November 5th, 2008



The polls in my city are open from 6 to 7. I don't get out of work until quarter to 6, so I decided to try showing up early.

Lut asked Monday night, "Do you want me to set the alarm?"


"Are you sure?"

"Yes. I am absolutely certain." I hate alarm clocks. I always wake up before they go off and the noise annoys the heck out of me. When I need to get up early, I don't have a problem with oversleeping; I have a problem with waking too soon.

Tuesday morning, I woke up at 3:00, 5:00, and 5:30 before I finally staggered into clothing a little after 6:00AM.

I got to my polling place at around 6:25. The parking lot was full. The line stretched out the door of the church, across the parking lot, and halfway down the block. I'd told Lut I'd have the car back by 7:00, because his employer had just changed his hours so that he needed to leave home at 7:30 instead of 8AM. This didn't look promising.

I decided not to give up immediately, though. Instead, I took my place at the end of the line and tried to gauge how fast it was moving.

Very quickly, as it turned out. The man ahead of me who'd brought a canvas folding chair didn't have time to use it, as he kept having to move forward with the line. Then a poll worker came out to usher the people from precincts three and four forward. The church was the polling place for four different precincts. I wasn't sure which precinct I was in and hadn't brought my voter card with me (just photo id). Fortunately, I'd gotten my polling location from the web and had copied assorted other bits of voting information along with it when I emailed it to my Sidekick. I was in precinct three. Yay!

Only ten or fifteen people were ahead of me in the line inside for my precinct. Turnover was slower now, but I called Lut at 6:47 to tell him "I'm in line now and there's only a couple of people ahead of me. So I won't be back by 7 but I'll be home before 7:30 easily."

A few minutes later, I had the ballot in hand. I angsted over one of the ballot initiatives, and finally decided I didn't know enough to make the right choice, so I abstained. At 6:58AM, I was done.

It's the longest wait I've ever had to vote, but it didn't seem that bad. Americans queue up for movie premieres, rock concerts, nightclubs, sales promotions, and new product releases. In one way, it's kind of nice to see us waiting to do something valuable and important.


I haven't written much about politics this year. Those who know me could guess that I'd vote for McCain, and I did. I voted mostly libertarian candidates otherwise, because I still believe that a smaller and less interventionist government would be better for America.

Despite this, I'm not upset that Mr. Obama won, or that Democrats control the House and the Senate. I'm kind of happy, in fact. Mostly because the people who voted for Mr. Obama voted for him. In 2004, few people voted for either presidential candidate. They voted against Bush, or they voted against Kerry, and no one would have been happy no matter who won. They were, at best, not as unhappy as they would have been if the other guy won. This year, half or so of America is pleased with the winner, and I'm happy for them. Plus, they might be right and I might be wrong, which is a pleasant prospect for me when I look to the future.

Best Case Scenario: Mr. Obama gets to implement the economic and foreign policies that he campaigned on, and it all works. People with high incomes pay more taxes, people with middle incomes pay lower taxes, people with low incomes pay no tax at all and get subsidies from the government. This moves the US closer to income equality with no other side effects. The expansion of federal programs and public-works projects causes unemployment to fall, and these programs are run altruistically and efficiently, to the benefit of the public they're to serve. Protectionist policies succeed in making companies employ more Americans and allow American companies to sell more goods in America and eliminate the trade deficit. Tax hikes on individuals with high incomes and successful corporations raise the federal government's income and balance the budget. Negotiations with dictators and governments that support terrorism persuade them to see issues our way and moves them away from totalitarianism and terrorism. Mandates for health insurance provide healthcare to all in a manner that's efficient, cost-effective, and maximizes the benefits to everyone.

Alternative* Scenario: Mr. Obama gets to implement the economic and foreign policies that he campaigned on, and it all fails decisively enough that no one ever tries to do it again. Raising taxes on successful businesses and people with high incomes and subsidizing people with low incomes disincentivizes workers and companies alike from working hard: productivity falls, unemployment rises. Expanded federal programs and public-works projects are rife with ineffiiencies and corruption and cause a massive waste of money and resources. Protectionist policies result in higher prices for consumers and cause retaliatory policies in other countries that make American goods uncompetitive abroad. Government control of health care disincentivizes private research and causes a decline in the development of new treatments and techniques; funneling tax dollars into research cannot make up the gap because government-administered policies do not offer effective incentives and result in massive waste. Government revenues fall sharply despite the increased percentage of GDP that taxes make up, because the economy tanks further and GDP shrinks dramatically. Negotiations with dictators and governments that support terrorism emboldens them; American diplomats make more and more concessions to those regimes in the hopes of reciprocation that never comes.

If you know me, you know that I think the second scenario is more likely than the first. But do not mistake me: I'm not rooting for the second scenario. I'd be much happier to live in the America of my "best case scenario". Just because I don't think it'll work doesn't mean I don't want it to work. Of course, I don't want to try things that I think will fail. But if we're going to try it anyway, I would much prefer for it to succeed. Given a choice between saying "I told you so" amidst the wreckage, or saying "I was wrong" amidst prosperity and success -- hey, saying "I was wrong" isn't that hard.

But the truth is, I don't think either of the scenarios above will come to pass in the next two to four years. This is my actual expectation:

Likely Scenario: Mr. Obama implements some of his policies but not all of them. Some good things and some bad things happen in the economy and around the world. The Republicans take credit for any good things, saying they're the result of the Republican legacy, and blame any problems on whatever the Democrats have done. At the same time, the Democrats take credit for any good things, saying they're the result of their policies, and ascribe any problems to the Republican legacy and/or compromise with Republicans and/or Republican action to block legislation. No one can demonstrate to the satisfaction of anyone not already on their side whether any given policy is working or failing. America muddles along as she always has, doing more good than harm because the system, by the grace of God, works. Because the system that we all like to rail against for preventing real change, is also the thing that checks some of the worst impulses and propagates some of the best ideas of every side. It pleases no one, but America's been led alternately by Republicans and Democrats for a long time, and she's the world's only superpower and has had one of the strongest economies in the world for many decades. She's probably doing something right, and I think she still will be for the next four years. Maybe because of the people running her, and maybe in spite of them, and whichever is it I doubt I'll ever know for sure. But I'm grateful for it, nonetheless.

* I started out calling this my "second-best" case scenario, but when I think about the level of carnage it would take to make the vast majority believe it was the result of new policies ... well, it's not the *worst* case, which is "carnage happens anyway but with no consensus as to why". But it's still low on my list of possible scenarios.