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Saturday, November 13, 2004 - Page updated at 12:31 A.M.

Guest columnist
Anatomy of an electorate

By Matt McGillen
Special to The Times

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As I watched the aftermath of the presidential election on the various news and talk channels, I was struck by the media's fascination with... itself. Everywhere you looked, the talking heads were critiquing their own performances with regards to election-night coverage.

Who was the slowest (rather than the fastest, as was the case in 2000) to predict the winner, seemed the benchmark for high grades. The most too-close-to-call shrugs were also up the list. Ah, aim low, hit it every time.

I was also struck by the fact that the Democrats, despite having a fairly well-thought-out strategy — inspiring massive voter turnout, especially youth, single moms and women in general — had to watch John Kerry lose to George Bush by a greater margin than Al Gore lost to the same gentleman four years ago. Even doing pretty much everything right is no guarantee of success, a hard lesson for sure, in politics, and in life as well.

So what would Kerry have inherited, had he won the election, apart from that little problem over in Iraq? He would have been in charge of a country that spends more on pornography than on all professional sports combined. He would oversee a population that is two-thirds overweight, burdened with huge amounts of consumer debt and more and more depressed, perhaps because of the underlying American philosophy of spending money we don't have on things we don't need trying to impress people we don't know.

Of course, now, if you are ugly enough or fat enough, you can get not only on prime-time television and win big money, you can get someone else to "fix" your problem for free. Which seems only to reinforce the very ideals that cause the overweight and depressed state of America: beauty, money and status are the only worthwhile goals.

Here is strategy that Kerry and his not-quite-legion of followers could have tried: eliminate tobacco and alcohol.

I know, I know, the tax revenue shortfall would be large. But the money saved by eliminating about half the health problems in the America could translate into billions of dollars taxpayers could spend on something else: like education and roads and police and parks. And then we could move on to gambling and pornography.

But I digress. After all, Kerry didn't win, Bush did. One should always be careful what one wishes for. You just might get it.

Matt McGillen lives in Mill Creek.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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