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Voting: Don't Take It For Granted

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I have dim memories of the 1968 and 1972 elections.

But, my first vivid memory of an election happened in the summer of 1973 when I lived in Athens with friends. Greece was still governed by a junta of military leaders. They were trying to create an air of legitimacy for their regime, and so they decided to hold a referendum on a new constitution.

The day before the voting, three truck loads of armed guards, complete with machine guns, arrived at the polling place in the school across the street from our apartment. The ballots to vote in favor of the referendum were marked "Nai" or "Yes" in bright blue, the national color of Greece. The "Oxi" or "No" ballots were in a dingy grey. The voters selected a ballot and put it into a translucent envelope and if you selected the grey "Oxi" ballot, your name was taken down.

This was not how we had voted in my hometown in Connecticut which was, and is still, governed by an annual town meeting.

Countering Spin

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Later tonight, we will see how big the Republican wave is going to be. Every independent prognosticator is predicting that the GOP will take the House and narrow the Democratic margin in the Senate. If it is a big wave, a tsunami even, the GOP has a shot at taking the Senate too. Yesterday, a group of experts offered us a look into their crystal balls, predicting surprises in Pennsylvania’s Senate race, the congressional race that in Virginia-5 that has captured the imagination of main stream pundits, the Oregon governorship and the topsy-turvy Alaska Senate race. I suspect there may be even more surprises, but today I want to float some of the spin we will hear, and refute it.

Blast from the Past: Cook Political Report

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Last May, just before the special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Rep. John Murtha in PA-12, this was what the Cook Political Report had to say:

"Republicans have no excuse to lose this race. The fundamentals of this district, including voters' attitudes towards Obama and Pelosi, are awful for Democrats. And Democratic party registration advantages here are just as obsolete as GOP's advantages in Upstate New York were last year. Timing is no excuse for Republicans either. This special election, not the competitive statewide Democratic primaries held the same day, will be driving turnout on May 18th. With both candidates and party committees plus some outside groups likely to be up on air with full buys between now and the election, there will be far more dollars spent per vote on the PA-12 race than on the Senate or gubernatorial primaries.” [Cook Political Report, 4/27/10]

There are a lot of differences between a special election in one district and a nationwide midterm, but it is worth remembering this election eve that one of the foremost prognosticators in the land underestimated the effect of the Democratic Party's Get-Out-the-Vote effort.

Yahoo Watch: CatholicVote.org

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How did I miss the fact that CatholicVote.org endorsed Sharron Angle? This is the candidate who ran the single most racist, anti-Latino ad in the country, showing menacing Latino males walking down a dark alley while scary music played in the back and the voice-over warned about immigration. I am wondering if our friends who are so professedly concerned about how Catholics should vote arranged a screening of that ad with Archbishop Gomez?

What Catholic Identity Is All About at Notre Dame

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This moving account of the campus mourning the death of one of its own should lay to rest any fears about the Catholic Identity of Notre Dame. THIS is what Catholic identity is all about, students drawn together by the Mass, the only place where the abysmal loneliness of death is defeated.

My thanks to Professor Rick Garnett of the Notre Dame Law School for sending it to me.

Final Cook Predictions

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The final pre-election report from the Cook Political Report is predicting GOP gains of 50-60 seats in the House and six to eight Senate seats. Those numbers appear to be similar to what others are projecting but, as noted earlier, everything depends on turnout.
There is also a very useful hour-by-hour analysis, based on when the polls close in different states, at fivethirtyeight.com.
Tomorrow night, I will be live blogging throughout the night.

One Thought on the Stewart/Colbert Rally

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I am not sure the rally last Saturday merits much more than a single thought. Maybe if I had indulged an extra martini or five Saturday night I could wax eloquent about the cultural significance of the event. In a culture dripping in irony, bring irony to the Mall just doesn't seem to me like a significant event.

I will, however, confess a worry, a worry that requires the reader to take a test. Quick, now, who is the President of Harvard University? Yale? University of Chicago? We all know Fr. Jenkins at Notre Dame because of his invitation to President Obama last year, but would you have known his name before that?

A. Bartlett Giamatti was the last university president who functioned as a public intellectual on the national stage. Today, the culture is shaped not by university presidents but by comedians like Stewart and Colbert, and entertainers like Glenn Beck who merely pretend to gravitas. And, university presidents are tasked primarily with fundraising. Is it any wonder that our culture has become more silly and supercilious when comedians replace professors as arbiters of the national ethos?

Q & A: Schneck, Stephanopoulos, Green, Dionne, Jones & Rotondaro

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This is an unusual week, so I am doing something different for Q & A.

Today, I asked a group of experts to look into their crystal balls and predict a surprise from the results on Tuesday. Here is what the experts predict:

Professor Stephen Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America: One race that has not received much attention is the Oregon governor's race, which is a statistical dead heat in all polls. But I think out on the West Coast we're starting to see the beginnings of real reaction against the Tea Party message that will help some Democrats. So, the upset I predict is Democrat John Kitzhaber beating Republican Chris Dudley in a squeaker.

George Stephanopoulos, Host of ABC’s Good Morning America: I’ll take McAdams in the Alaska Senate race.

Those Unlikely Voters

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The Washington Post/ABC News poll released yesterday shows an alarming gap between those deemed "likely voters" and those who are registered to vote but probably won't make it to the polls on Tuesday. This has been a constant dynamic in virtually every poll all year.

Still, the numbers are astounding. While only 42% of likely voters approve of President Obama's handling of the economy, 48% of unlikely voters approve. And while 45% of likely voters trust the GOP to do a better job coping with the main problems the nation faces, compared to 41% who trust the Democrats, among unlikely voters, 55% trust the Dems compared to only 29% who trust the Republicans.

It is clear that these numbers have put the fear of God into the Democrats. But, it is a Calvinistic God. Fear and anger motivate voters more than tepid approval. It is depressing.

Reformation Sunday

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Yesterday, at Mass, our music director impishly had us sing the hymn "Christ's Church Shall Glory in His Power," which is set, in the Worship hymnal, to the tune "Ein' Feste Burg." I don't know how many people got the joke. Yesterday was Reformation Sunday, the day on which our Protestant brethren commemorate Martin Luther's nailing of his Theses to the door of the chapel in Wittenberg.
I am all for ecumenical dialogue, and the dialogue with Luther's direct descendents has been especially fruitful. We now realize what no one realized back then, that we actually agree on the issue of justification by faith. There is today a renewed respect for each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

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