I was getting ready to go vote for Gore when I had a pro-Bush thought in the shower. It’s this: Various pundits, Mark Shields most prominently, are lamenting that neither candidate has asked Americans to sacrifice during the campaign. That’s true. But which candidate can one best imagine asking Americans to sacrifice–and getting them to do it–after the campaign, as president? My answer is Bush. The reason? Gore’s too insecure. At least he’s too insecure about his connection with the voters. (That’s why he embellishes–to try to establish a connection. And that’s why his embellishments weren’t unimportant or irrelevant, Charles Peters to the contrary notwithstanding.) Gore doesn’t like to risk the little goodwill he has by challenging voters, which is why he panders so much. Bush at least conceivably could build up enough goodwill so that he could tell people, for example, that he was going to have to raise the Social Security retirement age.
So now I am back in the soup.
I look for some indication of who’s going to control Congress, but the signs are mixed. Hotline’s “Scoop” predicts the GOP will lose two seats but retain control. But the Democrats are almost four points ahead in Zogby’s generic ballot and have a smaller lead on Voter.com. The Senate is as likely to go Democratic as the House. That would indicate a vote for Bush, for Gridlockist reasons. But I suppose the odds in favor of a GOP Congress are still greater than 50-50. Plus Hillary’s up in the last Zogby poll– another reason to vote for Gore.
Numerous e-mailers have told me they think this whole series is a scam, that I’m obviously going to vote for Gore. Only a few say I’m obviously going to vote for Bush. But I’m genuinely torn. Really! All my natural, pessimistic, animal-spirit instincts tell me a) the Democrats are going to take Congress; and b) Bush will be a better president than people (even my Republican friends, most of whom disdain him) suspect. But the objective data would indicate otherwise.
Then there is the peer pressure. I mean, look at the leanings of my Slate colleagues! The Marxists have a phrase for this sort of lopsided sentiment: ideological hegemony. I do have Republican friends; they try to convert me because they know I’m a conservative Democrat. But if I actually were to cross over, I’d cease to be interesting in any respect. Naturally, I will ignore all these pressures.
It’s 2:45 p.m., and I’ve now gotten one e-mail from the Republican Party chairman, Jim Nicholson, one e-mail from Tipper Gore, and three general Democratic e-mails. The Democratic missives are getting increasingly strident. They started this morning with an enthusiastic, “Vote Democratic Today!” By now they are up to, “We Are Counting on Your Vote! Go Vote!” By 5:30 I suppose it will be, “Schmuck! Get Your Ass to the Poll! (If you’ve already voted, thank you!)”
So here is what I will do. I will get my ass to the poll. But Bush is up another five.