Monday, June 16, 2008

The most important poll, and other election observations

I personally believe that the most highly sought after state in this upcoming election is Virginia. Until this election it was a solidly Republican state for Presidential elections. Now we have a new Rasmussen poll that puts Obama ahead by one point. This is entirely within the margin of error, but means that no matter what, McCain will have to work hard not to lose this state. The easiest state for McCain to steal it New Hampshire, but polls show Obama passing McCain in recent times.

A Virginia VP pick for Obama could basically hand him the state, but the person I thought best suited to the task, Mark Warner, has taken his name out of consideration. I find this a bit strange: Warner was casting about for a Presidential bid in 2006, but took his name out of contention for the nomination before any of the real candidates even announced. Now he has a good chance to be VP, with a good shot at being the shoe-in for the Dem candidate next round, and he turns it down to win a senate seat. Warner's working very slowly, taking breaks in his political career. Why? Does he have some dirt that would cut him out of high offices? Does he have some ten-year plan? Or (I cannot believe I'm suggesting this) is he a principled politician with modest and incremental goals and relatively little burning ambition?

Looking outside America for a second (like anyone cares) we come to Zimbabwe. The run-off election is to be held on June 27th. But first I must clear something up: many (most) news articles I have read about Zimbabwe allege that current Dictator-for-Life Robert Mugabe lost the Presidential election to Morgan Tsvangirai. This is true, but it is always stated in such a way that it seems that Mugabe has already lost the Presidency. In fact, neither candidate gained over 50% of the vote, so there must be a run-off between the two. Except that these results took suspiciously long to come out, so Mugabe probably faked them to cause a run-off and buy himself more time. However, if Tsvangirai had simply tried to move into power he could have been cast as exactly as undemocratic as Mugabe for not playing by the rules.

Now as to the run-off itself, Mugabe has equated voting for the opposition with treason. He has harassed opposition supporters. He has had Tsvangirai arrested again. He had the wife of a local opposition leader burned alive. Barring military intervention by another country (which might backfire horribly and which I don't recommend in the slightest) Mugabe will crush the opposition and remain in power until the next elections. Thus, Zimbabwe has to wait six years (or until Mugabe dies) for its chance to be free. What could other countries have done differently? China could have refused to sell Mugabe weapons. The US could have given a crap about a country where people actually want democracy right now. South Africa could have been more confrontational. The African Union could have demanded to supervise all election proceedings.

All these were unlikely to happen from the start, since they all offer a payoff of nearly nothing in exchange for a pretty large political risk. I never thought Zimbabwe would be handed democracy and freedom on a silver platter by other countries, but it would have been nice if there had been some assistance from the outside. Zimbabwe can't get free by itself, at least not yet. For now, they must wait.


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