Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Evidence of Your Own Eyes
The biggest news in the presidential race last night was Dennis Kucinich winning his first delegates by finishing second in Hawaii's caucuses--he was the only candidate who actually visited there, which is fine argument for his mental health, if nothing else. If you could travel anywhere in the country in February, why wouldn't you go to Hawaii?

There are several explanations for the Kucinich vote yesterday. Maybe Hawaiians were so glad to see a presidential candidate that they decided to vote for him. Another explanation is that Hawaii is the second most heavily-unionized state, and Kucinich's anti-NAFTA position was likely to resonate there. A third one is more complicated and heavily based on stereotypes. Kucinich diehards tend to be serious lefties--for example, the kind of people who don't own TV sets. Yesterday, our local NPR affiliate reported that some people in Hawaii feared that caucus turnout might be held down by the fact that a Hawaiian singer was appearing on American Idol last night. Clearly, that analysis was correct. Prospective Kerry and Edwards voters stayed home, while the non-TV-set-owning Kucinich people went to the caucus.

(Since serious lefties sometimes lack a sense of humor in addition to a TV set, I must stress that the preceding was intended as a joke.)

Recommended reading: As you may know, this blog does not share the widespread belief that Kerry is the most electable of the Democrats. I have said before that if Howard Dean is unelectable, then Kerry is, too. His Vietnam service will not be enough to immunize him from the attacks that are coming. (His actions during that service are coming under increased scrutiny, as are his efforts of behalf of veterans since coming home, as in Sydney Schanberg's latest article in the Village Voice, which accuses Kerry of helping to cover up evidence of live POWs in Vietnam as recently as the early 1990s.) Nevertheless, people have been leaping on the Kerry bandwagon ever since his surprise win in Iowa, almost as if they thought, "If everybody else thinks he's the guy, then maybe he is." But an article yesterday in Slate pointed out the fallacy of that belief. In the 1950s, a psychologist using a simple experiment found that when "[f]aced with a decision that, in isolation, no one would ever get wrong, the unwitting subjects went against the evidence of their own eyes about one-third of the time." Sociology professor Duncan Watts draws parallels between what he calls "the Kerry cascade" and a stock bubble or a cultural fad, and spins a plausible scenario that puts Howard Dean in exactly the same position Kerry is today.

This morning on Best of the Blogs: Dubious Choice.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?