I have read some depressing statistics about the Presidential election that just ended in Obama’s re-election. About 9% of the voters say that they did not make up their minds about who to vote for until the last minute — that’s almost 11 million voters. The overwhelming reason these voters waited so long was not because they were struggling to decide, but because they didn’t pay attention to the election until the last minute.
In addition, about 42% of all voters (around 50 million!) say that seeing Obama during Hurricane Sandy influenced their vote for Obama. I suspect that the main thing that all of the 11 million last-minute deciders saw was Sandy coverage — however, let’s be kind and say that only 42% of these procrastinators were most influenced by Sandy. Well, that makes about 4.5 million people who voted for Obama based primarily on Sandy — that’s more than Obama’s 3 million margin in the popular vote. Forget about Obama’s four-year record — these fools voted for Obama based on a photo op delivered by a storm!
The bigger point I’m trying to make is that, depressingly, Presidential elections remind me a lot of trials. People assume that jurors are swayed by facts, but attorneys tell me that, in complex cases such as the Enron trials, the real facts are little more than Tinker Toys to be arranged however the attorneys choose. Each side presents their spin stories to the jurors, and the jurors usually make an emotional decision based on the warped stories and their own biases — actual facts play little more than a tangential role in the decisions.
In complex cases, most of the jurors are totally overwhelmed — in the Enron cases, the jurors were completely out of their element. Not only do the typical jurors have no background in the subject matter of most complex white collar cases, they don’t even know how to use the evidence to separate fact from spin. Therefore, a rationally reasoned decision from jurors in complex cases is just not going to happen. And it’s pretty much the same for elections.
Like trials, elections are an exercise in persuading people by any means possible. In the recent Presidential election, the Obama team proved better at obfuscation and character assassination than the Romney team. And that seems to have won over enough voters to re-elect Obama. That’s the same way that prosecutors won a conviction at trial against Jeff Skilling.
Kind of depressing, isn’t it?