Canada Foreign Policy
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
  Kerry Will Win Today…

…Says one British Columbia-based historian. Dr. Michael Fellman, Professor at Simon Fraser University, has been covering the US presidential race for the online The Tyee. I’ve shared my views in the past, and, according to a few observers who’ve followed my opinions, some “balance” is needed. With that, I’m reposting Dr. Fellman’s latest article, published originally at [posted at] back on 25 October 2004. All of Dr. Fellman’s insightful pieces can be found on the The Tyee site. Both Dr. Fellman and The Tyee editor David Beers have given their kind permission, allowing this piece to appear here.

I'm Calling It for Kerry

Prophet or idiot, I say he’ll win by a fair margin. Here’s why.

Mon., Oct. 25, 2004
By Michael Fellman

Americans sometimes forget that their elections are nearly always nasty, and that nasty does not always work, so transfixed are they by the current king of savagery, Karl Rove. Who knows what evils plots Bush’s top strategist is spinning, but I doubt whether he is omniscient, and I think the voters will actually decide the election and that someone will win and someone lose. This is a controversial position of course, as many expect a repeat of last time’s hung election.

As for me, I will go out on the limb of my wishes and predict a fairly clear victory for John Kerry. On November 3, you can call me a prophet or an idiot.

I base my prediction (beyond my cockeyed optimism), on several portents I see relating to current polls.

Nervous pollsters

To begin with, I have never seen the pollsters so nervous about their own methodology. They are not so certain they are getting a clear picture of the electorate, weighted as it is to previous turnouts (“likely voters”)—a measurement that leans toward the Republicans. This year the turnout is likely to be much larger, and therein lays their doubts and my sense of portents for Kerry.

In many places, including in several key states, there has been a massive registration of university students, way beyond previous levels. Last Friday, for example, students at the University of Wisconsin held a huge rally to cheer for themselves: 6850 students registered for the first time in Madison alone (on a 35,000 student campus). And honey, these are not Bush voters. I know of similar results at the University of Colorado—another key battleground state. I extrapolate from this, based on my hunch that more University of South Carolina students will vote for Bush, but that in many key states, including Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the university student vote will be overwhelmingly Democratic. Students, and the young generally, are not counted as likely voters by pollsters.

In Ohio, black registrants in the Cleveland area are up 250 percent while white registration is up 25 percent. The Republican state returning officer tried to block many of these black registrants, similar to the case in Florida, where black registration is way up as well. I should think the net result of such shenanigans, added to the voting history in Florida in 2000 related to blacks, will bring blacks to the polls in far greater numbers than usual. Sounds like the bad old days to them, and many are furious. Kerry is pretty white, but at least he is not their active enemy. Most pollsters would not consider them likely voters.

Church overstepped

It is said that seven per cent of American voters have only cell phones, no landlines. They cannot be polled, according to the procedures of the pollsters, and they tend to be younger urbanites more likely to vote Democrat than Republican.

Just those three groups of first-time voters could provide a very big lift for Kerry, and, in certain states, for Democratic congressional candidates as well.

Another group, on whom I have an only anecdotal fix, are well-educated, upper middle income Republican professionals, several of whom I have heard interviewed, who have said they were switching this time from their 2000 vote for Bush. I cannot really measure the size of this group, but I have heard the tune quite frequently.

Similarly, the push by certain Catholic bishops to essentially excommunicate Kerry because of his stand on abortion, seems likely to me to increase the tendency of Catholic voters to cast their ballots for Kerry in resistance to such bullying tactics. Catholic voters are pro-choice by a three to one margin, and they resent it when some of their religious hierarchy orders them to vote as they are told, which they consider a matter of conscience, as do many other Catholic priests for that matter.

Mud won’t stick

Beyond such portents, I think that the level of mudslinging on both sides will likely turn off voters, and that scare techniques, particularly about national security may well not work. I don’t know whether to conclude that Democratic scare tactics about social security will also turn off voters. Which fear counts for more with, say, the millions of retired folks in Florida? Maybe this is a saw-off between the parties, but I think that the vituperative name-calling the Bush crowd is resorting to, something not reciprocated by the Democrats, may well turn off even more voters. It has long been my gut feeling that the right wing has gone to the well of hatred one election too many, and that this time their weak candidate and weak record will catch up to them.

Whatever the result on November 2, I am certain that the American electorate will remain deeply divided, and that rancor will not decrease over time, unless Bush loses big (defined as 5 percent or more), in which case, more moderate voices may challenge for control of the Republican Party. If Bush wins, I will have to buy a new set of tea leaves.

Historian Michael Fellman, author of several books on the Civil War including The Making of Robert E. Lee. He is also Director of the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at Simon Fraser University. He writes an occasional column on the U.S. elections for The Tyee.

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