Ask Auntie Pinko
I am absolutely disheartened by the latest polls and by my
anxiety over all the underhanded, unscrupulous, shenanigans that
Karl Rove can come up with to damage our candidate in the eyes of
the undecided voters. How optimistic are you, dear Auntie? Please,
please lift up my morale!
Santa Barbara, CA
Relax, take a deep breath, pour yourself a nice comforting cup
of your favorite beverage, and sit down to do some serious research
on the mechanics of electioneering, election-results-predicting,
etc. The hype and the noise of the Republican campaign machine is
getting to you - which is, of course, its purpose.
The number one most reliably predictive poll question is this:
"Are you satisfied with the direction the country is going
Polling research shows that the responses to question, more than
any other, provide a reliable indicator of general election outcomes.
Here's another fact for you:
The closer to election day a poll is held, the more reliable its
results are. The only really reliable poll results are those
taken within 48 hours of election day.
Now, go back and look at that most-reliably-indicative question
again. Think about how it's likely to be answered today, tomorrow,
next week, and on November 2nd. Even if you take into account the
effects of the war in Iraq on voter perceptions, it's a powerful
indicator, because the relevant question there would be:
"Are you satisfied with how the war is being conducted?"
Social scientists who have studied elections say that two factors
control how people vote: hope and discontent. That is, if they see
a credible hope for something good, they will vote to reflect that.
Failing that, they will "vote their discontent." That is, they'll
vote against whomever they associate with the conditions that displease
them. The only thing that will prevent them from doing that is "fear
of a worse alternative."
I think it's pretty clear that there isn't a prayer that either
candidate could credibly push the "credible hope of something better"
button, conditions in America (and the world) being what they are
So, if you were a Kerry strategist, and were vividly aware of
how skilled Mr. Rove is at his job, what would your number one concern
be? I can't speak for those in Mr. Kerry's campaign headquarters,
but I would opt for getting pounded about "no program" over handing
Mr. Rove a stick he could use to beat my candidate with.
As long as there is nothing for Mr. Rove to distort and use as
a bogeyman to scare voters, the deciding factor will remain discontent.
It's a gamble, but one that has paid off many times.
It's a tough line to walk, but I'm actually quite encouraged.
The time for the Kerry campaign to come out with some clear, attractive,
well-expressed proposals will be at the very last minute, when there
is insufficient time for Mr. Rove and his well-funded smear machines
to twist them beyond recognition.
Until then, as far as Auntie can tell, the Kerry campaign is carefully
(and very cleverly) keeping their eye on those undecided voters,
and how not to turn them off.
What turns undecided voters off faster than anything else is the
perception of extremism and too much negative campaigning. The kind
of people who value "tough" over "smart" have already made up their
minds, and if the Kerry campaign has to write any group off, that
would be first on the list.
Undecided likely voters tend to be female, they tend to be middle-income
and middle aged, they tend to be educated to well-educated. They
also tend to vote on issues that affect them personally.
Right now those issues would be the likelihood of their family
members getting drafted into a vicious quagmire in Iraq, and the
ability of the economy to sustain themselves and their children.
So actually, Evangelina, I'm pretty optimistic right now. I think
that the well-funded conservative spin machines and their ability
to hijack the mainstream press has resulted in a vast cacophony
of noise and smoke… but not a lot of real light on the end results.
For a better perspective on just how effectively the right-wing
agenda has evolved its propaganda machine to obscure reality, here's
They've got a lot of money invested in making people think it's
not worthwhile to go to the polls, because the outcome is already
decided. But if you buy that, Evangelina, you're making Mr. Rove
Remember, get to the polls, get a friend who's never voted to register
and go with you. Or get someone who's already registered, but has
decided it's not worth the trouble, to change their mind and come
If you and every other Democrat can do that, we've got plenty of
reason to be optimistic. Thanks for asking Auntie!
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