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Margins of error
by Andrew Barbano
Nov 01, 2008 | 446 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If voting mattered, they wouldn’t let us do it.

— Travus T. Hipp, 1982

My old friend Travus is one of the wisest men I know. As always, he has a point.

If we need any more proof that voting matters today, look no further than Karl Rove’s anti-ballot engineering of the past decade. The new edition of Rolling Stone, with Barack Obama on the cover, has a very concise article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Greg Palast summarizing past and present Republican voter suppression efforts.

Obama is now supposed to win. I will not be surprised if he does not. If Washoe County is the swing battleground in the swingingest state, his campaign is making serious mistakes. Obama’s people have decided to take the African-American vote for granted. This comes despite bottom-line analysis that maximizing black turnout could net perhaps 10,000 more voters.

We thus may find ourselves living a TV show come Tuesday night. The final installments of the Democratic fantasyland West Wing series featured a presidential campaign between a Texas Latino congressman played by Jimmy Smits and a hyper-conservative warmonger played by (of all people) Alan Alda.

The fictional election was decided here in the High Desert Outback of the American Dream. Democrat Smits won because of the Silver State’s electoral votes. Life is currently imitating art.

Another factor that may prevent an Obama victory is good ole fashioned Mississippi West racism. Mainstream pundits discount it. I have not, largely based on reports I get from actual precinct workers right here in River City.

Some are relating West Virginia numbers. One in five mountaineer rubes voted against Obama in the Democratic primary because he was black. Many also believed him a Muslim. So much for the communicative power of modern media in the sleepy hollows of Byrdland.

Many are talking about “The Bradley Effect,” mis-remembering the tale of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley’s loss to George Deukmejian in the 1982 California governor’s race. Bradley, an African-American, actually won on Election Day but lost due to an aggressive Republican absentee ballot strategy that asked millions of their Kool-Aid drinkers to vote a straight party ticket. Racism had less to do with it than smart politics by the GOP.

Neither the nation nor Nevada are California. Racism is alive and well in these parts.

Should Obama lose, I have been predicting two major results. The first will be the death of the Democratic Party as we know it. I will be the first to sign up for a new party made up of workers, greens, women, seniors and what’s left of the dwindling middle class. Young people will not be much of a factor in that equation. Just as the murders of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr., caused so many baby boomers to drop out, the defeat of Obama will become instant replay and so sad for our future.

If the voters decide to elect the new Herbert Hoover rather than the next Franklin Roosevelt, a pox will befall all our houses, which brings me to my second prediction: the devolution of the United States of America.

Economic devastation will cause us to break into semi-autonomous regions. The right-wing Reaganauts will have accomplished their goal of a weak central government by undoing the unity won by blood in the Civil War.

While legally we may remain a so-called United States, Great Depression II will force us to break into about a dozen regions according to ethnic, economic and political prejudices that have existed for centuries. An obscure Nevada congressional candidate predicted as much in 1984, but the voters were too busy recoronating King Ronald the Vague.

The template was illustrated in Joel Garreau’s splendid 1981 bestseller, “The Nine Nations of North America.” The only good news is that nations that break up into smaller parts actually tend to do better after the pain of divorce. Witness Norway, Singapore and the Czech Republic, none of which are saddled with an empire’s trillion-dollar annual war budget.

On my TV show, I have been playing what I consider the political song of the year by my local discovery, Robert Joshlin.

A hilarious, deliciously nihilistic and prescient paean to political burnout, “Margin of Error” tells the story of a guy who refuses to cooperate with a pollster and considers himself part of the ever-present margin of error.

Me, too.

I hope my predictions are within the margin of error and that voters on Tuesday look to the future rather than the daily demagoguery befouling their noses and eyeballs.

If substantial evidence emerges that this election is tainted beyond all precedent, I hope Americans take to the streets in daily protests until the theft is corrected. The citizens of the Philippines and Ukraine did just that in recent years, where Americans rolled over and played dead.

The margin of error must be corrected and there is only one way to do it: Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 40-year Nevadan, political action chair of the Reno-Sparks NAACP and editor of He hosts live news and talk (682-4144) Monday through Friday, 2 to 4 p.m. on Reno-Sparks-Washoe Charter cable channels 16 and 216, streaming at Barbwire.TV. E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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Margins of error by Andrew Barbano

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