Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Not Just the White House

Posted before the election was declared
Comment is free
Cif America
Braving the crowds
Turnout is key, and even Karl Rove is forecasting an Obama landslide – but there's a long way to go before he's sworn in

Ian Williams, Wednesday November 05 2008 02.00 GMT
Article history
Apart from quaint habits like spending two years and billions of dollars on an election when the Canadians can have a complete campaign from start to finish in between US presidential ballots, the oddest thing is that the leader of the free world is not able to actually cope with citizens wanting to vote.

All day I monitored reports suggesting that, apart from difficulties getting on the register, polling places have wonky machines, not enough of them and batteries of lawyers prepared to fight the election to the last writ.

Up here in New York's Catskills, voting began at 6am, but I waited. If this election was about returning the US to civilisation, then 10am was plenty early for someone who thinks America's most notable contributions to culture are breakfast meetings and drive-by shootings. At the town hall, the solitary voting machine, one of New York's un-programmable clunky ones was ready right away, staffed by four eager helpers, offering candies and cookies to citizens arriving. The Rotarians opposite offered a $7.50 lunch, which if not a free lunch as allegedly promised by Obama, is on the way.

Since in the US balloting is not an exact science, it is hardly surprising that polling isn't either. Before the polls closed, MSNBC was declaring Vermont for Obama and Kentucky for McCain. And as befits the evangelical voter base with its belief in miracles, Republican "prayers" have successfully conjured victory from electoral defeat with disturbing regularity recently. So until Obama is standing being sworn in, it is too early to tell. Incidentally, the Pew poll shows white evangelical protestants, brought up on faith and miracles, as the only religious group consistently backing the McCain-Palin ticket.

Turnout is key. And despite the email I got from McCain, presumably as a subscriber to sundry conservative websites, there is no doubt that more voters in general means more votes for Obama. So it was heartening to read early on that voters were queuing in Alabama with a record turnout anticipated. It was even more heartening that at the time Obama was born, only the bravest black Americans would turn out to vote in Alabama.

Even more worrying was when Karl Rove forecast a landslide for Obama, with 338 votes to John McCain's 200. If you assume every word Rove says is a lie, it would be worrying, but then if you assume that malice is the motivating force, it could be a big "told you so" to the Republican party for selecting his old foe McCain.

Looming over all day was the pernicious Bradley effect. It is sad that no one remembers would-be governor Bradley anymore, except for the latent racism his candidacy unleashed. Dr Alzheimer lives on: it remains to be seen as we scrutinise the difference between votes cast and exit polls whether Bradley's claim to immortality subsists.

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