Saturday, November 1, 2008

Be One Of Those Who Show Up

"We hold these truths to be self-evident," they said, "that all men are created equal." Strange as it may seem, that was the first time in history that anyone had ever bothered to write that down. Decisions are made by those who show up.

-- President Josiah Bartlet, The West Wing

Yes, I love that quote. It was delivered by Bartlett during a talk at a local university. He was trying to encourage students to participate more fully in their society, particularly by voting. It seems an especially apt quote here.

I've read a few articles in the last few days on various blogs discussing how the race between John McCain and Barack Obama is now widening, and that Obama has taken a commanding lead. I don't see that. What I see is this, courtesy of Pollster:

Pollster tries to "average out" the many polls that are taken to come to a more accurate understanding of what the voting public thinks at the moment. The reason I put "average out" in quotes is because it's actually a weighted curve-fit process, some of which is probably only understood by the people doing it. For my part, it seems more accurate than most individual polls. At least, taken together, all the polls cover more segments of the population than any one. I'll take this as the closest thing to the truth until I know better.

What that picture is telling us is that there is a fairly large lead for Obama - around six points. That's a strong lead, but not a commanding one. The race isn't widening, either. If anything, it looks to be contracting. How that will really play out in the last few days, no one can be sure. It's not the trend we'd like to see, though. What's more important, however, is how unimportant that chart really is.

The polls that make up that chart are national polls, which measure something that doesn't count. What actually counts is in this graph, which is also from Pollster:

That's a graph of the electoral college situation as of Oct. 31, 2008. It shows how the states would vote, according to Pollster's numbers, if they elections were held today. As you can see, the states that would likely vote for Obama would probably add up to more than the required number (270) to elect him President. That's good news if you're an Obama supporter.

As you may recall, Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 election by around half a percent. That's a fairly wide margin, yet he lost the electoral college vote. It's not the first time that's happened, either. He lost the election 271 - 265. If he had won Florida, which he officially lost by around 2,000 votes, Gore would have been our President for at least the next four years.

The electoral college means that your vote can count a lot more, or a lot less, than other votes. Why not assume it will mean a lot more?

I still haven't mentioned the most important reason to get out and vote, though. The most important reason is that much of what our government does has nothing to do with the President. There are members of Congress to elect, including the Slobber And Spittle Blue candidates. These people will write the laws and budgets that the President follows and expends. They, too, have a big effect on your life. In some cases, Darcy Burner's in particular, they'll need every vote.

What's more, in many areas, your local and state government will be even more important. When it comes to enforcing the law, protecting you from fire and other disasters, building roads, and educating people, the states and municipalities have at least as much to do as the Federal government with how those processes go.

So, my advice to you is, be one of the ones who show up. Assuming that Obama will win, and that this victory will make government better by itself counts as two very bad assumptions. If you can, vote early. If you can't, vote Nov. 4. If you don't, you won't find me very sympathetic when you bitch about the results.

UPDATE (Nov. 3): Here's an example of what I was referring to when I mentioned that state governments can have as much effect on some aspects of life as the federal government does:

As a healthcare provider and owner of a small business in this state for the last 17 years, I recently took notice of some changes. There are certain methods of problem solving, picking up the telephone and calling a state agency, that I long completely given up on. Some new employees who didn’t know not the bother doing that, reported having solved several problems recently by doing just that. They called a state agency, were able to talk with a human being and got the answers that they needed. There certainly is a lot of work to be done yet but my personal experience as well as the PEW report shows that Governor Gregoire has made progress working towards that smarter government.

Vote for Chris on Tuesday

This blogger is a lot more supportive of Washington Governor Gregoire than I am. I'll be voting for her primarily because her opponent is an obvious con artist who is quite clearly in the camp of the people who have made my part of Washington difficult to traverse and much harder to look at than it used to be. Nevertheless, the point should be clear - if you want your business to be less complicated by bad regulations or ineffective bureaucracy, then your state government is at least as important as the federal government. As the paragraph relates, we've had a dreadful environment for small business here for a long time, and if Chris Gregoire has helped change that, it sounds like a good reason to consider supporting her.

(h/t to Lynn Allen at Evergreen Politics.)


One Fly said...

I don't listen to any bitchers on any issue unless they've participated in the process.

Some are proud when they tell you they don't vote and why.

Cujo359 said...

It's a pride I've never understood, no matter how many times I hear the explanations.