March 16, 2004

It's the May, Not October Bombing I'm Worried About

The blogosphere seems to have started worrying about a repetition of the Madrid strikes in the US. The phrase "October Surprise" is back again doing new duty. But I'm not worried about an October surprise at all. The tendency of US voters to give the US president a boost in popularity in time of crisis is too well known for such a bombing to be likely.

Instead, worry about May. In an April-May-June bombing, the rallying effect (which will last for 3-4 months) will have dissipated and the negative effect on the President's rating regarding his handling of homeland security will assert itself. If we can get into the late summer without a successful operation in the US, we're largely home free from any chance at an effective Al Queda attack. They still might bomb, they still might kill people, but they won't have much chance of changing an election in a way they like.

And changing election results is the bottom line because the US has elections more than any other country in the world. I've seen years with three elections, without runoffs or cancellations. The spring has school board elections, the summer has its primary season and late fall we have regular elections growing up in Westchester County, NY. With many state and lower elections on a one year offset of the federal cycle, voters have a yearly chance to speak their mind.

Now imagine if all those elections became realistic targets for terrorist strikes. This nightmare is what spaniards are likely not to understand about US annoyance with their 11th hour, post bombing, change in electoral preferences, much as most US people don't understand how central trains are to the EU lifestyle since the US has give or take 1/10th of the population density of Europe and a correspondingly less used train system. Election bombings are a special US nightmare for as long as we hold near continual elections. Changing the system would very much transform the US for the worse.

Posted by TMLutas at March 16, 2004 09:04 AM