Friday, November 7, 2008

More Post Mortem

Ok fine, I'll say it! So when all is said and done—and thank God it is—the final results failed to live up to the advanced hype. I had predicted an 85% turnout and the Amherst Town Clerk was a tad more optimistic prognosticating a historic 90% turnout.

We ended up with a not too shabby 67.89%--but still a far cry from either of our predictions (although slightly ahead of the national turnout of 64%). Especially considering in the popular vote John McCain only lost by 3%, 51% to 48% (Note: figures corrected in 'Comments') so if only 1.5% of folks had changed their minds in the privacy of the voting booth it would have been dead even. Yet most media outlets describe his loss as a “landslide”.

In 1992 Amherst had a historic high of 89% turnout when Bill Clinton first became President, and even four years later against a lame, aging Republican Bob Dole (who later retired to do Viagra commercials) our turnout was 67%. In that watershed year 2000 when President Bush (the 2’nd) first came to power we only turned out 59% and then four years later when Darth Vader ran for reelection we mustered 65%.

So 68% is good--but hardly historic. Of course 25 years from now you will have thousands of extra folks claim they actually voted in the bucolic town of Amherst for their first time in this historic—not to be confused with histrionic—election.

Like when Jimmy Carter had us boycott the 1980 Olympics and suddenly Walter Middy athletes everywhere could tell members of the opposite sex (or same sex for that matter) at the local bar that they had “made the Olympic team, but that damn President Carter…”

Interestingly on a National level the 64% turnout was indeed historic, but not much better than the previous high of 63% in 1960 when a youthful Irish Catholic from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Republican Tricky Dick Nixon.

A thousand or so days later, on an otherwise routine Friday afternoon in late November a succinct news bulletin stunned America: “Three Shots fired--Presidential motorcade!”


On a local level—the first time ever a Select Board seat is contested on a Presidential election—the turnout (meaning those who bothered to take the second ballot containing only the local Amherst Select Board race) was dramatically less at 44%, meaning over one-third of the overall voters couldn’t be bothered--probably a good thing.

Not to take away from Aaron Hayden’s Select Board victory with 4,152 votes to long distance runner up Vladimir Morals with 2,491. Hayden trounced Morales in nine out of ten precincts, only losing Precinct 6 by a scant nine votes 576 to 567

Of course the irony is that this Select Board election was called to replace Anne Awad (who moved to South Hadley in April but only grudgingly announced her resignation in late June) who first vaulted to power in 2000, defeating incumbent Hill Boss with the considerable help of many first-time student voters coming out to support the local decriminalize pot resolution on the ballot that year (that passed 1,659 to 981).

In 2000 Amherst turned out 20.4% almost double the 1999 amount when only 11% of local voters bothered to trudge to the polls. Of course the highest local turnout occurred on May 1, 2007 when 31.46% turned out for the $2.5 million Override that lost 2,650 to 2,383. Presidents and pocket books seem to attract the attention of the average Amherst voter.

For instance over 10,000 voters (over 2,000 more than who voted in the Select Board contest) voted on the CPA tax increase from 1.5% to 3% and the Question only lost by a scant 2% (now if this were national Presidential race we could use the word “landslide”).

But obviously you had an awful lot of first-time student voters who didn’t have to worry about that $50 -$60 annual tax increase on their homes if the feel-good measure passed. So I think if the CPA tax increase had been on the normal Spring ballot it would have lost by at least 60% to 40%, or a genuine “landslide.”

And for our Select Board contest all we need do is divide by 2.5 to adjust for the Presidential bloat: In other words Hayden’s 4,152 becomes 1,660 and Morales runner up 2,491 becomes 996, Keenan's 812 was really just his hard core following of 325 (but enough to tip the balance in a future Override vote) and last place Mr. Brower falls off the radar.

Interestingly Morales on his blog complained: “As the Select Board campaign draws toward a close on November 4th, the Gazette/Bulletin's endorsed candidate's campaign manager and supporters have descended to mudslinging tactics similar to those they used to drive Anne Awad from office.”



ped said...

Correction: the popular vote differential was 6.36%, not 3% (52.53 to 46.17). And just so you know I'm not liberal-biased, here's the Fox News reference for the exact numbers:

"Landslide" is a relative term: 52.53% is not a landslide in an objective sense, but when compared to the numbers of past presidential elections, it's at least "a convincing victory." Add PA/OH/FL/VA/NC/IN to that, and it's further underscored.

Still, 57 million people did vote for McCain: so while you certainly can't call the electorate "unified", I think you can still reasonably call it "decisive".

And while Obama lost the white vote, the exit-poll analysis appears to finish-off the Bradley effect as a factor, which is encouraging to Americans of any political affiliation.

In the end, I felt almost sympathetic for McCain as he gave what I thought to be a very good concession speech: ever since his transparently political address at Falwell U., it's been obvious that his embrace of his party's evangelic base has been strained at best, culiminating in the painful public embrace of the surreal Sarah Palin (Africa not a continent? Really?). I hope that the 'big-tent' fiscal conservatives overcome the 'our America' evangelical seperatists for the future soul of the Rebublican party - will be interesting to watch, since the older, rural, white demographic will continue to shrink over time.

LarryK4 said...

Damn, I knew I should have gone to CNN for that statistic. So if 3.5% had changed their minds...

But yeah, it is indeed a convincing victory and it does not sadden me in the least. Hell, if he came to Amherst I would buy him a beer (or McCain for that matter)

A forever Town Meeting member (a retired Umass Prof I believe,) once described me on the floor of Town Meeting as "the happy warrior". Although most folks think I'm pretty pissed off all the time.

But the greatest thing I learned from athletics is to compete as hard as you possibly can in the contest (not to mention months and years of training leading up to it) but when it's over, it is over.

Hold no grudges! (except: train a little harder to get them next time)

Alisa V. Brewer said...

Re: landslide

These are great maps:

Anonymous said...

"Hold no grudges!"

An excellent idea for all.

LarryK4 said...

As I said before, the office of President is bigger than the person who occupies it.

If he succeeds we all succeed. And if I had to guess just now, I think he will succeed.

ARHS '76 said...

Me too Larry. I think he will succeed.