More about panic

Panic, solipsism, and the latest results showing the race tied.

My friend Jonathan Zasloff, who worked for the Speaker of the California Assembly before joining the faculty of the UCLA Law School, writes:

Democrats are panicking because they aren’t thinking about how this election looks to the median voter. A partisan Democrat looks at Bush and sees: 1) upcoming disaster on Iraq and Al-Qaeda (latter brought about by former); 2) upcoming disaster on climate change and the environment; 3) upcoming disaster on the economy; 4) upcoming disaster on the Supreme Court. Then he or she wonders, “how in the world could anyone vote for this man? We’re going to hell in a handbasket! The fact that Kerry isn’t miles ahead shows that he’s an abysmal candidate, and can never win!” And then Kerry becomes Gore-ified, with the potential of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The problem with this model is that all these disasters are UPCOMING. Policy wonks, politically educated and motivated Democrats can see them (or at least they think they can). But there is absolutely no reason for the median voter to look at the situation that way. The voter is rationally ignorant. He or she is not going to spend time digging into policy details, considering potential budget models, etc. What does this voter see? The economy isn’t fabulous, but it isn’t terrible. Maybe there will be environmental problems, maybe not, but at this point, there isn’t anything in front of his or her face. Newsweek might say that Iraq is a disaster, but I don’t see it: maybe it’s just tough. I’m not comfortable with it; we probably made a mistake, but it’s not clear what we do now. Besides–in Vietnam, we were losing 2,000 soldiers A MONTH. We were told that Reagan’s deficits would kill us, but they didn’t: every economist has some model. I’m not real satisfied with the way things are going, but things could definitely be worse, and it’s tough out there. 9/11 taught us that.

All of this leads to basically what we have now: a very close election, with Bush up by a very small margin. That means that campaigning, and money, and turnout, and events, will determine things. But it is NOT a reason to think that somehow Kerry is doing a lousy job. WE think that no one in his right mind would vote for Bush, but we’re not the median voter.

Put another way, panic is the product of solipsism. It should stop.

Right. And the latest Harris poll has Kerry up a point.

That’s up. As in ahead.

Democracy Corps has Kerry down just one point.

Pew shows a 16-point Bush lead from Wednesday-Friday of last week shrinking to a one-point lead Saturday-Tuesday.

Those are the three most recent polls listed on Polling Report.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: