Tuesday, November 09, 2004

We're the Power Company. We don't have to care.

It's all about the power: if you ain't got it, you might as well just sit down.

Let me give some background.

Consortium News reports that Bush's support has well-nigh incredible. Unbelievable. Freakin' amazing. See here:

George W. Bush’s vote tallies, especially in the key state of Florida, are so statistically stunning that they border on the unbelievable.

While it’s extraordinary for a candidate to get a vote total that exceeds his party’s registration in any voting jurisdiction – because of non-voters – Bush racked up more votes than registered Republicans in 47 out of 67 counties in Florida. In 15 of those counties, his vote total more than doubled the number of registered Republicans and in four counties, Bush more than tripled the number.

Statewide, Bush earned about 20,000 more votes than registered Republicans.

By comparison, in 2000, Bush’s Florida total represented about 85 percent of the total number of registered Republicans, about 2.9 million votes compared with 3.4 million registered Republicans.

Bush achieved these totals although exit polls showed him winning only about 14 percent of the Democratic vote statewide – statistically the same as in 2000 when he won 13 percent of the Democratic vote – and losing Florida’s independent voters to Kerry by a 57 percent to 41 percent margin. In 2000, Gore won the independent vote by a much narrower margin of 47 to 46 percent.

Like me, you might be wondering how he did it. In a remarkably frank assessment, Republican pollster Dick Morris explained it clearly:

“Exit polls are almost never wrong,” Morris wrote. “So reliable are the surveys that actually tap voters as they leave the polling places that they are used as guides to the relative honesty of elections in Third World countries. … To screw up one exit poll is unheard of. To miss six of them is incredible. It boggles the imagination how pollsters could be that incompetent and invites speculation that more than honest error was at play here.”

But instead of following his logic that the discrepancy suggested vote tampering – as it would in Latin America, Africa or Eastern Europe – Morris postulated a bizarre conspiracy theory that the exit polls were part of a scheme to have the networks call the election for Kerry and thus discourage Bush voters on the West Coast. Of course, none of the networks did call any of the six states for Kerry, making Morris’s conspiracy theory nonsensical. Nevertheless, some Democrats have agreed with Morris's bottom-line recommendation that the whole matter deserves “more scrutiny and investigation.” [The Hill, Nov. 8, 2004]

I was interested in reading more from Mr. Morris: how did he come to this conclusion? Well, for one thing, in his article, he gives a slightly longer version of the third-world election story:

So reliable are the surveys that actually tap voters as they leave the polling places that they are used as guides to the relative honesty of elections in Third World countries. When I worked on Vicente Fox’s campaign in Mexico, for example, I was so fearful that the governing PRI would steal the election that I had the campaign commission two U.S. firms to conduct exit polls to be released immediately after the polls closed to foreclose the possibility of finagling with the returns. When the polls announced a seven-point Fox victory, mobs thronged the streets in a joyous celebration within minutes that made fraud in the actual counting impossible.

Emphasis mine: in this quotation he shows how exit polling in Mexico would be understood to be more "real" than the actual vote--hence the joyous celebration. So, in a discrepancy between the two, it is crucial that the "real" information (as opposed to, say, the votes) get out as soon as possible.

Why, then, are we to believe that in the case of the good old USA, where we have been seeing that voting machines are as unreliable as anywhere, it is the votes that are real, and the polling false?

Morris does not really answer that question. Instead, he closes his piece with this call to arms:

The exit pollsters plead that they oversampled women and that this led to their mistakes. But the very first thing a pollster does is weight or quota for gender. Once the female vote reaches 52 percent of the sample, one either refuses additional female respondents or weights down the ones one subsequently counted.

This is, dear Watson, elementary.

Next to the forged documents that sent CBS on a jihad against Bush’s National Guard service and the planned “60 Minutes” ambush over the so-called missing explosives two days before the polls opened, the possibility of biased exit polling, deliberately manipulated to try to chill the Bush turnout, must be seriously considered.

At the very least, the exit pollsters should have to explain, in public, how they were so wrong. Since their polls, if biased or cooked, represented an attempt to use the public airwaves to reduce voter turnout, they should have to explain their errors in a very public and perhaps official forum.

This was no mere mistake. Exit polls cannot be as wrong across the board as they were on election night. I suspect foul play.

Calling fraud on the "60 Minutes" documents may be fair, though the underlying issue of Bush's service during Vietnam has yet to be resolved to my satisfaction: the validity of those documents does not determine the validity of Bush's service (or lack)--but in the minds of most voters it did, reality-based community be damned.

And Morris tries to make the same move with the "so-called missing explosives." "So-called" implies that those, too, were false, even though we have all seen the imbedded footage and read the witnesses reports that proves otherwise. Morris hopes that by now we have forgotten. You know what? We almost have.

As for me, I am sitting here quietly, sipping coffee from my "Dick is a Killer" coffee cup, coming to the sad and sorry conclusion that Morris is working his little tricks now with the election. The "so-called" polling data v. the God-loving votes.

I am hardly surprised by the hypocrisy here--the assertion of the validity of polls when they present the desired result and the dumbfuddlery in the face of their being "so wrong," "biased," "cooked." But without a paper trail of votes, how is America to pick out Mr. Morris's sleight of hand?

Members of the so-called reality-based community, I ask you: what can this nation do to counter such effective manipulation?

In the face of this election, many have been asking

* How do we get the progressive message out to a wider audience?
* How do we reframe "moral values" to fit the humanitarian causes in which we believe, at the expense of the decimation of rights practiced by the right?
* How do reshape the discourse, using terms that open minds rather than close them?
* How do we teach the American people to think and read critically, so that they approach articles, news, advertising critically rather than swallowing whatever message is sent their way?

I hate to say it, but here may be your answer: We can't.

Media, advertising, propaganda, winning elections--all require a power base from which to work. THAT, my friends, is the real issue here. Until there is more power in the hands of those trying to achieve the starred objectives above, we might as well hang it up, because we'll be fighting the symptoms and not the disease.

1 comment:

mtnRoughneck said...


Howdy. Like the blog.

Thought you might be interested in this article, though I must warn you it's a bit tinfoil-hattish.

Also, thanks for the link and endorsement. Very gracious of you, though I must admit to feeling unworthy of the praise.


Dave a.k.a. Whiskey Tango