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We’re three weeks out from the midterms and the one thing everyone seems to agree on is … nothing.
If you take the headlines, the Twitter snark, and the “conventional wisdom” and put them into a brown paper bag, shake it up, and pour it out on the kitchen table, it reads like a Dr. Seuss book:
Red Wave. Blue Wave.
Old Wave. New Wave.
and Faking News.
An Old Fashioned Screw You Wave.
Old hag. Cruel brag.
Will you? Won’t you?
Would you? Could you?
Whose fortunes are going to sag?
There are a lot of reasons that polling and pundits are in a bit of a funk. It’s a combination of Teflon, tech, and Trump and how all of those things overlap.
Let’s work backward on that list. Donald Trump has broken the conventional wisdom. I will personally cop to five times I announced that his candidacy had imploded and that he was unelectable. Politics has turned into a spectator sport and everyone has become a play-by-play announcer. We’re eager to bloviate how every pitch and every play is going to be “the game changer.” But mostly it never is. If politics has any similarities to sports we should internalize our feelings for Joe Buck and just keep our mouths shut. The odds of us embarrassing ourselves always seems to be greater than the odds of any of us being correct about anything. Analyzing the game afterward instead of inside of it increases your odds of being correct.
Some time back I was reading about the difficulties concerning polling House races because area codes and Congressional Districts are not in sync. That got me thinking: how is this not a problem for all races now? My daughter is now in the third year of her teaching career in the Carolinas but she still has a cell number with an Ohio area code. Every one of us has people like her in our lives, perhaps dozens. And that is only going to become more commonplace as the years roll by. She can give you an opinion on the Ohio Senate race but she won’t be voting in it. Identifying the likely voters from someone who just has an opinion is voodoo anyway.
Finally, the Teflon, or maybe I should call it “Tribal Teflon.” (I hesitate because I’m not fond of using “tribal” to describe politics.) So many are convinced that the other side of the political aisle is downright evil that not much sticks these days. The mud and the feces may fly but it just rolls off into a massive puddle at our feet.
No matter what charges are leveled against a candidate these days the answer to everything seems to be, “Yes, our people are crazy but their guys are just evil!” It’s the binary hole we’ve dug for ourselves. If Barack Obama could take one thing back from his campaign days it might be this line: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” Traditionally, Americans like change but like it confined to tinkering around the edges. Fundamental transformation is radical and revolutionary. It has energized the fringes and imploded the middle.
This kind of leaves the independents and others who only casually follow politics to weigh their voting options between the lesser of two evils or the lesser of two crazies. That’s a helluva way to run a country, isn’t it?
Perhaps the uncertainty will be a motivator. Horserace political coverage is probably a greater vote suppression technique than anything the Democrats accuse the Republicans of doing. Why vote when you know it’s either in the bag or hopeless? The two biggest upsets in political history may be tied to predictive reporting. George Gallup was so certain of Tom Dewey’s landslide that he stopped polling three weeks before the 1948 November elections. And why go to the polls when Hillary has a 95 percent chance of being Madame President? If it wasn’t prior restraint and antithetical to the First Amendment, I’d propose outlawing opinion polls altogether.
Blue Wave. Red Wave.
This is what I Dread Wave.
I vote. You vote.
The “what are we gonna do vote?”
A “We Elected Who?” Wave?