Too Close to Call Brings on the Dread

New Orleans   For all of us who lived through the 2016 election, seeing headlines in the paper the day before the midterm elections warning that it is “too close to call,” brings forward feelings somewhere between dread and total depression, along with quick mental notes on how to prepare for the apocalypse.  The major pollsters, perhaps chastened by missing the boat by a mile in 2016, could just be involved in some major league efforts to cover their backsides, but the skinny seems to be that some of the critical races in the House are within a 1% margin meaning that it could easily go either way.  The number of times in my lifetime of voting where “either way,” really translates into “no way it will be my way,” I would rather not have to list.  You don’t have the time, and I don’t have the energy.

Driving last week, I listened to Nate Cohn, the New York Times pollster on many of these issues.  He defended the validity and the practice of polling extensively.  His revisionism in some ways on 2016 is that vast legions of us don’t really understand that polling is an exercise in understanding probabilities.  Even when a Clinton might have a 90% plus chance of winning, a Trump still could have a 50% or better chance as well.  Interestingly, he also argued something that we often have found in union representation elections:  there are few close elections.  Even with the polls this tight, the momentum swings could mean the Democrats taking forty seats as easily as taking only ten, and vice versa.  Little comfort there, if you were planning on praying the polling gods.

Of course, it’s not just polling or momentum.  Hard core gerrymandering after the Republican takeover of the House and numerous state legislatures and governors’ seats, meant that they were able to build some pretty steep walls against voting and voting access after the 2010 census during redistricting.  The frequent court decisions in North Carolina that have held that the state legislature unconstitutionally tilted the balance there are simply one good example.  A Democratic surge in the House would allow some rebalancing of course.

As we read daily about the huge fight in Georgia where the Republican Secretary of State is also a candidate for governor – and in Kansas where Kris Kobach is doing the same thing – being able to attempt to disqualify up to 50,000 voters and new registrants is a powerful tool in conservative strategy.   The motto for these candidates is “preach democracy, don’t practice it.”  A federal judge may have stepped in to allow these folks to vote in Georgia, but these efforts have been embedded in one state after another.  Only four states have NOT restricted voter access in the last eight years.

The only thing certain, win, lose, or draw, is that from the day after the midterms everything will then focus on 2020 and the next round from Trump down.


Hey, Mr. Trump, Something is Happening, and You Don’t Understand?

Little Rock       Who knows what the opinion polls mean anymore?  My advice:  do the work, wait, and see.  Count the votes only when it’s over.  Never suffer from premature certainty.  Hit every door.  Make every call, and then make every reminder call.  Never stop until the voting polls close, because the opinion polls never stop.

On the road, I talked to our Houston office.  What was the real story on Congressman Beto O’Rourke versus hard right Republican Senator Ted Cruz in Texas?  Polls had Cruz up by 3% points now which is in the margin of error.  My guy said, well, sure Cruz is favored and will probably win, but….  The “but” says everything.  He went on to say you could not turn on the TV or radio or look at a website without seeing a Beto voting message.  People in Texas were talking about him running for President whether he won or lost for the Senate, and you just know that’s crazy talk, but it makes the point.  He’s raised more money than God.  He’s set the dark blue to faded red base on fire.  Who knows?  But, as my mother used to say, “who votes for a mean man?”

In Greenville, talking to a former judge from south Mississippi and a coach from the delta, they were not worried about Congress, they were worried about voter turnout.  Former Congressman Mike Espy was running a long shot race for US Senate.  They were hoping him into the runoff where he might finally find some love and some resources for his race, but weren’t happy that African-American voters were not swamping the polls.

Driving into the 2nd District of Arkansas where a Republican Congressman French Hill was in a tighter than expected race against a Democratic upstart, State Representative Clarke Tucker, I listened to a French Hill political ad that he said he was proud to run on the radio.  I couldn’t believe my ears when he said he wanted people to vote for him so he protect “preexisting conditions in health care insurance.”  Yes, that’s the opposite of the Republican and presidential program around the Affordable Care Act.  Yes, Republican Hill was endorsing a key plank of Obamacare.  This race is obviously tighter than I would have thought.

Speaking of polls, as in voter surveys rather than real voting booths, every one that I’ve heard about or seen, seems to say that the more Trump is doubling, tripling, and quadrupling down on his falsehood-and-fear strategy threatening immigrants, ignoring violence, and wearing his “I am a misogynist and proud of it” t-shirt, the more he is pushing suburban, wealthier conservative voters – and women by the gazillions – into the Democratic camp for the midterms and maybe longer.

To reprise the old Bob Dylan song, “something is happening and you don’t know what it is.  Do you, Mr. Trump?”


Please enjoy Last of Your Rock-N-Roll Heroes by Iron Wine.

Thanks to KABF.