Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Political science a la Mr. Lee

Your eyes are not deceiving you! Yes, this is another political entry! While this is quite an unexpected turn of events, a much more unexpected one would be the recent comeback in New Hampshire by Hillary Clinton that prompted it. As it turned out, I called it wrong, the events following Hillary's Muskie moment went exactly the opposite of what I thought might happen. Perhaps this will lead to a rash of weepiness all across the primary field with candidates bearing their fragile vulnerabilities and once sheltered sensitivities all over the campaign trail and C-Span appearing more like Lifetime (although I'm sure Chuck Norris will refuse to let Mike Huckabee cry). So since I did call it wrong, I felt people coming across the previous most recent entry might have wanted to know what my response to the results were. I would have done the same thing if I had written an entry last week that miserably handicapped the NFL playoffs. The days after I would have given at least a brief word on why I might have gotten it so wrong, maybe explain myself a little if possible.

Well, if it was a well reasoned, throughly researched, nuanced explanation you were expecting prepare to be inconsolably disappointed. You're probably just as qualified as me (perhaps even more) to have an opinion on what went wrong. It might have been an error in polling, a late surge of sympathy, a bunch of random people who suddenly had an urge to vote Hillary, or an evil President Hillary Clinton from the future committing electoral fraud on behalf of her younger self to assure her future success. Who knows? It's the chaotic, opera of uncertainty that we call American politics.

But, if you really want to know what happened, you ask my dad, Mr. Lee. Now Mr. Lee wasn't born in this country or grew up here, and has only been a US citizen since 2004. His English may be a little broken and he watches more Korean period dramas than CNN. However, Mr. Lee pays his taxes, works hard, votes, and has opinions which makes him as valid a pundit as Lou Dobbs or John McLaughlin. So when he heard about the results of the primary he gave me his expert analysis (roughly translated): "Although white people say they're going to vote for Obama; they're not because they don't want a black president. They would rather have a white woman president than a black one."

Now some may view this as overly simplified, too generalized, perhaps overly cynical, maybe uninformed, maybe even racist. I myself wrote it off as just standard Mr. Lee talk. However, earlier today I was idly roaming around wikipedia at school, hopping from link to link, and somehow I came across this interesting article on the Bradley Effect. I'm sure this is something most political science majors and political junkies probably know all about. In short it's basically a phenomenon where opinion polls in elections between white and non-white candidates have the non-white candidate leading but then differing drastically with the actual results. It's named after black, former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley who narrowly lost the California governor's election to white (St. John's Law alumni) George Deukmejian despite consistently leading in the polls. At the core of all the analysis and case studies in other such elections, what the Bradley Effect is kind of suggesting is:"Although white people say they're going to vote for [the black candidate]; they're not because they don't want a [black candidate]." It's something to consider in a state with a 96% white population.

While Mr. Lee's word is far from completely validated, it does make you think a little bit. I guess if there's a message in all this is, "everybody's views should be considered and you shouldn't write off people's opinions". Well, at least that's better than, "New Hampshire voters may be secretly racist."

No comments:

Post a Comment