June 25, 2006

Was the election stolen?

Rolling Stone, last bastion of freedom (apparently), published "Was the 2004 election stolen". In it, RFK Jr. expounds all the argument in favour of it. Most of it relates to statistical analysis of the results, and the exit polls. The analysis generally overstates the case based on the numbers (or rather, doesn't clarify the assumptions made). But some results do seem unlikely to be random.

But what does that mean? In case of the analysis of the results, not random means that there are unidentified processes at work that drive down Democratic turnout and/or boost the Republican one. In case of the exit polls, it means that Democratic voters are more likely to speak to a pollster (or fill out the form) than Republican voters.

And of course, there is certainly a good case that there was some voter fraud - as you can expect in an antiquated system with no national rules or regulations. In some cases the fraud was blatant. But much of the discrepancies can be due to two observations:
1) The Democratic base is livid, and very verbose about its disgust of the party in power. That explains why they speak out more. RFK Jr. briefly addresses the point, but not convincingly. The Republican base, however, was already holding its nose and voting Bush. They might have run home to wash their hands.
2) Democrats, more than Republicans, believe that the voting system is rigged. Hence, fewer of them bother to vote.

Now, it certainly is tempting to believe that there was voter fraud, because the alternative is hard to accept. Bush won with a comfortable margin, as the Iraq disaster was unfolding, and the deficits were growing. It's hard to believe that Bush represented, at that time, exactly what most of the US voters wanted.

But let's say that RFK Jr is correct, and that Bush's margin over Kerry in the popular vote was smaller, and that Kerry won the electorate. That simply proves that the electoral system is still a sham and needs to be refitted. If the candidate with the most votes, nationwide, would win the election, Al Gore would have been in the White House. But Bush would still have won over Kerry in 2004. Nothing can change the fact that about half of the voters really do vote Republican, even after Iraq, the deficits, and what not.

Of course, a choice between two parties means very little. It is hard to tell whether someone voted for Bush because they believe he is the Son of God, or because they want more tax cuts, or because they believe that abortion is murder, or because they hate Kerry's guts, or because they hate Democrats in general, or because they thought the economy was doing great, or because they thought that under Kerry the economy would do even worse. No way to tell. The same is true for Democrats. How many voted for Kerry ONLY because the alternative was Bush?

It's no way to run a country.


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