For years, some economists and political scientists have scratched their heads in bewilderment at what they call "the paradox of voting," which states that going to the polls is a profoundly irrational act. If the only reason we do anything is because the material benefits of an action outweigh its costs (an assumption embedded in this theory, among others), there's no reason at all to vote. The odds that the election will be decided by one vote -- and therefore your vote will be decisive -- are vanishingly small. Therefore, whatever benefits you will derive from your favored candidate's policies must be multiplied by that infinitesimal chance that your vote will decide the election, to ascertain the return on the investment of voting.
Osama bin Laden speaks on a tape broadcast on Friday, Oct. 29, 2004. (AP Photo/AlJazeera via APTN)
On Oct. 29, 2004 -- four days before the election -- Osama bin Laden released a videotape attacking President Bush. As Ron Suskind later reported in his extraordinary book The One Percent Doctrine, CIA analysts concluded that "bin Laden's message was clearly designed to assist the President's reelection." John McLaughlin, the acting director of the CIA at the time, said at a meeting to discuss the tape, "Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the president."
If you thought there wasn’t much interesting left to learn about Sarah Palin, you should read Jane Mayer’s piece in The New Yorker about how Palin shrewdly laid the groundwork for her selection as John McCain’s running mate. It turns out it wasn’t all that hard -- all it took was charming some of the conservative pundits who came through Alaska on fundraising cruises for The Weekly Standard and National Review. But what really stands out is what a bunch of pushovers these guys were, and how her looks played no small part in convincing this bunch of middle-aged men that she was just the bee’s knees.
This year's presidential debates failed to produce that decisive moment, the "You're no Jack Kennedy" or "There you go again" that will be remembered for years. But they did highlight something that is all too often dismissed by the apostles of civics-textbook campaigns, where candidates carefully lay out their plans of action and policy proposals, and informed citizens evaluate carefully before making a voting choice: The stark contrast in the candidates' temperament and character.
Conservatives realize that a successful Obama presidency could remake American politics. If Obama wins the election, they will try to destroy his presidency with lies, just as they sought to do to Bill Clinton.
Throughout his nearly two-year-long campaign for the White House, Barack Obama has talked about Americans' hunger for unity -- their ache for a government that will get past the petty divisions of recent decades, put aside partisanship, and come together to solve problems. From what we can tell, Obama's desire to provide that kind of presidency is sincere and stems from his own personality and history. Throughout his life, people have remarked on his ability to make those who disagree with him feel as though he has listened to their perspective and approached them with an open mind, even if he hasn't brought them around to agreeing with him.