Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Clean lines, order, and democracy

A New York Times/CBSNews poll, published today:

The poll reflected the electoral feat of the Bush campaign this year. He won despite the fact that Americans disapproved of his handling of the economy, foreign affairs and the war in Iraq. There has been a slight increase in the number of Americans who believe the nation should never have gone into Iraq. A majority of Americans continue to believe the country is going in the wrong direction, traditionally a warning sign for an incumbent.

The man won with nearly 52 percent of the vote. No argument. A majority of voters nationwide selected him as President on November 2. He will win that convoluted college of electors when they get together in December, don their powdered wigs and exchange stories about their land and estates (whoops, sorry, wrong century).

But a majority of the population disapproves of this President's policies and methods.

Rather incongruous. Psychologists and political scientists make a good living by deciphering these mixed signals. But clearly, many people entered the voting booth and pulled the lever based on their gut feeling. That's a technical term, incidentally. "Gut feeling": a decision-making process shaped by rational sortation of issues, fear of change, sound bites, this morning's paper, a set of candidate pictures flipping through the mind's digital viewer, and the barrage of overt and subliminal messages purveyed by the political advertisements.

If we all used a set of pro/con columns that sorted the issues by candidate, and we added up the check marks, the result may have been different. But cleanliness is not one of the attributes of democracy.

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