Saturday, November 1, 2008

My prediction

Given that it's a little late for an October surprise (unless we're talking about the Bush administration conveniently leaking embarassing details about Obama's Kenyan half-aunt and her US citizenship status three days before the election), I think it's probably safe for me to come out with my election prediction.

So here goes (I'm using RCP's electoral map calculator):

Popular vote: Obama 52%, McCain 47%

To clarify what I'm doing, all the solid blues are states that I think Obama will win. The light pink, "lean GOP" states are ones that I think Obama can win, but ones that I don't have the guts to actually predict an outcome for.

In a best case scenario, where Obama wins Indiana, Georgia, Montana, and even McCain's home state of Arizona, that would give him 406 electoral votes, which sounds pretty impressive. It's more than Clinton won in either '92 or '96, but still not in the same category as the Republican landslides of the 80s. Reagan won 489 in 1980, 525 in 1984, and Bush I achieved 426 in 1988.

I think that says something about the increased polarization of the American electorate. The two Bush nailbiters earlier this decade were not aberrations; starting with Nixon and continuing through the Reagan and Bush years, there has been a conscious strategy to divide the American people among cultural and religious lines. Otherwise irrelevant issues like abortion, gay rights, and gun control have dominated the political discourse; discourse that could otherwise have been concentrated on the decline of the middle class and increasing inequality in society, the utter travesty that privatized health care has become, or the increasingly shaky merits of an Imperial foreign policy. Largely because of the Right's obsession with cultural division and their co-opting of the Christian religion, they have won five of the last seven presidential elections.

An Obama victory will be an important first step in pushing back against this toxic state of affairs, but let's not confuse a solid Obama victory with a transformational landslide and dramatic realignment. Democrats still have a lot of work to do in convincing Americans that they have better ideas about national security and foreign policy, and also that it is possible to find some common ground on these controversial cultural issues. Hopefully they'll build on a solid victory in 2008 with a true landslide in 2012.

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