Election Day (US Edition)

With Fulbright Scholar Erik Nordman and his wife Jen at the US Embassy’s election party.

I spent the morning of Wednesday, November 6th at the residence of the US Ambassador, where a big election-viewing party was taking place.  There were maybe three hundred people at the event, all told.  I went with a couple great Fulbrighters, leaving our hotel at 4:30 am to get to the residence at 5.  Of course, our travel calculations included time for traffic, which for some reason wasn’t bad at that hour, so we actually got to the show a bit early.

It was a very nice morning!  The party featured a mock-vote, which resulted in 166 votes for Obama, 44 for Romney, and 1 write-in vote for Hillary Clinton.  The crowd included lots of people working at the Embassy; I met people from USAID, the CDC, and the consulate, amongst others.  There were also around thirty or so secondary students who had been invited, along with some law students from the University of Nairobi who were very friendly.  And yeah, lots of free coffee.

It’s great, in my opinion, that Obama’s been re-elected.  Romney was really duplicitous, and far too eager to write-off whole blocks of the US that weren’t on his team.  That’s the whole underlying message of the 47% video that was circulating.  On the contrary, I believe that Obama genuinely believes that we’re all in this together.  This was a theme in both his victory speech, we see it in action in ‘Obamacare.’  And it was apparent in 2004, when I first heard Obama speak, giving the keynote at that year’s DNC.  (I even remember where I was: I was biking across Iowa with Ragbrai, stopped for the night a lovely Iowan family who had opened their home to the team I was riding with.)

The big meta-message, I think, was that in the projection game, science won, hands down.  There was a lot of talk in the last days of the campaign about whether Nate Silver and other data-driven polling experts were accurately presenting the state of the race.  Numerous pundits and TV-types asserted that the race was too close to call, a real toss-up, while Nate’s estimation steadily edged towards a 90% probability of an Obama win.  There was a vast divide here: the data-driven experts saying an almost-certain Obama win, while the gut-driven pundits saying it was a tossup, essentially arguing a 50% chance of an Obama win.  And in the end, the data won: Silver called 49 of 50 states correctly.  Florida’s still too-close-to-call at this hour, but is leaning Democratic; if that ends up being the case, Silver will have called 50 out of 50 correctly, furthermore identifying that Florida was actually a very, very close race.  (This is an improvement from 2008, when Silver called 49 out of 50 states correctly.)

But xkcd probably put it best:

As of this writing, the only thing that's 'razor-thin' or 'too close to call' is the gap between the consensus poll forecast and the result.

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