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MailTribune.com
  • R or D, it comes down to why

  • Oregonians are a month away from the deadline for registering to vote and 51 days from the moment when — God, Kardashians and Supreme Court willing — the presidential election will be decided.
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  • Oregonians are a month away from the deadline for registering to vote and 51 days from the moment when — God, Kardashians and Supreme Court willing — the presidential election will be decided.
    So, while the cards continue to be dealt in the high-stakes race to Nov. 6, we're not exactly playing with a full deck.
    Even if we were ...
    If you happen to be one of those still asking yourself whether to join the ranks of the R's or the D's, the answer to the question actually might be "why?" As in, why spend considerable time and effort — and, for some people, 45 cents — to take part in a decision that appears to have been reached?
    Not nationally, of course; most every poll out there says we here can share in the schadenfreude as the battle in the battleground states between the incumbent and the challenger is — in the words of Click & Clack statistician Marge N. Overa — close.
    Here in Drop Box Central, meanwhile, there was this week a 97.2 percent chance that the incumbent will win the state rather handily ... in the words of Nate Silver.
    Who's Nate Silver, you ask? (Please ask; otherwise, well, you know, things will pretty much come to a halt.)
    Nate Silver is the statistical guru behind the blog fivethirtyeight.com, which is filled with metric analyses, pie charts and jagged lines in red and blue, ascending or descending as the case may be.
    Oregon is depicted as blue as blue can be on the most recent map of projected outcomes for the election — although not as blue as California or as red as Wyoming, both of which were 100 percent locks for the incumbent and the challenger, respectively.
    Florida, by the way, is a light shade of purple, reflecting both its unsettled nature and the high percentage of older women casting votes.
    Silver (who correctly forecast 49 states in the 2008 presidential race as well as all 35 Senate contests) trained for this particular passion in that quagmire where all statisticians slog — baseball — on his way to politics.
    Before charting trends and exit-poll accuracy, he was busy with things such as xFip and bWar and VORP ... all of which are designed to predict how baseball players and teams will perform.
    That is, until a fly ball gets lost in the sun or a base runner forgets how many outs there are in the inning.
    Before rushing off to calculate the Value Over Replacement President, however, it might be wise to heed the words of Portland prophet Todd Snider — who warned against our dependence on numbers in "Statistician Blues":
    "64 percent of all the world's statistics /
    are made up right there on the spot /
    82.4 percent of people believe 'em /
    whether they're accurate statistics or not"
    If you're not willing to bet on the statistical roulette wheel, if you're wondering whether voting matters, then listen to the spin provided by redder-than-red political strategist Karl Rove — who says Oregon "mystifies" him to the extent that he forecasts the potential for a purple haze.
    "You also have something going out there, sort of this libertarian, Western, iconoclastic I'm-not-going-to-be-put-in-a-box. But something's going on in Oregon," Rove said recently. "They've got a 30-30 statehouse. And Republicans came within 15,000 votes of winning the governorship and yet it's the most unchurched state in the union. So it's a weird conglomeration."
    And thank God, the Kardashians and the Supreme Court for that.
    Whether the assessments of Silver and Rose have us feeling blue or seeing red depends on how we digest what data we are being fed. No one can tell us how to vote, except that — well — we constantly are being told how to vote.
    "There's a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it's not about who's got the most bullets. It's about who controls the information," the villainous Cosmo tells the heroic Martin in the 1992 film "Sneakers." "What we see and hear, how we work, what we think ... it's all about the information!"
    Nobody likes to be told what to think, and some of us don't like to be told to think at all. And yet, whether the information is coming from radio ranters, bloviating bloggers or four out of five dentists, we're not in control of it.
    If you think you think for yourself ... think again.
    This doesn't mean that how we vote should be left to a roll of the dice. It's just that odds are voters not assimilated into a political collective mind are hoping their choice doesn't crap out.
    Snider taps into this universal fear in another campaign song, the aptly named "Tension":
    "Republicans /
    that's what scares people these days. /
    That ... /
    ... and Democrats."
    So the choice is simple: Drop out and hide the mail-in/drop-off ballot in the freezer, or figure out which candidates you're less afraid will screw things up ... and vote that way. Because not voting at all — believing that Oregon will be true blue whatever you do with that ballot — is giving in to a convenient complacency.
    Little mind that those hobgoblins scratching at your conscience and robocalling your phone won't care if you stay home, as long as you were planning to vote for the other guy. Complacency can rear its ugly head like the devil arriving in a slot machine window.
    Speaking of little minds, the mothership of the Kardashian Empire was on the "Today" show last Tuesday discussing her breast implants.
    Now, anyone vaguely aware of the inexplicably omnipresent familias Kardashianus realizes that it is an invasive species filled with artificially propped up boobs. More to the point is that at the same moment Kris Jenner was promoting her TV show and plastic surgery, much of the rest of the televised world was having a moment of silence.
    For the "Today" interview with sparkly new co-host Savannah Guthrie occurred on the anniversary of 9/11, at the exact instant the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
    (Somewhere, ousted "Today" co-anchor and Ashland High graduate Ann Curry was shaking her head in relief and thinking to herself that "there but for the grace of some witless network executive, go I.")
    NBC, which aired 9/11 memorial events during the morning, later apologized for what turned into a maelstrom of media mudslinging... not to its audience, but to its local affiliates, which received the brunt of direct viewer criticism about the compliant complacency of the interview.
    And that's why it's important to think for ourselves — and to vote — so that our vigilance doesn't get lost in the electoral netherworld. Otherwise, the Kardashians win.
    Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@mailtribune.com.
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