Post-election Political Punditry

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 15, 2006
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The general election is over, and it’s time for all the experts to pontificate about what happened - or better yet, what didn’t happen. Everyone should realize that it is much easier for political pundits to kibitz an election than it is to actually play the game.

So to all of those who had the intestinal fortitude to play the political game this time around, a simple thank you for your citizenship and brave effort. To all of the volunteers, even the ones who got stuck in traffic or over-slept, thank you for trying to help the polling places function correctly. All things considered, the volunteers at the vast majority of polling places around the state performed well.

It makes me think that, at $85 a day, being a volunteer during election time would be a great fund-raising effort for non-profit groups and even project graduation events. I’m sure a dedicated group of seniors from any of our high schools could successfully manage a modest polling place.

As was mentioned here last week, many voters show up at the polling place tired and grouchy, for a number of reasons. The ballots have so many pages with too many names on them and are written in a legal jargon that is tough to appreciate.

I know the mayor asked the members of the Charter Commission (13 of them) to keep the charter questions simple. I don’t know about you, but when I was reading through the questions it reminded me of studying botany in college - in particular, Gordon’s Rule of Evolving Bryographic Systems: “While bryographic plants are typically encountered in substrata of earthy or mineral matter in concreted state, discrete substrata elements occasionally display a roughly spherical configuration which, in the presence of suitable gravitational and other effects, lends itself to combine transla-tory and rotational motion. One notices in such cases an absence of the otherwise typical accretion of bryophyta.”

Simply put, he concluded that a rolling stone gathers no moss.

Let’s face it, the commissioners could have kept the charter questions simpler.

The biggest surprise during the entire general election was the lack of attempts by the media to influence the voters with their self-generated polls. Not one. Unlike the primary election when a day did not go by without some media outlet throwing out how many percentage points one candidate was leading another. During the primary election, a day did not go by without reading about how far behind or close U.S. Rep. Ed Case was to retiring Sen. Dan Akaka. They published polls of whom the public thought won the debate, and speculated on how many Republicans would cross over and vote for Case.

For some reason, that didn’t happen in the general election. No one was willing on either side to predict the spread in percentage points between Lingle and Iwase, or Thielen and Akaka, or anyone else, for that matter. What the media pundits might want to explain is why they didn’t.

The typical answer might be, “If the public knew how lopsided the polls were, it would hurt voter turnout and upsets would be impossible.” If you know how the political game is played, it is guaranteed that the candidates all knew what the polls were predicting. And for the candidates who were far ahead, releasing the numbers might lull their supporters into a state of complacency. For the candidates who were far behind, it might be demoralizing and make matters worse. Another possibility is the pollsters didn’t want the candidates who were far ahead in the polls to stop spending their hard-earned campaign funds.

For whatever reason, it serves as evidence that the media can and does manage the political news to their advantage. The probable rationalization for not publicizing the polls was to ensure a high voter turnout.

Well, we know now the ploy didn’t work. Only 53 percent showed up for the general election. The turnout was 13 percent lower than the 2004 general election.

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