The Pollsters (And I) Had It Wrong
Nate Cohn does a good job explaining the results of the election this year in his front-page article in The New York Times on November 11. To sum it up, it wasn’t the economy, stupid.
Many political junkies including me were quite sure that inflation, crime, gas prices, and immigration would mean a bad night for the Democrats, but as Cohn points out, there were other things on the ballot this year that some of us didn’t quite perceive as being decisive.
The first was abortion. Despite my thinking that this would not sufficiently mobilize the Democratic voters, it did. This was only the case because Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court this year. That one decision really got the blue vote out, even in the red states where it was formally on the ballot (Kentucky). Why? I think because people actually realized that the federal government could take away rights they assumed were theirs. The voters were not going to endorse that kind of paternalism and injustice.
The second was the threat to democracy itself. That too was set in motion by a national outrage—the insurrection on January 6, 2021. Again, a lot of people began to understand that their basic freedoms could be taken away by a centralized authority (like Trump) and they wanted no part of endorsing forces that would seek to undermine the peaceful transition of power or negate their vote.
In the end, people want to be left alone and free to pursue their lives. They do not want the government in their bedrooms or doctor’s offices and they want the government to function smoothly after an election and the airwaves to be as clear of lies as humanly possible in this digital age. The Dobbs decision and the Capitol Hill Riot profoundly threatened the basic tenets of American freedom and democracy and most Americans want no part of that. Because of Dobbs and January 6, Cohn argues, the Democrats had the best night in history of any party holding the White House with a Presidential approval level in the low forties.
By any measure, this should have been a big night for the GOP, but they nominated crazy candidates who want to take away abortion choice and deny the outcomes of fair elections. America came to its senses—just in time—and rejected that vision of our country.
There’s a lesson here, including for me. I misread what was most important to the American people thinking nothing would trump a poorly performing economy in a midterm election. Wrong. Freedom and individual rights did and we should all be grateful that it did.
I also need to reflect on the chasm between what seems to be important to the leader of MD Anderson and what is important to the faculty of MD Anderson.
Dr. Pisters seems fixated on diversity, inequality, and exclusion as the major measures of success for the institution. These are indeed important and a diverse work force is probably a more effective one. Pisters also seems entranced with garnering awards for the institution from outside rating agencies without understanding that the only group whose opinion matters is the patients of MD Anderson.
As a colleague said to me recently, even patients who do not respond to the therapy they are given are grateful to be taken seriously and not treated as lepers at MD Anderson. That is what MD Anderson is for. It is a serious place with serious faculty who take the afflictions of their patients seriously and the importance of their research equally so. The faculty has its eye on the ball. The president, not so much.
The Democrats plan on the two key issues Nate Cohn discussed is clear. Abortion rights are to be preserved and local secretaries of state do not get to decide election results any more than state legislatures do. The people do.
The people won on November 8 and even though government is likely to be in gridlock for two years, at least a woman’s right to choose will be on the ballot now everywhere and democracy still counts.
At MD Anderson, awards from outside entities are nice, but the only award that matters is the gratitude of the patients being cared for by an excellent faculty and the efforts to translate research into new technologies for treatment, detection, and prevention.
The American people woke up on November 8. Will the faculty of MD Anderson find its voice as well?