I don't know, maybe I'm still too naïve when it comes to human nature. I still expect at least a modicum of realism from people, even in groups, when I know full well that there is absolutely no reason to expect anything of the sort. So I was actually a bit startled when I read an article in the paper that referred to “Mitt Romney's transition team”. Apparently this team has already been formed – no, they don't wait until after the election. And apparently one of their agenda items -- already being pursued -- is the question of what happens if and when we reach this so-called “fiscal cliff” on the first of the year. And what scares the Romney people more than anything is the “huge cuts in the Defense budget” that are part of that fiscal cliff.
Well... to begin with, this “fiscal cliff” is little more than a scare tactic, designed by Congress to force itself to do something it didn't want to do – namely get together on a budget for Fiscal Year 2013 and beyond, including “doing something” about the deficit – which is, of course, politically impossible. The thinking on the Democrat side was, if we hold Defense hostage we can get the Republicans to pass it, along with all the other garbage that we want as well. But guess what – that didn't happen, and now we're faced with this specter of “huge cuts” in defense along with higher taxes. And, counter to common sense, we're told that spending cuts could kick us back into another recession. This is based on the premise that government spending – even with borrowed money – is a source of real wealth and prosperity... that the more the government spends, in effect, the more prosperous we'll become. Now, this is so obviously fallacious that it pains me to even have to point it out. Every dollar spent by the government comes out of your pocket – so even if they spend on it on you, after they take their cut you will wind up with less. Or, if we're talking about borrowing money, then it might not come out of your pocket right away (except the amount required to “service” the debt), but it will in the long run – through means such as the declining value of the dollar (AKA inflation), trade disadvantages, lower wages, etc. What the government is doing right now is the equivalent of your adding up all of your unused credit card limits and declaring it an asset.
Plus – does anyone seriously think that Congress is going to allow “huge cuts” in the Defense budget? Now or ever? War is Job One, and war will get paid for, one way or another, even if we all starve. (Plus, don't forget that our wars are more and more being fought under the heading of “intelligence”, as opposed to the uniformed military... and that budget is off the record and virtually unlimited. So even if “Defense” per se is cut, war won't be.) So really, the whole thing is a hoax. Get everybody worried, then ride in at the last minute to save the day. Result: Great relief, thankfulness, and an even higher level of belief in big government. Once again, mission accomplished.
But all of this is actually beside the point – or at least it's not what I noticed in the article. What I noticed was that this “transition team” is already in place... already “quietly talking with government officials”... vetting prospective Cabinet officials... and so on. And everyone is playing along – even members of the Obama administration, apparently. And my reaction to this was, wow, they really think they're going to win... or that they might win. Imagine that! Even with the media overwhelmingly against them, Obama's base (the mythical 47% and then some) as solid as ever and seemingly growing each day (thanks to, among other things, court decisions against voter I.D. laws), and the two most recent debates fought to a draw, the Republicans think they still have a chance. Thus, the power of blind faith and delusion.
Of course, they take occasional comfort in the “polls” -- at least the ones with the results they like. My personal favorites are the polls of “likely voters”. Let's go back to Dewey vs. Truman. Then, polls were taken of people who could be readily contacted by pollsters, which skewed the results. But these are different times; nearly everyone is “wired”. But do the polls being taken today include, for example, dead people? Because countless numbers of them are surely being registered to vote, and will almost certainly all be Obama voters. Do the polls include illegal aliens? I would expect most “illegals” to avoid being polled, for obvious reasons – but they might be enticed to the real polls next month, given the right incentives. Do the polls reflect the fact that some of the voters are going to vote more than once? I doubt it. And mainly, do the polls tell us anything at all about what happens after everybody dutifully trudges into the voting booth, casts their vote, and trudges out? What really counts, as has been pointed out any number of times (most famously by Stalin), is not the votes, but the “vote” of the person who counts the votes... or the person who tallies them... or the person who reports them. These are the weak links in the chain of the American electoral process, and have been pretty much since the birth of the Republic. Opposing parties can't keep an eye on everything and everyone, in an area where a “machine” rules. We were treated, a few years back, to harried poll workers counting, and re-counting, and re-counting again, chads, hanging chads, dimpled chads, pregnant chads, etc.... in scenes which, if they were included in a movie script, would be summarily rejected as being wildly unrealistic, idiotic, and boring. But actually, that process – to the extent it was authentic and not just staged for public consumption – was far more honest and legitimate than what actually happens much of time, but behind closed doors (or in the bowels of computers, where only the guy who wrote the program really knows what's going on).
(Of course, polls of “likely voters” are beside the point anyway, since it's not a matter of a candidate getting a majority or plurality of votes. We have an electoral process that involves electoral votes – something the polls based on a “pure democracy” model always seem to overlook. And every time someone loses an election based on electoral votes even thought they won the “popular vote”, they take a blood oath to amend the Constitution to get rid of the Electoral College. But it never happens.)
And how about the voter intimidation process? Is that reflected in the polls? How about all the people who, for various reasons, can't or won't be polled (the homeless, street people, etc.), but who will be rounded up, put on buses, and whisked to polling places to cast their votes as instructed, then rewarded with some “walking-around money”? Do we know who they are, and how many there are, at this point? Highly doubtful. I don't notice pollsters talking to the homeless much... but you can bet that on Election Day there will be a surprising number of them gracing the polling places with their malodorous presence.
The point is that voters can be created out of thin air on election day, and there are any number of points in the process at which this can occur – starting with registration, of course, and running right up to the “final tally” of state results in order to determine who wins that state's electoral votes. The process may not be intrinsically corrupt, but it is extremely vulnerable to corruption – almost begs to be corrupted, in fact. (And the fact that votes are recorded and tallied by computer these days only aggravates the situation. Automation, as we should all know by now, only lends pseudo-precision to things, not real precision.) And this means that whoever controls, or oversees, the process is sorely tempted to arrange things so the results come out the right way. In our system at present, the Democrats seem to have the advantage in this, since they still control the big-city “machines” that typically make the difference in the final outcome. “Upstate” or “downstate” (i.e., rural and small-town) votes are counted as a matter of form, but everyone knows that the big cities determine the outcome, and those are the very places where cheating and stealing are most likely occur. And as I've said before, the Regime really doesn't care who wins, so they leave it to the major parties to fight it out – and if someone wins through chicanery it's no big deal.
But none of these discouraging words ever seems to impact the starry-eyed candidates or their supporters; their messianic zeal is truly a wonder to behold. And, thinking back, I suppose that even the most hopeless (non-incumbent) candidates nonetheless had “transition teams” at the ready – McGovern in 1972, Mondale in 1984, Dole in 1996, and so on down the list of lost causes. They all believed... and they all got crushed. And I suppose that this Little Orphan Annie-style optimism is a requirement in politics; no one undertakes a cause knowing that it is lost. But that doesn't make it any less pathetic... and more pathetic still is the fact that they seldom, if ever, learn from their mistakes. Romney right now is basically running on a platform of, if you want to bring George W. Bush back, elect me – I'll pick up right where he left off. I mean, he doesn't say this in so many words, but that's what it amounts to. In fact, I'm surprised that Obama hasn't made more of this point... but I guess he'd rather do things his own way than take my advice. : )