Election Day 2004: Just the Start of an Epic Series

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Whatever the ultimate outcome of today's vote, the themes in play in this year's contest will recur in increasing intensity in 2008 and 2012.

In an era in which instant informational gratification is regarded by many of us as practically a birthright, the next 12 to 18 hours, and the epic of how 130 million or so votes add up, might feel a lot like the torture of being denied that which is one's own.

Yesterday, the countdown to Election Day 2004 dwindled from days to hours, and from hours to minutes, as the two presidential candidates and their pilot fish-like campaign trail of journalists sprinted from the likes of Milwaukee to Philly to Albuquerque to Orlando to Cedar Rapids to Detroit to Cleveland to the finish line locked in a contest still, reportedly, too close to call. What remained a highly viable possibility, even as news people and air traffic controllers exhaustedly tried to keep up with the frenetic six- and five-state puddle-jumping pep rallies (including, finally, the home states of the respective candidates, where they'll cast their own votes), is that the immediate and ultimate outcome of today's national elections will almost inevitably be subject to ferocious debate among scores and scores of lawyers ready to jump into the litigation fray before a single solitary chad gets dimpled and argue their cases in courts for months to come.

If all the noise about an indecisive or even very tight ballot count actually plays out -- causing one to wonder what real good might have come of all those millions and millions of advertising dollars pumped into the two presidential campaigns, the question may well be how well will America's public and private sector leaders adjust to a period of protracted limbo as courts in several states sort out the recounts.

One way or another, whichever presidential candidate wins or loses, we believe what people will be talking about after this Election Day for months and years to come is demographics, obviously. On a grand scale, the 2004 election, whatever its outcome, will affirm the scaled agenda of the nation's 76 million strong Baby Boom population as it moves into the latter phases of its high-earning years and seeks to secure benefits for its parents, its children and itself.

Only by looking at demographics can we begin to comprehend the divides in society that separate people -- Baby Boomers from the older "Greatest Generation" and the younger Generation X, the job haves and have nots, the white non-Hispanic population and the fast-growing population of people from other cultural heritages, etc. It is only by drilling further and further into the congressional districts whose populations of 650,000 or so people serve as the benchmark for apportioning House seats this time round that we will begin to understand how 2004 is the start of a series of election quadrennials whose themes will be strikingly similar.

For, in looking at the demographics, we learn that, although there are 220 million or so voting age residents in the United States, it's really about 60 percent of that on a good day who wind up casting a vote for the No. 1 job in America. Although more and more states are characterized by increasingly diverse populations, and some of those states -- namely Florida, New Mexico -- the number of non-eligible, unregistered, and non-participating voting age residents in those and other "Battleground States" has huge bearing on why those states may wind up being so closely contested.

In looking at the demographics, we see that net out-migration is impacting the number of representative seats there are in states like New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and others of those states long associated with traditional melting pot populations, and that net in-migration -- both domestic and international -- is adding electoral votes to Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Texas, etc. After Census 2010, the reapportionment of still more electoral votes in response to continued shifting in the population landscape will likely create a whole new roster of all-important Battleground States. At least the air traffic controllers in Cedar Rapids, Milwaukee and Cleveland may appreciate the change.

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