Does "Bellweather" Mean "Bandwagon"?

Editorial written by Christopher Morrill on Sunday, August 20, 2000

from the vote-early-vote-often dept.

Missouri hasn't picked a loser in the presidential elections since 1956. In that year, Adlai Stevenson inexplicably carried the Show-Me State while being steamrolled by Dwight Eisenhower pretty much everywhere else.

We must have been pretty embarrassed about voting for Adlai, because we haven't voted for a loser since.

That's a pretty impressive streak. If we were in a blackjack game, we would've been kicked out of the casino in about 1980. Betting on a winner in ten straight elections is hard to do. But what does it mean?

Pundits usually use the term "bellweather state" to describe Missouri, meaning we tend to vote with the winner. I prefer another word: "bandwagon".

Missouri is a mish-mash state, a study in contrasts. We've got cities; we've got countryside. We've got hills and flatlands, swamps and skyscrapers, farms and subways. We're not "Southern", and we're not "Midwestern". Bellweather? Nah, just multiple personalities.

This also means we have, as a state, no overriding majority of opinion. We don't have gaggles of wild-eyed liberals or posses of evangelistic conservatives running the show. We have both. This means lots of fun and games come election time.

Most political scientists will tell you that in any given election, 80% of the people have already made up their minds. 40% will vote Republican no matter who's running, 40% will vote Democratic regardless of whether the candidate has a pulse, and about 2% will vote for obscure third parties just for the hell of it. The remaining 18% are the vaunted "independents" where the elections are truly won. (Assume for a moment that Perot is not around when using these numbers.)

Judging by the election results of years past, Missouri's "independents" are very fickle indeed. But is it independent, or just weak of mind and easily swayed?

I for one have never understood independents. They say, "I vote for the man!" as if they're proud of it. I wouldn't be. Saying that you vote for the man seems to indicate that you care more about looks, charisma, or all-around likeability than you do the issues. Moderate, schmoderate: stop being a wuss and take a stand.

(Note: admittedly, voting for the same party over and over without conscious thought can be appalling as well. You should have a difference of opinion, or two, with your party's platform or you're not human. Splitting the ticket is sometimes necessary to avoid a moral quandary. Heck, I even voted for a Democrat, once. Only because I had inside information that the Republican candidate would soon be going to the pokey...but don't tell anyone.)

In the end, I would rather be a stodgy ideologue and vote for a loser than vote for a guy because he's...cute. Or because voting my conscience is deemed "hopeless" or a "waste". As much grief as I like to give "Yellow Dog Democrats", at least they're consistent. I'll give them that.

The absolutely worst reason for voting for anyone is "because everyone else is". However, that's exactly what a lot of Missouri "moderates" will do. If you do that, I sincerely hope you get a gut transplant, because you obviously have no intestinal fortitude.

In this presidential election, the early indicators are that the South will go solid Bush; no surprise there. The Northeast will probably go solid Gore; no shocker there. California will probably go Gore, too, which would also not be a surprise. This leaves W. and Al to slug it out right here in bellweather territory. I fully expect Missouri to once again fall into line with whoever wins the White House in the fall.

If you feel a warm, wet pair of lips on your ass: it's George W. Bush. Oh, sorry, it's Al Gore. My bad: it's both! Both major candidates will spend a lot of time kissing a lot of Missouri ass this summer and fall, double-teaming your rear end in a joyous smooch-fest for your fickle bandwagon vote. We're for sale. They know it.

Enjoy it while it lasts. Whoever wins will probably not pay any more attention to us until 2004.

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