Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obama/McCain's Anti-Bradley Effect

Much has been made of the race card in the current American presidential elections. There are those who contend that America is ready for a black president. There are those who insist that America needs change, but not that much of a change. And there are those who believe that John McCain is about as much change as any nation can reasonably handle.

If you're a fan of change, this election is for you. But if you're a student of history, you may be interested in a seemingly minor phenomenon with potentially huge consequences. The media has termed it The Bradley Effect, in reference to the mayoral elections in Los Angeles, California of the 1960's. At that time, a decidedly pro-white incumbent mayor by the name of Sam Yorty was running for his political life against a black ex-cop named Tom Bradley. Mind you, this was barely a few years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Think Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, hippies, peace signs, protest songs, marches on Selma and that sort of thing.

Going into the election, all the polls had Bradley winning hands down. When the smoke cleared, however, it was Yorty who emerged victorious, holding on to his seat for another four years. Clearly, what voters on their way into the booths told pollsters they were going to do differed drastically from what they actually did in the voting booth. Lots of people said they'd be voting for Bradley, but once behind the curtain, couldn't bring themselves to vote for the black guy. That was decades ago. Or was it? In early 2008, pollsters had Barack Obama sweeping the New Hampshire primary election. But by the next morning, Hillary Clinton had sewn it up.

Now, however, there may be a new wrinkle to the old Bradley Effect and it goes like this:

What if all those McCain supporters secretly can't stomach what's happened to the Republican party? The free market, conservative party, supposedly opposed to socialism, that's engineering the biggest Federal bail-out of all time? The party responsible for the war in Iraq? The credit meltdown? High unemployment? The sinking dollar? What if all those Republicans, thoroughly disenchanted with Bush and Cheney, decide to get into that voting booth and stick it to the party that let them down -- by voting for Obama?

It's a lot more possible than you might think. Just ask the angry supporters of Bob Barr and Ron Paul and Ralph Nader. There may be millions of poor Democrats that are mobilized to vote, but you can bet your ever-sinking dollar that pissed off Republicans have much higher percentages of voter turnout. And these are exactly the people who tell pollsters one thing while doing exactly the opposite in private.

Other reasons why the Anti-Bradley Effect could work: The Sarah Palin stunt is, for the most part, over. After the theatrics and media events, there's simply no way she can hold her own against the likes of a Joe Biden. In the public eye, Palin is an easy target for parody -- truly a second generation Dan Quayle -- and things aren't getting better for her. Between public gaffes ("in a Palin-McCain administration....") and the strict management of her few, unscripted public appearances, all indications are that Republicans aren't exactly lining up behind her in legion force.

Hillary supporters lining up for McCain? You're dreaming, pal. That scenario may have been a nice wish, but wasn't even close to reality after Obama took the nomination. And with Palin as McCain's idea of a capable running mate, that dream is fast becoming a nightmare.

Finally, let's play the race card. The question nobody wants to ask is exactly the question that everyone should be asking. Because despite the conventional wisdom, the truth is that non-whites have no problem voting for a non-white candidate; and if you piss enough of them off, white people will vote for a non-white candidate, too.

You want to learn something from the polls? Try not trusting them. It seems to work.


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