Expecting different results from the same method

I’ve been paying close attention to the political campaigns, something I don’t normally do until September, and I’ve reached my conclusion:

John McCain can’t possibly be elected president. He’s too narrow, too superficial in his understanding, too closely allied with lobbyists and far too willing to change his tune to suit what his audience of the moment wants to hear. The American people will see through him, and he’ll become, as the saying goes, a footnote.

Don’t get your hopes up, though. I said the same thing, for equally valid reasons, about Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the entire swarm of Bushes.

I was, of course, correct on all points—except for that one pesky little part about the voters seeing through them.

And now I’m getting the same vibe about McCain.

I didn’t hear his Reno speech live, but I caught most of it online and read the reports. In every area where he’s taken a stand, excepting immigration, I found him wanting: wanting common sense, wanting understanding, wanting empathy, wanting diplomacy, wanting, above all, a clue as to how his party and its blundering leader and the policies McCain has vowed to perpetuate have affected the nation and the world.

Based on the accuracy of my previous predictions, this makes him a lock in November.

I’ve given up trying to understand what happens inside people’s heads on Election Day, but I can’t resist speculating here. I imagine an average voter—make him male, because I can imagine male better than female. He’s 40, got a couple of children he doesn’t know how he’ll send to college, tries not to think about his imploding IRA, worries about the kid down the street who used to mow lawns and now runs a machine gun in Iraq.

Six months ago, our average voter realized he was ready for Change. He thinks of himself as a patriot and doesn’t know there’s a difference between patriotism and conservatism. He wants to support his country, which to him means supporting its leaders, but … man, this war in Iraq’s gone on a long time. The economy’s not looking any healthier. There was just another round of layoffs at work. It cost him 87 bucks to fill up the SUV, and hamburger is $4.99 a pound. Maybe it really was time to try another way.

At first those thoughts bothered him. Was wondering why we were in Iraq the same as wishing for us to lose there? When friends were crushed by medical expenses, he began to speculate on what he’d do if his insurance vanished. When he saw millionaires’ taxes cut while his own children were driven unknowingly into debt, when polluting industries wrote the voluntary regulations under which they thrived, he wondered whether society’s dice were loaded.

Had the election been held then, John McCain would be another Ross Perot, a half-weird little guy who made a brief flurry. Now, though, our average voter has had time to develop doubts. It’s still America, isn’t it? The things you read about from other countries don’t happen here, do they? Rigged elections, leaders nullifying laws that hinder their plans, governments spewing propaganda at their own people, even starting wars to distract citizens from issues like rising prices … that’s just not how we do things in this country. Plus it might be risky to give the world’s toughest job to a woman or a … uh, to a woman or something.

Watch the polls right now, and you can almost see the average voter’s mind swiveling from “Time for a change” to “Better play it safe.”