Monday, November 05, 2012

Snake-Handling Day Eve

People tend to look at snake-handling as an irrational activity; which I've always found interesting, since most people do it every election. Like snake-handlers they believe that the pure of heart can handle snakes without being harmed; like snake-handlers, being bitten doesn't prevent them from going back. It is, of course, Election Day tomorrow in the U.S., so Americans gear up for the triumphant climax of our current snake-handling experience, in which we finally manage to vote for snakes who will not bite us, and carry scorpions across the stream without being stung.

There are excellent arguments for voting, of course, but it is worth remembering that in total consequences it is probably one of the most dangerous activities you engage in all year. It can make a considerable difference which imperialistic warmonger you vote for; for instance, we might get involved in two or three wars next term instead of only one, and the rate at which American citizens are put on an assassination list on nothing more than the decision of the President might accelerate or decelerate. And, of extraordinary and crucial importance, it may make a considerable difference as to what purely symbolic gestures we offer up to economic gods. Yes, I am increasingly cynical when it comes to people telling me that their preferred candidate is worth voting for.

Current betting on the outcome seems to be leaning toward Obama. I find myself somewhat skeptical; I think an incumbent who has been struggling as much as Obama has is not likely to sway independent voters. Conceivably this could be neutralized if the Democrats manage to get enough voters to the polls -- which is as much about logistics as about enthusiasm -- and people do seem to be saying that the Democrats are doing better than usual at such organizing this year, particularly in states like Ohio. But because Democrats have to negotiate very diverse demographics, the electoral equivalent of cat herding, Presidential elections in the U.S. are typically decided by two and only two things: how intensely interested in voting solidly Republican voters are, and which way independent voters swing. My suspicion is that Romney will reach 270 electoral college votes; an incumbent without incumbent advantage is a duck in the hunter's sights.

Of course, a real answer to the question would require greater understanding of the causes of voting behavior than I have.

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