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calvinball: the electoral arms race
changing the rules has always been part of the game
i hear a lot of people sputtering in indignation about “how could fetterman win?” over the last day or so and, to my mind the answer is obvious: he didn’t. his tribe did.
people were not casting votes saying “hey, he looks great! good policy, smart guy, peak of health, clearly on the ball!” they were voting a party line. and he got swept along as the “broom” put forward to vote for. it’s never a vacuum.
i’ve heard lots of people say “oh, he’ll just step down once elected and appoint a successor from our team!” i have no idea if this is true, it’s just a story many seem to believe.
but oz was a weak, mockable offering with carpet bagger roots running under a dark cloud and on negative coattails.
mastriano was a terrible candidate for governor and he got blown out by 13 points. oz, despite his weird vibes and being out of place in a blue collar state as a “rich TV guy whose own former patron (oprah) lined up against him” only lost by 2.5 points and that was more than all mail in. he crushed fetter on day of.
clearly, relative to PA norms, fetterman was also a terrible candidate. he underperformed his top of ticket lead by over 10 points. it just was not quite enough to lose because he’s well known in the state and has been in office there for ages. he had the machine, the name recognition, top of ticket coat tails to ride, and “if our tribe does not win, the other tribe will eat us!” fears to help. he also got a lot of early voting in before his “debate debacle” and so people may have underestimated his issues.
apparently, it was enough.
walker was a similarly disastrous candidate for GA senate. seriously, whose idea it was to run an NFL playboy with who knows how many illegitimate kids it took a court order to get him to even acknowledge for a senate seat in a family values state is quite the question.
it was like a “ricki lake” show on repeat.
this should have been a walk-in touchdown. instead it’s a run off.
i could go on and on on the weakness of the offerings.
but it’s all something of a piece and i covered the lack of vision and character yesterday.
this was mostly a very uncompelling offering from team elephant.
they had a real shot to put up a big win and they dressed the JV cheerleader team in pads and hiked the ball into the woods instead.
many seem wont to blame election hijinks but i suspect this is more red herring than grand fishy proximate cause and that while i’m sure there was (as ever) skullduggery i suspect it’s likely not the widely dipositive issue so many seem to argue it to be.
we can debate how mail-in ballots changed the nature of elections, and there is obviously a discussion to be had.
and there is no question these changes have favored dems over GOP or that they were chosen to do so, but that’s not automatically the same as cheating or fraud. slanting the electoral laws is a time-honored tradition as old as the athenian agora. this is hardly new news.
is there cheating? of course. always has been. was it enough to swing elections? who knows? maybe a few, probably not this many. (though the fact that the question is so utterly unanswered and systems are so opaque is in and of itself a real issue) but at the end of the day, that’s the playing field. arizona and philly are gonna keep being arizona and philly. let’s not even speak of chicago. these sorts of changed happened daly. (sorry)
this has always been an arms race.
and you ignore it at peril.
we can put forward solutions:
or we can barrack for in person only paper voting with purple finger ink and the whole 9 yards, but we’re all probably unlikely to get it.
because that’s not what the people who run elections want.
clearly, 90% of the purported rationales for “why we need to do it this way” are obvious sham, but do me a favor and wake me up when THAT becomes prohibitive in government.
of course it’s dishonest, it’s government.
but like it or no, we live in the real.
election rules are like the tax code. it’s complex, ever changing, and basically unparse-able and that is a feature, not a bug. it’s purposeful design.
the whole point is for amazon to be able to figure out the quintuple-irish reverse-domicile invert and pay no tax while you get grilled by the IRS for missing $7.29 in interest received on a money market account.
however manipulative it may be, gaming the rules is not the same as cheating and it’s not illegal. just like taxes, that’s just politics. there is avoidance and there is evasion. the line is gray and gets hashed out in semi-competent court.
US elections are basically calvinball.
the whole process is to make up the rules as you go.
(and pretending to have just noticed this is just one more tactic in the game)
it might be nasty and counter to the spirit of the intended idea of free and fair elections but this has always been the game in registration, access, bussing, gerrymandering, dead people voting, ballot stuffing, and 40 other things they’ve probably never even let the public hear the names of.
the original joke about “i’m glad my grandfather didn’t live to see this, he’d never have voted democrat when he was alive!” probably dates back to the sven snorinson faction of the vinlander party from the daneland thing of 1123.
that’s elections for you and america’s are more bizarre and baroque than most. changing them would be a great idea and solve a lot of problems, but does the will exist among the states and counties whose purview this is to do so?
i have real doubts.
the game is the game and if the GOP would like to stop reprising the role of “gormless opposition party” they will need to adapt.
there was no red wave because they failed to figure out the new salients and got outplayed.
and the party of technocracy tends to be good at technocratic games.
and the pachyderms can learn or they can lose.
they would not be the first party to fall into lasting irrelevance through inability to play the game or pick a compelling candidate.