Wednesday, November 03, 2004

WRAPPING UP THE US ELECTION

FOUR MORE YEARS OF W.

Well the United States has four more years of President George W. Bush and the rest of the world is stuck with him, whether they want him or not.

The last thing Bush needed was another election result that ended up in court. I am convinced that some of the problems Bush had on the world stage had a lot to do with the fact that his first election was won in such controversial fashion. So you had foreign leaders looking down at Bush and basically treating him in a condescending fashion from the get-go- all these Socialist leaders abroad, for example, who weren't at all interested in a leader who was looking out for America's interests. It made for a rocky first term compared to that other great conservative, Ronald Reagan. Reagan not only had a big mandate from the American people thanks to two landslide victories, but he had like-minded conservatives like Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl and Brian Mulroney to deal with on the world stage. Bush had... Jean Chretien.

No wonder Bush has had lousy relations with all these world leaders who felt he was illegitimate, a dim bulb, a cowboy, and so on. As a result, the feeling of disrespect became mutual. Few of these leaders had Bush's ear when Bush really needed to be convinced on something. They might have even convinced Bush and the rest of his administration to forget the idea of an Iraq invasion, if they had some personal credibility with the American president. Never underestimate the importance of personal relationships in politics and in diplomacy- it counts for a lot.

Now that Bush is in for the next four years, the world is going to have to get used to it. The rest of the world will have to get over whatever hangups and objections it has about Bush and the way America conducts its affairs and so on, and find a way to work constructively with him and somehow develop a better relationship with the United States. Canada, too, is just going to have to get over him. Part of the reason Bush is so hated in Canada is because of all the trade disputes that have been going on, along with the general feeling that Bush totally ignores our country. But I think our federal government deserves part of the blame for the bad relationship, and quite frankly, John Kerry would have been no improvement as far as trade was concerned. Protectionism would probably have gotten a big boost with Kerry as leader and trade relations could well have gotten even worse.

I am an optimist. I think that during Bush's second term, international relations will improve. The United States looks like it is no mood to start wars with any more countries, and will probably be looking to improve both trade relationships and the world economic situation over the next four years. It's questionable whether Bush will improve America's reputation in the world or the general feeling of disgust with the United States that is out there right now, but he does have a mandate for what he is doing. So people around the world are going to have to suck it all up and respect that, whether they like it or not.

THOUGHTS ON THE MEDIA

By and large I thought the media did a good job yesterday. They were completely responsible and didn't rely heavily on the exit polls to make their projections- and a good thing too. In fact the early exit polls turned out to be junk. The numbers Wonkette posted yesterday also largely proved to be junk, and so were the numbers that came out late in the day that had Kerry up 2 in Florida and tied in Ohio. These poll numbers caused an uproar in the blogosphere and produced a lot of panic among Bush supporters, and phony confidence among Kerry supporters. Fortunately by late in the afternoon the bloggers were putting up posts telling people to calm down, that the samples were skewed, that everyone knows these exit polls were garbage, that exit polls had Elizabeth Dole losing her Senate race when she ran way back when.- and so on. So in the end the bloggers were able to get some semblance of truth out there.

There was a lot of controversy over the networks making projections and so on. Fox News and NBC both called Ohio for Bush and gave him the checkmark, but then CNN and the rest of them held off over Kerry's claim that the provisional ballots (votes by people who they couldn't find on the lists etc.) had to all be counted. I know people are going to yell at Fox News for jumping the gun again for being the first to call one of these critical states. Turned out, though, that Fox News and NBC were right to call it- Ohio was a lead of some 100,000 votes for Bush and it soon expanded to close to 150,000, and frankly Kerry wasn't going to catch up anyway because the margin was too big. It was a close race but not that close. I appreciate, though, people holding off on Ohio because nobody wanted to make any mistakes and they all wanted to get it right, and especially since Kerry wasn't conceding the race.

Me, I was convinced Bush had Ohio pretty much in the bag by 3 in the morning. So I was convinced it was over and as far as I was concerned they could have all called this race by then, regardless of what Kerry's campaign thought. I know the Kerry camp was huffing and puffing about how they thought they were going to win with the provisional votes in Ohio. A lot of these news organizations immediately got cold feet on Ohio when they got wind of that news, but by 2:00 AM it was obvious to me that Ohio was going to go to Bush and I was getting pretty frustrated. I thought they could have shown some courage and gone ahead and made a projection in Ohio, because it sure looked like it was over to me. Besides, if you're a news organization you don't make projections based on whether politicians want to concede or not- you call it as soon as you know who won, and to heck with what these campaigns think. If Kerry has lost, and that's the truth, then report it.

MORE ON WHAT THE EXIT POLLS FOUND

As for exit polls, well, their reliability is now blown to smithereens. The way I see it is: exit polling is useful when it comes to determining whether the race is a blowout, but they are no good in close races. In those races, you have to wait for the votes to come in because those are real votes, and real votes count. Interestingly, though, these polls are pretty good when it comes to measuring stuff like "what was the biggest issue in the election?" Turns out in Ohio that a large number of people cast their votes based on things like "moral values" (!).

Man, is the United States ever different from Canada on social issues. They wouldn't put up with gay marriages down there, or marijuana smoking, or women having abortions, or Janet Jackson having wardrobe malfunctions on TV, or any of that nonsense. In Ohio they not only voted to ban gay marriages, they also banned civil unions(!). And this coming from a state that I usually think of as being pretty mainstream by American standards. This must have been Cincinnati and environs: that part of the state is Bible Belt territory and even more lunatic about social issues than Kentucky, right next door.

Finally a word about young people and the election. You know, we had heard all the stories about how voter registration was way up this election, and that young people were all motivated to get out and vote because they wanted to defeat Bush, and so on. And Kerry and Edwards were all saying that young people were going to come out in record numbers and put the Democratic ticket in. Well, guess what. I watched NBC and they say that the turnout of young people was the same as last time. So much for all these young people, and for initiatives like Rock the Vote, and Vote or Die!, and all the rest. John Edwards said "if you see lots of young people standing in long lineups, we're going to win!" Well, we know what went down: they LOST.

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That's enough about politics for me. Tomorrow, I'll make sure I talk about that election-day NHLPA meeting of the player reps in the hockey lockout. Those greedy head-in-the-sand hockey players seem more determined than ever. People thought these guys actually care about the game and would be willing to come back- in your dreams.

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