Gnomicon 152

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  152
Monday 8 October 2012

Read gnomica 1-150 here!


It is enough that the people know there was an election.
The people who cast the votes decide nothing.
The people who count the votes decide everything.

Joseph Stalin (18 Dec 1878 – 5 Mar 1953)

A little less than a week ago we had the first set of presidential debates for 2012 election, and this coming Thursday we will have the vice-presidential installment.  Skimming the net and listening to the punditocracy on TV and radio one does garner the impression that most felt that last Wednesday Romney did the better job of presenting himself in that one.  In short, that evening he was the better actor.  Obama did look a bit listless and, I thought, even a bit disconnected at times.

Does it matter?

I don’t know.

Some claim that ‘undecideds’ may be swayed in one direction or the other by these histrionic displays.  Perhaps so.  Frankly – and logically – how could anybody possibly know if any given voter changed her mind on the basis of having seen one or all the debates?  Yes, in this as in many other matters you can certainly have opinions – but as Senator Patrick Moynihan once noted, while everyone is entitled to his own opinion, nobody is entitled to his own facts (or something like that).  And nobody can really know what the facts are in the present situation (any more than anyone can know how truthful the answers are that come from ‘exit interviews’).

So – again — do the debates matter for the election?

Well, one could take the profound cynicism of a Stalin as lodestar here, but – the odd fuzzy report from this precinct or that one (but not in ‘my’ state, of course!) about voting ‘irregularities’ aside, I do not want to and in fact do not believe that voting in this country is in any way even remotely as blatantly and in-your-face corrupt as in Stalin’s observation.  But I do believe that a Democratic vote is not worth much in a heavily Republican district, nor a Republican ballot in a Democratic venue.  And that is because we do not have a direct democracy in the United States.  The upshot of this (to me) anomalous state of affairs was most strikingly on display in the much contested 2000 election, where Gore lost to Bush in spite of the fact that the former had the most citizen votes (50,999,897 vs. 50,456,002).  Does this ‘co-opting’ of the election by the Electoral College (the voting appointments to which the general citizenry more often than not has, on my understanding, no say in making [see NOTE below]) make one wonder about the value of one’s individual  vote – being subject as it always will be to an override by individuals in the Electoral College one never had an opportunity to approve of for this task?  Bush had 277 votes in the Electoral College, Gore, 266 – and that’s a pretty slim margin in its own right – so he won.

No, it certainly is not Stalin’s tactics, but I admit that our setup has always puzzled me in that at some level it seems to me it may just bypass (= ignore) the actual voter – and no matter how many times the reasons for the Electoral College have been explained to me, I still really don’t get it in a democracy.  And, I do concede that it may well be that I simply don’t understand the internal arcane mechanics of selecting the College that may make it necessary on occasion that a vote I cast in the presidential election in actual fact be just an empty exercise that counts for nothing.

My own vote aside, a lot of Gore voters twelve years ago had, in my personal opinion, very legitimate reason to feel aggrieved.

The term ‘disenfranchisement’ comes to my mind, but what do I know?

“Each candidate running for President in your state has his or her own group of electors. The electors are generally chosen by the candidate’s political party, but state laws vary on how the electors are selected and what their responsibilities are. Read more about the qualifications of the Electors and restrictions on who the Electors may vote for.”

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