Robert Meyer
Will conspiracy theories be used to explain election results?
By Robert Meyer
November 3, 2008

My call-in editorial was posted in Saturday's edition of a local newspaper, intended as a satirical presentation of some conspiracy theories which I have heard since the last election cycle.

"I was talking with a politically left-leaning friend about the recent plunge in fuel prices. His conspiracy theory was that McCain was behind in the polls so Bush told his oil buddies to lower the price of gas to help out McCain. After chiding him for his lack of originality, I explained what's really happening. The oil companies CEOs already know Obama is going to be the president and so they are lowering prices to avert the likelihood of windfall profits taxation and price-gouging investigations. But since it has been alleged that the Republicans can fix every presidential election and have bribed officials of the voting machine manufacturers, neither the price of gasoline nor the poll results really matter much. If all else fails, we can still blame the infamous Bradley effect."

So what was my point? Very simply this: If one can move popular polls by manipulating the price of gasoline, then they probably can't control voting outcomes. If a political party can control the outcome of an election by suppressing votes, disenfranchising voters, or rigging the voting process, they probably wouldn't need to manipulate oil prices to impact polls either. Yet many liberal ideologues thoughtlessly hold to some version of both views (That Republicans are manipulating oil prices, as well as fixing elections) simultaneously. They seem oblivious to the contradictions of holding both positions.

A few days ago, one caller complained that consumption of gasoline has only dropped slightly, while oil prices have plunged, so according to him, it proves that the price of oil was manipulated all along. He apparently knows little about price elasticity, or how future expectations exacerbate the current trend.

My own view is that the futures markets are looking ahead to the possible impact of a world-wide recession on commodities, such as oil, and see declining demand going forward.

The whole phenomenon with people complaining about high energy prices reminds me of a bit of a wise observation familiar to many of us:

"There are three types of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who ask what happened."

Instead of being proactive and making adjustments in our lifestyles, too many of us just act like helpless sheep going to the slaughter, falling into one of the two latter categories. We can all employ similar strategies that the wealthy use, albeit on a smaller scale, to insulate ourselves or profit from swings in energy prices.

I am no speculator, but a couple winters ago, I made a modest investment in energy that paid my extra costs for gasoline and heating oil for the year. Tell me if you believe the price of oil is going back up, and I will give you a strategy. Tell me you're certain oil is going down, and I'll give you advise on how to play that scenario, also.

I concluded my piece by saying that we can blame the "Bradley Effect" if all else fails. In other words, if the alleged manipulation of fuel prices doesn't "fool" people, and the alleged fixing of voting doesn't work either, there is yet an important, insidious factor.

The Bradley Effect deals with the circumstances surrounding the California gubernatorial race in 1982. Mr. Tom Bradley was an African-American candidate for governor. The polls showed a close race, but he actually lost by several percentage points. A theory came forth from that election, which theorizes that the people who were surveyed prior to the election were afraid to tell pollsters of their true candidate selection. They feared that if they avoided expressing preference for the minority candidate, they might be deemed prejudiced. Therefore, they were dishonest in reporting their true selection, skewing the pre-election polls. It all seems like another ugly attempt to exaggerate the impact of latent racism.

If McCain pulls this election out, we are going to hear a lot of talk about that sort of thing. I guess we will know if any conspiracy theories were relevant factors before eat breakfast Wednesday morning.

© Robert Meyer


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Robert Meyer

Robert Meyer is a hardy soul who hails from the Cheesehead country of the upper midwest... (more)


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