I am fried. For the past six months I have followed the minutiae of the 2004 Presidential Election. I have listened to it on the radio, watched it on TV and read it on the web, eagerly consuming poll information, strategies, the lucky and unlucky breaks both sides got, the scurrilous attacks and counterattacks, the great and bungled moments in the candidates’ speeches, their conventions, their rallies. their endorsements, the financial news and so on and on.
In the last ten days the campaign has revved up to a level that seems unprecedented, or maybe it’s just that I haven’t wanted a guy out of office this bad since Richard Nixon, so everything seems to be more intense than it is (Come to think of it, both Nixon and Bush II were out of touch with reality, but at least in Nixon’s case it was more of a clinical matter — he couldn’t help it.). Last night I came fully awake twice, and lay there worrying. This is very unusual for me.
The pollsters and pundits keep saying that the race is a “statistical dead heat,” whatever that means. Almost all the polls have shown a two-to-four-point lead for Bush more or less continuously for six weeks. Every now and then, Kerry creeps ahead by a point or three in one or another poll, but then slips back behind a couple of days later. In a basketball game, this could be a hopeful sign: You only need to be ahead by one point when the final buzzer sounds, and if you stay close, that could happen.
But in real-world politics, who is fooling whom here? Any given poll on any given day might show a “statistical dead heat,” but in all the polls one guy is leading 95% of the time right up to election day. Any one poll is “within the margin of error,” but the Bush lead still spans pretty much all the polls, and consistently. So I am getting ready for four more years of insane violence abroad, repression at home and a laissez faire economy
- There are millions of newly-registered voters, many of them not “pollable.” Will they vote, and for whom? They are mostly young, a demographic that should favor Kerry.
- Who are all these early voters? Are they rushing to show their support for the status quo? Or unable to hold back their revulsion at what has been done in the past four years?
- There are hundreds of thousands thrown out of work during this Republican term — millions if you count the teachers, scientists and manufacturing workers now working at McDonald’s. If they vote their pocketbooks…
- There’s not much chance that anyone will be turned away this year in Florida, what with all the lawyers, polling judges and international observers on hand. This should work in Kerry’s favor.
These and other factors give me hope. I also derive some hope from Rush Limbaugh. I have been listening to his daily radio tirade for a while now, and the pitch of his rant has been rising lately. His attempts to spin literally everything that happens in the Republican direction have been getting hysterical in recent days. Probably his listeners get their news from him rather than from other sources, so they may not notice, but he has dropped any pretense of living in the real world lately, simply pulling out the facts he needs to make his points, ignoring everything else. He has researchers who find things out for him — perhaps they are telling him bad news, and he is going bonkers on the air trying to make it not so. I can only hope.
This crop of religious right-wing nutcases that has taken over the White House has done a lot of damage, and they are planning to do more. The nation will probably wake up some time during the next four years if they get reelected (perhaps I should say elected), and vote the Party out decisively in 2008. I hope it’s not too late by then. In the meantime, it would be delicious fun to throw them out now.