03 November 2004

It's All Over But the Litigating

If nothing else, the current problems with definitively stating who won the election yesterday demonstrate that the Electoral College has got to go. But it won't, given that the problems with it favored the Republicans in both elections. Unless there's a significant judicial decision that changes things radically, the failure of Proposition 36 in Colorado looms even larger.

But that's beside the point. The Democratic Party shot itself in the foot by refusing to provide a clear policy-level alternative to the self-aggrandizement of the Bush administration. Instead of Kerry's rush toward the center since April, he should have stuck to what got him there. He has now lost not just this election—I think it about 90-10 probability that Bush will win the Electoral College when it meets in December, and that's the only vote that matters—but the 2008 election for liberals. After this experience, the Democratic party and candidates will—as they always do—draw the wrong lessons. They'll assume that the "Clinton model" is the only way to get back into the White House: Since their "liberal candidate" lost, they'll nominate a centrist, and then the liberal wing of the party will yet again be just enough less-than-enthusiastic to result in a yet further shift to the right. Kerry's rush toward the center only undercut any "liberal credentials" he may have had by abandoning them. I, too, am tired of choosing between "who cares?" For the good of the nation, elections need to be about a great deal more than "we stand for winning, and against somebody else winning." But it's pretty darned clear that our ruling class can't, or at least doesn't, see it that way.

In any event, I'm still upset by low voter turnout. According to figures from the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, this election's turnout may exceed 60% for the first time since the height of the Vietnam war. What that means, in turn, is that Bush got around (and probably slightly less than) 1/3 of the votes that should have been cast (as did Kerry). That's not a "mandate" by any measure, although the winner will no doubt claim one. Frankly, I think the Electoral College by itself suppresses voting statistics, as does our nonproportional representation system and silly overreliance on state representation in the national government.

But don't blame me. I voted.