Call them the “Sexy 16.” Every four years, some of the most prominent guys in America set out in hot pursuit of these elusive creatures. This year, they are being chased heatedly by two mucho macho hombres by the name of George Bush and John Kerry.
Apparently, what makes these 16 so desirable is their fickle behavior. One year they fall in love with a guy because he rides a donkey; the next year with another guy who rides an elephant. There just is no accounting for their changing tastes. They have names like Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. If their names sound like states of the United States that is because that is exactly what they are — these sexy swingers. There are sixteen of them out of a total of 50 states. The other 34 states are not so flirty; they seem to be the marrying kind — wed either to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party.
Right now, what all of the United States wants to know is how these fickle females will go this year. A publication with a profound understanding of the way of all flesh, namely, The Wall Street Journal, put its gilt-edged opinion into print. Not surprisingly, this child of Wall Street believes that polity follows in the footsteps of the economy. Put plainly, in politics, luck follows the buck.
In the thinking of the money-minded Journal, a central factor in how these states will behave this year is — jobs. Since Bush’s reign, have they gained jobs, lost jobs or a bit of each? By the Journal’s calculations, three quarters have fewer jobs than they did when Mr. Bush took office, as new government data show. Which means that 12 out of the 16 have experienced negative economic growth as measured by jobs. Taking the 16 states as a whole, the Journal notes that the 16 battleground states have lost 315,000 jobs since the beginning of Mr. Bush’s presidency in January 2001.
Actually, the Journal’s calculations — though accurate — understate the unhappy condition of these states. They have fewer jobs than when Bush took office four years ago, a period during which the working age population has grown appreciably in each of the swing states.
All this has been happening at a time when it was not supposed to happen. When Bush cut the taxes of the richest, he did so with the belief that enriching the richest would enrich everyone else, including the poorest. Despite experience to the contrary, he still stands by that long-discredited philosophy.
Does this mean that the 16 swing states will swing to the Democratic candidate? Not necessarily. People’s votes are influenced by multiple factors such as family, religion, ethnicity, sex, tradition, personalities and friends. But as James Madison put it in his classic essay in the Federalist Papers: “… the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property”; namely, the economic factor.
In any event, in the tight election this year, the sexy 16, because of their fickle ways, might well turn out to be the swingers who swung it for the next tenant in the White House.