We'll definitely learn plenty today.
We'll learn whether the combination of art and science in polling resulted in accurate predictions. Right now the latest polls predict Republicans will end up with about a 30 seat advantage in the House and a slight minority in the Senate. These polls try to adjust for factors such as sample biases like those introduced by using cell phones versus land lines, likely voter bias, pollster bias as well as reflect the variance in the different polls (see FiveThirtyEight
and David C. Wilson). Few expect a "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment, but each election provides an opportunity to test and validate the quality of different polling techniques and adjustments.
We'll learn how much Americans care about democracy. We have some of the lowest voter turnout numbers of any wealthy democracy. Some have suggested that there may be a new increasing trend of activism in the US and that voter turnout will rise compared to previous midterms (see interview with Brett Di Resta here). While passionate supporters in all parties will most certain be voting, it is safe to safe that a very large percent of the eligible voters will find some feeble excuse to not vote. Australia deals with this in a very simple way: you must be checked off the voting rolls, resulting in turnout rates of about 95% in Australia. This compares to the US's 2008 rate of 57% which, low as it is, was the highest in the last 40 years. I'll be voting today partially to have my voice heard, but also for the simple reason that so many people around the world have died and continue to die for this right which so many of us Americans chose to nonchalantly discard.
We'll learn more about how candidates for 2012's presidential election will position themselves. Obama, Palin, Romney, Bloomberg and others are anxious to hear what the voters are saying and will soon respond with their statements and revise their strategies.
What we won't learn is how effective the next two years will be for the United States. While I would like to dream that the next two years will be a time for America to rebound, one suspects that very little will happen as entrenched parties dig further in. The more Americans quarrel about tax rates for those making over $250,000, how much should the financial system be empowered to again bring America almost to the brink of financial collapse and whether or not someone has the right to basic health care, the more the United States falls behind the rest of the developed world.
The rest of the world will move forward with their own development and recovery, while America proves Lincoln correct when he said that "A house divided against itself cannot stand."