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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Confessions of A Confirmed Political Junky

With less than a week to go before the U.S. presidential election, I have become a political junky. The latest tracking polls and the candidates’ various policy papers are scattered across my desk together with books such as Richard Neudstadt’s "Presidential Power." Counting electoral-college votes is becoming an obsession.

I am also betting like crazy: I have already definitely put down more money on this horse race than I should have.

My obsession is especially ridiculous since the results won’t affect my life much. Should Texas Governor George W. Bush win, his attitude toward arms control will be a boon to Russian hawks. If Vice President Al Gore wins, his rhetoric on human rights and the war in Chechnya will serve to spur on anti-Americanism here.

But even these possibilities are of little importance. As long as the price of oil remains high, the positive or negative views of the next American president toward Russia are of little importance to Kremlin politics. Thus, I am watching the race purely as a sort of intellectual exercise. And that is precisely why I am enjoying it so much.

The polls seem to show Bush with a slight lead although all the analysts agree the race is too close to call. Bush may well benefit from the people’s weariness with Bill Clinton’s administration, especially with the so-called "character issues" and the administration’s foreign-policy failures (Russia and the Middle East in particular).

However, Gore stands to gain from the booming U.S. economy and the fear that a change of administration now may further destabilize an already shaky stock market. In fact, this widespread fear may be the deciding factor. After all, the 45 percent to 50 percent of eligible voters who actually cast ballots must be presumed to be rational people. They can calculate that the 5 percent tax cut that Bush is promising may well be overwhelmed by potential losses in their investments if the market gets too nervous watching new faces move into government.

If it turns out that the people vote for Bush nonetheless, it will mean that the U.S. middle class is not as rational as I think it is, and that it cast its vote on the basis of personality — as Russia usually does — rather than on the issues.

As a Russian liberal and an adherent of Ludwig von Mises — a German philosopher who was a passionate fighter against the bureaucratic state — I should probably support Bush, who is considered more " business friendly" and less bureaucratic than Gore. But as an intellectual, I naturally dislike any politicians who represent Big Oil. Somehow the process of extracting money directly from the ground makes them indifferent to human issues. They are the first in line to cut deals with any dictatorial regime without considering that they are enriching those whose power is based on human blood. This is, by the way, equally characteristic of Russian oilmen.

On the other hand, Gore — yes, here I am jumping to issues of personality and character — is no hero of mine either. While Clinton appears to be a living, breathing person, Gore resembles nothing more than an exhibit in a wax museum.

Since I don’t like the personalities of either candidate (and, according to what I read, neither do most Americans), I can only predict that the voters will act in their own rational self-interest. Gore it is, then, by a nose.

Yevgenia Albats is an independent, Moscow-based journalist.