The Etch-a-Sketch Election
Tuesday’s election reminded me of an Etch-a-Sketch, which I think was designed to make it easier to erase crappy drawings than to create good ones.
The picture we voters drew on Tuesday seems likely to be turned over, shaken and immediately redrawn as the now-perpetual campaign continues. But before moving on, it is de rigueur to pause momentarily and assess winners and losers.
Essentially, we spent $5 billion discussing the financial backing of Mexican parade and whether or not a teenage boy could have sex with a girl who was wearing a bathing suit under her clothes.
No minds were changed on either topic.
The shrill urban party preferred to discuss health care while the angry rural party favored immigration. Of course, there was no discussion of reducing of the actual cost of health care because major industry donors to both parties don’t much like that idea. Nor was there any meaningful discussion of the pros and cons of immigration beyond the shouts of “build the wall” or “you are a racist.”
Of course, there was no discussion whatever of such minor matters as whether the country was going broke or whether jobs were a good or a bad thing. These matters don’t poll well and they don’t add to the $5 billion we spent on making what was allegedly the most important choice ever.
The outcome was extremely close with the shrill urban party taking the House and the angry rural party slightly increasing its Senate majority. Importantly, both bodies are within easy reach of the other party in 2020.
This leads inevitably to a winner. (I like to be a little careful by saying “a” winner rather than “the” winner because the latter is the subject of much spinning on cable news. My preference is to suggest a novel answer that might not have occurred to others.)
My winner for this year is the “election industry” and it is well positioned to be an even bigger winner next go round. $5 billion for a midterm election smashes all records yet it seems likely to be a pittance compared to the amount that will be spent in two years time.
Both sides see prizes within reach and they are likely to spend accordingly. Where does the money go? Into the eager hands of those who happily make democracy a blood sport by over selling both fear and importance.
Now for a biggest loser (while continuing the “a”/“the” distinction): victims of sexual assault.
The advocates for those who heretofore stayed silent and suffered through the wrongs done to them have overplayed their hand. Read that sentence carefully. I said advocates not victims. The spokespeople have demanded that all sexual assault victims be believed absolutely and without question. This has opened the door to those who would exploit the benefit of absolute belief for their own advantage. It seems likely that the misplayed hand will diminish sympathy for legitimate assault accusations and perhaps even the frequency of victims coming forward.
Seems a high price to pay for a political issue that did not turn out to be very effective.
The 2020 campaign has already begun though not on the clean screen of an Etch-a-Sketch. Fifteen people are said by The Washington Post to be competing for the shrill urban nomination while two are seeking the angry rural vote. Too many are long past their sell-by dates and some should be honest and concede they are just in it for the attention.
After the winner-loser ritual, it is important to move directly to predictions, and this leads to a study called Hidden Tribes recently released by a group called More in Common. According to the study we fall into seven groups not just the two at the extremes that I have called urban shrill and rural angry.
From left to right, they are
- Progressive Activists 8%
- Traditional Liberals 11%
- Passive Liberals 15%
- Politically Disengaged 26%
- Moderates 15%
- Traditional Conservatives 19%
- Devoted Conservatives 6%
Now to my first 2020 predictions:
- The 14% of Americans at the extremes will have significantly more impact on the tone of the election in 2020 than the 86% who are more in the middle because that is where the money is.
- This will not be a good thing.