Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Mid-term Election, 2018

This article was written a week before the 2018 mid-term elections in America. There was general agreement that there was more polarization and more violent language than in any mid-term election that anyone could remember. It was pretty hard to know just who was responsible for this deplorable state of affairs, but my experience with political "consultants" in my practice had been they were a pretty deplorable bunch. So I learned in the direction of blaming them. CSpan, the reasonably non-partisan television station financed by the vendors and edited by Brian Lam, ran an extensive series of interviews and debates during the time freed up by Congress going off to campaign in recess. One such was an interview between George Carville, the democratic political consultant, and his wife Mary, the prominent Republican consultant. It taught me a lot about marriages, but on a political level, it surfaced two surprising insights.

GET OUT THE VOTE. Carville, the hard-boiled cynic, said that most elections had previously concentrated on swinging 1 or 2 moderates in the middle to switch sides. That resulted in moderating the tone for both parties, hoping to swing the hesitant moderate voters to their sides. For some reason, plausibly the unusually large campaign contributions by newcomers to politics, this election ignored the views of the other side and concentrated on "getting out the vote" among the faithful core voters. These people tended to vote without much ideology or at least bothering with the details of campaign issues. And they were less repelled by exaggerated claims. They wanted to win at any cost, concentrating attention much more on rhetoric than facts.

CYBERSECURITY. Experts in computer tampering have been surprised to find that most of the "tampering" has been primitive and that most of the resistance to fixing flaws has come from state political machines, anxious to protect the Constitutional provisions directing control of election mechanisms to the states rather than the federal. That is, the state machines, whether R or D, is more interested in keeping control than fixing the problems. The result has been that the election machines, ballot summaries, and summaries sent to the press. are much more antiquated than was expected, and the resistance to improvement has been largely American, not foreign. That redirects the effort to improve things and greatly hampers our effort to catch up with things. It seems entirely plausible that past elections have occasionally been rigged, and that efforts to straighten this mess out will have to wait for at least one more election cycle.

Originally published: Thursday, November 01, 2018; most-recently modified: Friday, May 24, 2019