Political Fallacy

We’re going to have an off-off-year election this year. That’s kind of like an off-off-Broadway show, except with more money, more crying, more divas, and more losers (if you can believe it). The results of these elections will be indicative of roughly nothing, but the great and mighty political prognosticators in our country will take it as gospel that it portends Mighty Things. What things, exactly, depends on which side of the aisle you’re on and who wins at the end of the night (and not necessarily in that order).

The problem with any election, and particularly off-year elections, is that they only tell us what did happen, but they are seen as signs and portents of Things To Come. Never mind that each race is determined as much, if not more so, by the individuals involved and the special circumstances of that race and the events that happened along the way as by the mood or beliefs of the “average voter”. This insistence on reading the tea leaves is what I have dubbed the Political Fallacy. It’s going to be even worse this year because there are so few races to be had.

Here’s how it’s going to go: assume that the person speaking roots for Team Edward, and Team Edward had a strong night. Lots of wins across the country, and resounding wins to boot. This will be seen as “a clear mandate for change/to stay on course”, depending on whether or not Team Edward is seen as in control of the government generally. On the other hand, if the speaker happened to be supporting Team Jacob, they will point out things like how this is a very off-year election, low voter turn-out (because voter turn-out is historically so high in the U.S. anyway), how this was the only game in town so all the big money players were all over this, and how these are all basically local races and don’t really reflect on the “true” feelings of the nation as a whole.

The only way it could be worse is if it turns out to be a mixed night all around. Then we get the joys of both sides declaring victory and trying to spin the facts to show how the races they lost were “unimportant” or “not competitive” but their guy “made a strong showing” anyway. And all of this is just the warm-up act for the mid-term elections, which themselves are just the prequel to the quite possibly years long presidential campaigns. (No, that wasn’t a typo, I did intend for that to be plural. Not that I want it to be, but even I have to face reality at some point.)

Am I going to vote? Of course I am. Because I’ve fallen victim to the greatest political fallacy of them all: the notion that one vote can make a difference. I even know it doesn’t, except that if the guy I hate wins on election night and I didn’t vote, I’m going to hate myself for not voting no matter how wide his margin, and so will everyone else who didn’t vote.

And isn’t that what America is all about anymore?


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