The Importance of Being Upbeat
It seems to me that the power of polls and newspaper endorsements these days is not so much to convince people to vote one way or another but to affect the enthusiasm and outlook of those voters who have already made up their minds. It may be that in the past endorsements convinced people and polls helped undecideds go with a winner, but in today's high-information society, I think the impact has to do with mood and energy more than sorting those still choosing.
My case in point: Wednesday my local paper in southwest Missouri, the Springfield News-Leader, endorsed John Kerry for president. The case was fairly weak, and I was incensed. The paper the next day was filled with outraged letters from angry readers. One of those was mine. My concluding paragraph:
"The bottom line is that there are people out there actively trying to kill us because we are Americans. I have a son who just turned 1 year old, and there are Muslim terrorists who would gladly sneak into my country and murder my innocent little boy. I know that George W. Bush will move heaven and earth to prevent that from happening and let the chips fall where they may. John Kerry will not do that."When I got home that night, I had three phone calls from people telling me how proud they were of what I wrote. (That often makes me a little nervous, but it's indicative of the impact a little pep talk can have on people.) One identified herself as a 52-year-old grandmother who was so furious with the paper that she cancelled her subscription. The other two were happy to see that someone had made a strong case for Bush after they had felt betrayed by their hometown newspaper.
What I hoped to do with that letter was to help raise the spirits of those who were disheartened by the hometown paper endorsing Kerry. To its credit, the News-Leader printed it and other critical letters. If there is a lesson to this little post, it's that we don't have to take what's given us anymore. There are information avenues that can be used to convince and invigorate people, and any forum right now is a great place to fire up the troops and get out the message.
It's like everything else in life: believing you can win helps you win. The stakes are especially high, but I think the momentum is on Bush's side in this election and on our side in Iraq. There's no reason to get our heads down when our opponents still aren't beating us on the ground.