Monday, October 27, 2008

Dewey by a Landslide

The year was 1948. President Harry Truman was serving out all but one month of the iconic Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fourth term. Democrats had been governing for sixteen years, had seen the country through the Great Depression and had won World War II. Nevertheless, there was widespread feeling in the country that it was time for a change. Republican Thomas E. Dewey, like FDR a former governor of New York, was challenging Truman. Most polls and experts were predicting Dewey by a landslide. In fact, that is what newspaper headlines – prepared before the election – screamed. But it was not to be. Dewey by a landslide became Truman by a hair.

To listen to some pollsters and pundits today, Obama has the election sewn up and is writing his inaugural address. Other polls have the election seesawing back and forth according to each day’s headlines. We New Yorkers live in one of the bluest of blue states. That is good news for biology teachers and their students, but bad news for supporters of Republican candidates. America’s unique electoral college system makes it worse. No matter how narrow the margin of victory, the winning candidate walks off with all of New York’s electoral votes, and New York has one of the largest numbers of electoral votes. That is how George W. Bush won the election in 2000 while garnering fewer popular votes than Al Gore, and how Benjamin Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland. It is tempting for supporters of John McCain to think that their votes don’t count and stay home. That would be a big mistake. Two clichés bear repeating here, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” and “The only poll that counts is the one on Election Day.” Something similar operates in halakha: If you give up hope of finding a lost object, you’ve lost the object even if it’s found; the finder is absolved of his obligation to return it.

Get off your butts next week and go to the polls. Vote for McCain, vote for Obama, write in Donald Duck, but vote. Doing otherwise mocks the sacrifice of better men and women than we, those who fought and died, and who continue to be in harm’s way, so that we could vote. Billions of people around the world do not have that privilege. More will have it if America sees the present struggle through to victory. The world is a smaller place now than ever before. A tyrant on the other side of the world is a danger to our freedom, especially if he controls extensive natural resources. So vote as if your life depends on it. It just might.



Blogger Kylopod said...

In 1948, the science of polling was in its infancy, and the pundits failed to take into account that public opinion can change in a short time. The infamous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline was based on polls taken weeks before Election Day.

In every presidential election since 1952, the polling has been fairly accurate. It has failed only in very close elections, like 2000 and 2004. This year's election is not close. It has not been "seesawing back and forth" between Obama and McCain. Obama has been ahead in every single poll for the last several weeks. The only fluctuations have been a matter of degree. The pundits have crowed about the race "tightening" in a few polls, but the margin is very small and could easily be the result of sampling error.

McCain could still win, but it would require something very unexpected to happen in the next week, on the order of Bin Laden being captured. I can say confidently that if the election continues as it has, with McCain just trying to chip away at Obama's support, Obama will win.

If you don't believe me, consider this: the last two presidential candidates to bring up Dewey were Bob Dole in 1996 and George H.W. Bush in 1992. In short, it's a sign of desperation. McCain probably knows that in all likelihood he isn't going to win. But what's he going to do? Tell people, "Looks like I've lost, I might as well end the campaign." It's perfectly fine to fight to the finish line. It may be dishonest to project false confidence, but virtually all losing candidates do that, and of all the lies McCain has told during this campaign, this one is the most forgivable.

Tue Oct 28, 09:33:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Zev Stern said...

The electoral college system, inequitable as it is, is the only game in town and in this time of danger, can be used to our advantage. It has been speculated, I don't know how reliably, that 80% of New Yortk City's Orthodox Jews plan to vote for McCain. If we take the trouble to vote, we might be able to swing a close election, especially with the opposition not considering New York as a "swing state" and not campaigning very actively. New York has gone for Republican candidates before, most notable Eisenhower and Reagan.

If we've lost sight of what's at stake, our enemies haven't. According to Arutz Sheva , Hamasniks from Gaza are cold-calling random Americans and urging them to vote for Obama. Obama knows how to say the right things to the right people in a campaign, but those who would kill us in a heartbeat know who their Neville Chamberlain is. Quoting from A7's report, "At the time, McCain commented, 'I think it is very clear... why [Hamas] would not want me to be president of the United States, so if Senator Obama is favored by Hamas, I think people can make judgments accordingly.'"

Get on the train

Tue Oct 28, 12:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kylopod said...

Sorry, you're completely delusional. There is no way in hell you're going to flip New York toward McCain, least of all with an attack that may sway a few Orthodox voters but will probably be perceived by blacks and Hispanics as racist.

As for the business with Hamas backing Obama, please. That's old news; the more recent report about an Al Qaeda website backing McCain is not. I don't usually quote Fox News, but this article does a good job of summing up the flurry of embarrassing endorsements both candidates have received throughout this year. The only thing I disagree with is the conclusion that it "could sway moderate vote." Stuff like this isn't likely to sway more than a handful of paranoid nuts, which is why the McCain campaign dropped this tactic a long time ago, and only returned to it this week in an attempt to neutralize the more recent news about Al Qaeda.

I mean, seriously. As I said, it's not impossible that McCain will win. It's just unlikely. If you want to do as much as you can to turn the election around, be my guest. Heck, insert a prayer into Shmona Esrei for all I care. But you need to accept the fact that Obama is probably going to be the next president. Stick to realistic goals, like trying to get more Republicans into Congress.

Look, I find the idea of a President Palin almost as scary as you find the idea of a President Obama. But if that somehow happens, I'll accept it and cope with it. You certainly won't see me flailing around claiming I'll find a way to flip Texas to Obama by spreading around a pamphlet claiming that McCain is an illegal Panamanian alien.

Tue Oct 28, 04:00:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I heard Satan laughing with delight
the day the music died"

--Don McLean, "American Pie",
1972, the year the Israeli Olympic athletes where murdered by muslim terrorists

Update, 2008: Bin Laden and his muslim mysogynist head-chopping building destroying dumb toadies are laughing with delight, and are also laughing about how his 9/11 scheme won.

Thu Nov 06, 05:36:00 PM EST  

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