass them. All those glossy brochures for you and against the other guy? They never make it past the first can. Unless it's full. Then they get to the second one. Though I guess if you look at them as a private subsidy for the US Postal system, perhaps they do serve a purpose.

Repeating it countless times does not make it so. We're not stupid. We may be lazy, pampered, spoiled, but stupid? No. Just because you say "Jim Smith took money from seniors" or "Sally Jones wants handguns to be free and plentiful" 700 times doesn't make it true. Most positions are more nuanced, and anyone who has ever had to make a decision about anything know that sometimes, just sometimes, thing aren't simply black or white.  

Targeting doesn't work. Yes, it is indeed impressive that you isolate out specific data for Prius driving single women in northern Virginia who care about energy issues. But it's never that simple. Candidates have to take stands on multiple issues, not all of them lining up neatly with Republic or Democratic talking points. The hardest right candidate will be against same sex marriage until he or she has a gay son. The furthest left candidate will be against the Keystone pipeline until their husband or wife gets a job working on it. In neither case do they flip their entire belief system. Rather, like all of us, they accommodate and rationalize and adjust their world view. We are not the sum of our statistics. Rather, they are an incomplete snapshot, one which hardly gives a complete picture of what we want and what we're willing to accept.

But odds are all of these points will fall on deaf ears. All might take the weekend off, but come Monday it will be time to hit it hard. After all, the main event is just two years away. And a good robocall doesn't record itself.


Marc Wollin of Bedford voted a week early by absentee ballot. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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