Monday, June 9, 2008

Just A Thought...

I have here a link to an Associated Press article [], which postulates that the US Presidential election will come down to the results in 15 states. I've always been a little suspicious of that kind of prediction, especially made a good five months before the election [Hell, Democrats weren't even exactly sure of who their candidate would be until last week]. How can otherwise clear-thinking pundits [I'm being a tad generous here] presume to know the will of the American people [the same American people, mind you, that make predicting the next American Idol such a chore even a month before the Final] this far in advance? (Sometimes I wonder how TV weathercasters have the chutzpah to predict the weather more than 24 hours in advance. I suspect if someone kept records of the predictions for more than a day ahead, we'd find they were as good as baseball batters. And remember, skillful batters fail to reach first base seven out of ten times. If they're good!]

The Patron Saint of those who distrust polls, of course, is Harry S Truman. In the 1948 Presidential election, he trailed his principal challenger Thomas E. Dewey, according to the then-new science of polling, throughout the campaign. Come Election Day, though, he squeaked out a narrow victory [How narrow? Well, take a good look at the newspaper Truman is holding in the picture at left. Even today, because of printing requirements, newspapers don't always get the latest information. That paper had to put a headline about the election on the front page. They chose "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN". Oopsie...]

To be fair, polling was still in its infancy in the 1940's. Today, both science and standards have improved spectacularly. So let's assume for the moment that the experts have doped this out correctly. If so, the winner in 35 of the 50 United States can reasonably be predicted. Okay, here's my thought: in the interest of saving money and time, why not just cancel the Presidential vote in those 35 predictable states? We would, of course, hold the election in those 15 "unknowable" states [for that matter, we could have the 35 non-voting states help defray the costs in the other 15. It would be less expensive and time-consuming than actually holding a vote we know the result of in June, for God's sake!], and the results would decide the election.

Well, no. There's still the hurtle of the Electoral College to get over [American readers of this blog may remember the College from their high school Civics class. If not, take a moment and Google "electoral college"]. Strictly speaking, the results of the College vote can be predicted by the general election results. But also strictly speaking, the College members, in most states, are not legally bound to vote for the candidate that won their state's election.The College, the wisdom teeth of the American political system, has always done the right thing and elected the correct candidate. But nowadays, who knows? And, if such a switch became obvious after the fact, what, legally, could we do about it? Wait, I've got it! We'll take a poll, and...

No, that's how we got here in the first place...

-Mike Riley