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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Christopher Hitchens is Confusing Everyone 

Slate reprised its refreshingly honest Slate Votes feature, and to the surprise of some, Christopher Hitchens cast his vote for Kerry.

Now, anyone reading Hitchens lately knows that he is one of the strongest proponents of the Iraq War anywhere, and that he has repeatedly stated his case for it. In other words, even though he's a self-described Trotskyite, it came as a lot of a surprise that he didn't back Bush.

I have tried resolutely to avoid turning Wired Cola into the US Politics Channel. But on this case, I am posting, because I think a lot of people have misinterpreted what is going on with his vote.

He was being, as explains, ironic. He compares his vote to the ironic endorsements of Kerry by Buchanan's pet magazine and by anti-war advocates (though he says he "can't compete" with those ones).

He says of Bush that he "deserves praise for his implacability." He describes his vote for Kerry as an attempt to make JFK "get his worst private nightmare."

This isn't an endorsement! This is a personal vote being played out as a joke! I'm not saying that as a critique of Hitchens: I'm trying to point out that his vote isn't a change of heart, it's an attempt to pee in the punch bowl. I think the truest purpose of Hitchens' vote is in this sentence: "Objectively, [Kerry's] election would compel mainstream and liberal Democrats to get real about Iraq."

Since I really don't like posting politics, I thought I'd fill this post out with my horse-race assessment. If I had to guess right now, I'd say it's going to be Kerry. He is showing strange polling strength in the obvious swing states, out of line with his still-lagging overall popular vote numbers. The irony is it is just possible there will be an Electoral College/popular vote split this year, but most likely against Bush.

If you want the counterpoints, it's that Kerry is spending a lot of time in true-blue states, which is not a mark of confidence. The election markets still favour Bush, and have apparently been leading indicators of polls during the campaign. Slate's Election Scorecard still shows Bush in the lead, though I would caution that I think the authors are doing more interpretation than they think they are. At least they include an excellent compendium of the raw data they're using, so you can go through it and make up your own chart. State-specific polling is much more of a crapshoot than national polling, since it usually involves smaller samples, higher margins of error, and other possible issues.

Standard disclaimer: my political predictions are so uniformly useless that in the past they have been useful as an indicator of the opposite of what was about to happen.

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