Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Election, self-reflection

I was reading a transcript of the Larry King interview with John McCain, and something occurred to me when McCain made the comment that the last president to win the election while still losing Ohio was John Kennedy. He was saying it in a way that was justifying his heavy campaigning there, but I kind of wonder if he is misunderstanding the role that the swing states play. It occurred to me that there might not really be a connection between how much time and money is spent in a particular state and how many popular votes one receives, that instead it might be that the reason that you can't win an election without winning Ohio is because Ohio reflects the national mood. Obama is apparently wiping the floor with McCain right now, and even Texas is not guaranteed to go Republican now. If I'm right then Obama will win Ohio just as he's winning all those other states, whether or not he's spent a lot of time there. I say this while knowing that the candidate with the most money almost always wins the election, and since Obama has enough money to make a Scrooge McDuck style silo of gold coins to swim in the fact that he's winning might be merely a reflection of the money he's got to spend. But I think that all the money he's getting is another reflection of the national mood, that so many people want him to win that lots of people are giving him a lot.

We forget almost everything that we experience, and commuicate or record even less than what we remember, so I think everything is a lot more mixed up than we like to admit. It makes me really bad at arguments since I have a hard time convincing myself that I'm absolutely right and spend most of my time trying to convince the other guy that they aren't as right as they think they are. Considering that, and that I freely admit that I don't follow election statistics as closely as those who are paid to do so, I will freely admit and actually suspect that I am probably missing something very obvious here. But at the same time as I say that, I can't help but think that while I might be completely wrong, the people running the election might be going about their job in the wrong way.

The above paragraphs are a fine example of writing that I wish to stop. When I write naturally I throw in a lot of "I"s and "me"s. I'm not sure if it's because so much of my writing lately is for cover letters and purpose statements for jobs and graduate school applications, respectively, or updating people on my life through emails, or writing things out to smooth out my internal monologue from a nebulous cloud of vaguely connected ideas to something more solid. I'd like to think that it's a reflection of the constant knowledge that what I experience is a tiny slice of reality and therefore subject to misjudgement and an inexact memory. As I mentioned above, I'm aware that nobody has a monopoly on the truth, and I think that my nonvariance from the first person is a result of the knowledge that everything I think I know is eventually subjective. Even if something is laid out in a boring black-and-white line graph, the source of the data, the organization's intent in collecting it, and the methods of data collection all have to be considered along with it. A truly comprehensive collection and consideration of all the variables involved in any set of data or opinion can never be assembled, and knowing this I feel compelled to throw in lots of qualifiers to any statement I make.

It's kind of a positive spin, and viewed in this light I think it makes my writing more solid than others', but I am also aware that it makes me seem self-interested and self-doubting. I can't help but wonder if it discourages people from reading anything I write to completion. If I read something I want it to be something relating to me, after all, and someone reading my writing gets constant reminders that it's not about them. I'm not sure how to fix it without ignoring the little voice that tells me that I shouldn't make unqualified statements of fact when nobody knows the unqualified truth. If anybody knows the unqualified truth, then do let me know.