....LMB: "Last Election Post"....

November 08, 2004

So what the hell happened in this election? Let's break it down as best we can.

First of all, I want to point out the people who weren't allowed to vote. In many states, there are laws preventing ex-cons from voting. I have yet to heard a good explanation for this (aren't we always saying that someone who's gone to prison has "paid their debt to society"?), and it seems to have come out of the same sets of laws passed after the Civil War that were intended to prohibit African-Americans from voting (ah, voter suppression, as American as apple pie and cross-burning). Regardless of their intent, these laws do disproportionately deprive African-Americans of their voting rights: about 13% of African-American men can't vote, about 8% of all African-Americans can't vote. All told 4.7 million Americans can't vote because of these felony disenfranchisement laws.

Then we see another 40% of Americans who can legally vote but did not vote. I think this figure is extremely important to keep in mind, but most pundits aren't bothering to. They keep acting as though the results of the election accurately reflect the ideological mindset of the country. "51% of Americans support President Bush," they say. No they don't, jackass. You can only say with certainty that about 31% of Americans (who are eligible to vote) support President Bush (or possibly don't support him, but disliked John Kerry). Maybe 31% support him, maybe 71% support him. We don't know, because we know very little about the non-voting folks. So pundits, get your damn facts straight.

Now let's look at all this Red State/Blue State bullshit. It's become conventional wisdom that the country is geographically split by ideology, with "blue" Democratic coasts and a "red" Republican middle. You can understand why media folks want to hold on to this idea, it's very simple and appealing. And wrong, but hey, if everyone else is saying it, you're not going to get in trouble for saying the same thing, right?

Here's what I'm trying to say: check out the helpful maps here. Let's look at Texas. On the state map, it's solid red. When you look at the breakdown by county (scroll down, second map on the page), we see that a number of counties voted for John Kerry. And when we look at the voting percentages, we see that 38% of the voters favored Kerry. That's not a "red" state, that's a state with a lot of Democrats but even more Republicans. The media's lazy charade in which states are solid color blocks, borders on irresponsible.

[edit]

Here's what I'm talking about.

Instead of going straight red-blue, this map marks how strongly each county supported Bush or Kerry. Not much red, not much blue, lots and lots of purple.

[/edit]

There, wanted to get those things out of the way. Now I can finally start talking about what I think happened this election.

The popular explanation of this election is that the Republicans mobilized religious conservatives to vote by putting Gay Marriage Ban referendums on many state ballots across the country. The evidence for this comes from exit polls in which 22% of respondents said that their number one concern when voting was "morality" (well, that and Karl Rove's public admissions that this was his strategy). First of all, I don't trust these polls. And second, saying that you're concerned with morals doesn't necessarily translate into "I wanted to vote down gay marriage."

That being said, it seems likely that these referendums did have an impact. At the very least, it made the voters in those areas think a bit more about their social values, and at most, turned the election into a referendum on whether or not that individual voter approves of homosexuality. And for the most part, Americans are very homophobic. This gay referendum tactic was also clever in that it played on the one inroad that Republicans have to ethnic minorities: religion. African-Americans and latinos are often devoted Christians, which often leads to conservative social values.

I think the biggest problem in analyzing the election is that commentators want to find a "magic bullet." They want to say that the nation loves Bush, or that Kerry should've used Strategy Z or that everyone just voted for Bush because they're scared of terrorism. Of course, people make their decisions based upon different criteria. Some people probably focus on candidates' policies and how it will effect that voter specifically, others will look at the best policies for society. Some will simply vote their party affiliation. Some will vote for the candidate they think seems most trustworthy. Some will vote for the person they think will make America look best. Some will vote for the person who they think will be the best leader. And of course, most people probably have not analyzed the way that they are making this decision, so you couldn't even ask them to find out. There is no one way to vote, but saying that won't get you a seat on the cable news talk shows.

It seems to me that the biggest predictor of a person's vote is whether they live in an urban area or a rural area. Check the second and third maps on this page to see that the rural areas (most of the United States) tend to have more Republican voters, while the urban areas (the coasts, the Northeast, and along the Mississippi River) tend to have more Democratic voters.

I'd say that if someone really wanted to understand the American political landscape, they'd first have to try to get a handle on the political views of non-voters. Not asking them "why didn't you vote?" as much as trying to see how they feel about various political issues. They could very well be strongly liberal or conservative, but just feel that voting doesn't make a difference. If you want to know what America thinks, you really need to tap into that mystery 40%.

After that, I think I'd try to interview folks in both rural and ubran areas, both Bush and Kerry voters, and try to get them to explain how they made their decisions. Then you could compare the responses of the urban and rural Democrats and the urban and rural Republicans and start looking for patterns.

But that's all the nice quasi-academic stuff. The core of this election was Bush himself. Bush ran on his public image rather than his record or his policies, and Kerry ran on a "Bush is doing it wrong" platform. I think your average Jo(e) would have, over the course of four years, gotten a clear image of Bush (whether that image is true or a fraud), and didn't think that Bush was doing things so badly that he should be thrown out (I think most Americans don't watch enough news to really fathom how badly Bush has fucked up the nation and world). I think that some voters are still afraid of terrorism and feel that Bush is a "strong leader" in the sense that if you were in a fort and were being attacked, that Bush would be a good guy to put in charge of the effort to fight back (this would be for people who bought into Bush's false image. I don't think he would fight the good fight in a fort siege, I think he'd be the guy who'd volunteer to go get another barrel of gun powder, and then hide in the storage room until the fighting stopped). Despite Kerry's military service, his image was never one of "good fort leader". He might be a good guy to run the fort before the attack began, but afterwards people would want the passionate fighter that Bush pretends to be.

Sadly, this election has made me fear that maybe there are so many Christian fundamentalists in this country that they can actually start acheving their goals of changing the government and culture to fit their own kooky interpretation of the Bible. I've usually been a very tolerant agnostic, but these election reults make me wonder if religion is my enemy.

And to everyone who voted for those No Gay Marriage propositions, fuck all y'all. You took your belief that some people are less human than others and made it law.

Posted by Jake at 02:16 AM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Thank God that criminals cannot vote.

You Liberal scum-bag.

Homosexuals should not have the right to vote either.

Posted by: Neil Chauncey at November 8, 2004 02:22 AM

Why is this guy even reading LMB?

at least you have a lot of other nut jobs to reinforce your moronic ideals.

Posted by: Neocondestruct at November 8, 2004 06:38 AM

Don't sweat it, I gave his adress to some spammer friends of mine. :o

Posted by: inonthekilltaker at November 8, 2004 12:32 PM

I agree, we should take away voting privleges from certain people, especially homophobic bigots.

Posted by: SnowCrash at November 8, 2004 01:01 PM

Jake. You, as usual put the argument in tangible word before UI can. I've been waiting for someone to say thwe mandate thing and how it'as clear that the nation wants to head in that direction. 59 Million people voted for W (Lets use a nicely rounded 60). That's 60 out of a nation of nearly 300 M people. That's about 20%! Clear direction my ass. Nice closing sentence by the way.

Posted by: Brian at November 8, 2004 01:21 PM

http://www.truthbeknown.com/cannibal.htm

MOTHER OF JESUS CHRIST! My worst fears of the 'blood and body of christ' thing are confirmed!

Posted by: SnowCrash at November 8, 2004 01:27 PM

The ex-con disenfranchisment is not only racially discriminatory, but it is so by class as well since most ex-cons are from impoverished backgrounds. Kind of reminds you of where the real power lies.

Also, I'm not sure if the comment about African-Americans or Latino Christians being Republican-supporting conservatives is entirely true. It's been my experience that black church leaders tend to support Democrats. Latinos/Hispanics vary, noticeably by class. Some affluent ones and the descendents of right-wing anti-Castroites are Republican, but many support Democrats as well.

Posted by: Eric at November 8, 2004 03:08 PM

Never should we allow anyone to take away someone's right to change their position in life by voting, it's downright undemocratic.

Posted by: inonthekilltaker at November 8, 2004 03:17 PM

i cant understand why someone would actually care who marries who. i have heard a few times from repubs that i know that alot of people really did vote on that vague "values" idea. how does gay marriage in any way affect the values of anyone else? it doesnt.

certain groups in this country seem to be trying to push us in a different direction that we were once heading. they are fighting for some strange value system that is the ideal, to them, for this country. but the problem with that is there are 300 million people here, from many places, and with all sorts of different worldviews, tradtions, and values. some of us believe there is plenty of room for everyone...

it seems that those who voted based on their values are in fear of having them taken away, or altered, or threatened in some way. i have heard of nobody who is in any way trying to do away with christian values. nope. i only hear of people who are trying to fight to make others' values accepted in the same culture.

christians seem to forget that the whole "freedom of religion" part of the founding of this nation exists. now they are trying to impose their religious ideas about what marriage is onto this country's legal system, which is very wrong. well, actuallym they HAVE imposed it.

im not against christians per se, but i am strongly opposed to anyone who tries to force their views on others.

Posted by: ryan anderson at November 8, 2004 04:33 PM

i strongly agree with you ryan but uh what are we going to do about it? because things arent going to fix themselves. i dont mean this in a mean way but i mean somethings got to be done.


Posted by: katrina at November 8, 2004 05:06 PM

Hey Liberal:

You think I would give my real email address on a liberal website?

Ha, you are just as assumed. I read lib websites to see what you neo-commies are thinking of at the present, apparently, not much.

Posted by: Neil Chauncey at November 8, 2004 06:12 PM

Yeah, that's what I thought, I just posted that to provoke you, Mr.Neo-Nazi.

Posted by: inonthekilltaker at November 8, 2004 06:58 PM

Besides, we're not all Commnists here, some of us are anarchists, sheesh, get your fucking extremists right!

Posted by: SnowCrash at November 8, 2004 07:17 PM

You're forgetting who you're talking to, SnowCrash. Remember, to some of these people, Communists ARE Anarchists. And vice-versa. Never mind that one is a theory of government, the other of economy.

Posted by: Wolf A. Woman at November 9, 2004 03:52 PM

Yeah, we're all chopped liver to mister Neo-Con.

Posted by: SnowCrash at November 9, 2004 06:02 PM

Heh heh, I think I scared him off, must be my breath, heh heh heh.

Posted by: SnowCrash at November 9, 2004 08:24 PM

Oh well. We probably shouldn't feed the troll anyway.

Posted by: Wolf A. Woman at November 9, 2004 08:34 PM

don't forget the currently imprisoned. in a democracy they would be able to vote, too.

Posted by: hereitype at November 9, 2004 08:56 PM

it dissapoints me that these modern so-called "conservatives" feel the need to do stuff like call 51% a 'Mandate', make slogans like 'Compassionate conservativism', and take donations from the likes of Enron.

Posted by: inonthekilltaker at November 9, 2004 09:07 PM

for those of you keeping score at home, hereitype's folks currently incarcerated number more than 1.8 million and are overwhelmingly people of color, thanks to our structurally biased justice system.

Posted by: Don Imus at November 13, 2004 12:28 PM
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Lying Media Bastards is both a radio show and website. The show airs Mondays 2-4pm PST on KillRadio.org, and couples excellent music with angry news commentary. And the website, well, you're looking at it.

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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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