Friday, January 09, 2009

The Fallability of Trends

Recently I found myself reading an opinion piece by Ron Brownstein in the National Journal that somewhat snarkily portended that recent demographic trends would ensure Democratic electoral success long into the future. Republicans would do well to close up shop, and waste away their days burning money and cigars while lounging on the sterns of nameless corporate-sponsored yachts. Brownstein's contention was that traditionally Democratic voting blocs are growing, and traditionally Republican voting blocs are shrinking. He even goes so far as to predict how much Obama would have beaten McCain by in 2016 if current demographic trends were extrapolated

Brownstein's prognostication, we hold elections in this country not to validate demographic trends, but rather to assess and judge the validity of thoughts and ideas. To use a sports analogy, this is why we play the games. This is why a nation that elected Jimmy Carter can a mere four years later turn around and elect Ronald Reagan, and why a nation that elected George W. Bush twice can give a resounding victory to Barack Obama.

We are, simply put, a nation of moderates; a middle of the road electorate that tires quickly of one ideology or the other, particularly when that ideology and its standard-bearers perform poorly and fail to deliver; and in American politics this tends to be the rule, not the exception. Elections are the collective results of millions of individual actions; when the voting booth curtain closes, we make decisions not based on the collective wisdom of a group, but on our own perceptions of the candidates and their messages. To oversimplify elections to the point of group think, demeans our democracy.

Indeed, the Democrats have already done much to get the pendulum of public opinion swinging. Impeached Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich and his scandal-tainted selection for the US Senate; Indicted Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon; Indicted Baltimore County Councilman Ken Oliver; disgraced New York governor Elliot Spitzer; Bill Richardson and Timothy Geithner, Obama Cabinet nominees who have been dogged by scandal (Richardson even went so far as to withdraw his name from consideration for the Commerce slot) all help to paint a none too flattering picture of the majority party; and their indiscretions will lead to their relegation as the minority part of the future.

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