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SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK



* There was a driving rain when I walked in to vote Tuesday morning, but I found a decent line for that hour, which made me hopeful that people are starting to get engaged again. More likely they aren’t so much engaged as enraged, which may work out to be the same thing.

* Some of you may recall that I made a list of predictions a few weeks ago, and that one was that the Democrats would gain control of both the House and Senate. As of this writing they have firm control of the House, and there’s a dead heat in the Senate, which means I’m batting about a .666. We all knew the devil was involved in this somehow, didn’t we?

I guess that means my predictions will be two thirds accurate, which means in 2013 some of New Jersey will be hit by part of an asteroid.

Following that logic, two thirds of New Orleans is going to sink, which should surprise no one.

Update – it looks like the Dems (Democrats, not demons) got both the House and the Senate, pending a possible recount. Get out of any place with the word “New” in the title, just in case.

* After twelve years of Republican control, there’s something to be said for the Democrats getting their shot at accomplishing something – anything – in the House. However, I’m not the only one cynically muttering that we just traded in one set of scoundrels for another.

* The idea of far-left wing liberal Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, hand-picking the people who will control -- among other things -- how much we’re taxed and what happens to that money, scares every vestige of crapola right out of me.

* However, the idea of a far-right wing conservative being in the same position is almost as frightening. Putting people so far out on either fringe in charge of the major committees in Congress is like making Adolf Hitler the minister of diversity. Whatever happened to the centrists in this country? For twenty bucks I’d write a short story about the moderates of America being shot up to exile on the Moon. (Note to self – talk to Editor about that.)

* According to Pelosi: "Democrats promise to work together in a bipartisan way for all Americans." Yeah, right. The Democrats have no more intention of being bipartisan than the Republicans did, which lays out the whole problem right there. What Pelosi likely said, when the camera weren’t on her, was, “We win! We get all the toys, and we won’t let them play!”

Which is probably just what the Republicans said in elections past.

* Other than being third in line for the Presidency, why is Speaker of the House important? Because the Speaker gets to choose committee chairmen, who in turn can hold up legislation in committee. The representatives we elect often never see proposed legislation; it dies in a committee of a few people. The same thing happens when the President makes appointments: they get tied up in speeches and filibusters, never get voted on, and the next thing you know it’s two years into a four year term and we still don’t have a minister of diversity. Debating is good, but shoving issues aside so nobody ever gets to decide them isn’t. If the Democrats are serious about making a change, give our Congressmen a vote – up or down. We’ll decide next election if we agree with their decision.

* Where was I? Oh, yes, Pelosi. She said, “From sea to shining sea, the American people voted for change”, which on a simple red/blue basis looks true enough.

But it’s not so simple.

On a nationwide basis victory can be declared, but not mandate: America is polarized to such a point that almost half of this country hates whoever’s in power at any given time. A good centrist candidate may change that, but don’t hold your breath. No, the margins aren’t big enough for anyone to claim some overwhelming edict.

* Certainly there was an overall dissatisfaction. In fact, while all politics is local, many politicians lost, this time around, not on their positions but on their affiliation. I still maintain that voters don’t usually pick county, municipal, and township offices by party, but this year may be the exception.

* Everyone’s talking about how wonderful the voter turnout was. It’s being held as almost miraculous that a full half of possible voters showed up in some Noble County precincts, a huge increase over normal.

Where the heck are the rest of them?

For many years, America has been run by the minority: the people who do go to the polls. You can argue that they’re the more knowledgeable of the electorate, but that doesn’t change the fact that the average person you hear complaining about politicians on the street didn’t bother to vote. Then they complain.

We may not always be able to choose who runs; but, if nothing else, we can darn sure keep throwing the older bums out, again and again, until they get the point. But we can’t do that without you, the guy in the stained t-shirt in front of the boob tube (these days that term’s probably literal).

* As much as we fuss about this whole election business, one thing the politicians continually forget is that we’re not there for them; they’re there for us. We want them to solve problems, or leave us alone so we can solve them – not make more. Give me a candidate who will consistently support that position, and he’ll get my vote every time.

* My overall prediction – and you might remember I also predicted this in my pre-election column: gridlock in Washington, for the next two years, followed by the election of a Democrat to the Presidency. The question of whether we’re better off with a government that accomplishes nothing remains open.

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
redwolf
Nov. 9th, 2006 11:51 am (UTC)
Where I come from we have compulsory voting, meaning that you get fined if you don't vote. Although they don't take it terribly seriously. A week or so after the fact you get a stern letter asking why you didn't vote and they seem happy enough to accept any excuse; I was working; the dog ate my homework; I was tripping and the furry purple walls said the fridge was plotting against me, so I held it at gunpoint with a colander for 48 hours. I only know of one person who paid the fine and they sent the cheque back to her.

So, why compulsory voting? Because the guys who set up our electoral system understood Ausralian well. We're deeply apathetic and wouldn't piss on a politician if they were on fire.

One of the great joys I find in voting is the federal senate vote. You can either stick a 1 in the party box above the line or number every box below the line.

This is an example of the senate ballot paper. In reality it's usually table cloth sized and you're looking at almost 100 boxes below the line. I go below the line because I love being able to put the Reverend Fred Nile last. Admittedly, he's been out-bampotted by the wingnuts from One Nation and Family First of late, but he's still down with the hate-mongering dregs.

Another reason for my pedantry over voting below the line is that I want my preferences to count and do not like to leave it up to the party to decide. If you vote above the line, minor wingnut parties do dodgy preference deals with the major parties for favours. This is how the scum of Family First got elected to the senate. They got sod all votes, but their dodgy, if legal, dealings saw them get seats that should have gone to the Greens by a massive margin.
ozma914
Nov. 10th, 2006 02:10 am (UTC)
senate ballot paper
In theory, I'd support the idea of making everyone do their civic duty. In actual practice, I've heard some persuasive arguments to the effect that, if forced, people who refuse to vote wouldn't educate themselves about who they should vote for, anyway.

Your ballot paper -- wow. Most Americans wouldn't be able to figure that out if you gave them all day; for us you simply vote for one person of those running for an office, and that's it. There can't be any preference deals, or anything of that nature. Which doesn't guarantee we won't elect scum, of course, but i think I like our system better.
redwolf
Nov. 10th, 2006 02:25 am (UTC)
Re: senate ballot paper
I don't know whether it's a better or worse system.

At the moment all bar one state is controlled by members of one of the two major parties. At a federal level it is controlled by the other. You can imagine the friction this causes when the state an federal governments butt heads.

We don't elect our Prime Minister. The leader of whichever party wins the election gets the job. This is how we got stuck with John Howard. While the vast majority of Australians would cheerfully push him under a train, the silly bastards can't get it into their heads that voting for his party keeps him in power. He's very good at manipulating the fears of the stupid and ill-informed, which seems to be most people who live here.

Actually, it looks like both systems suck. Maybe we should just stick everyone's names on a wall and throw a dart. A randomly chosen victim would be hard-pressed to do worse than the brain donors we both got stuck with.
ozma914
Nov. 13th, 2006 11:21 am (UTC)
Re: senate ballot paper
The problem is, between the way every bit of past information is dug up about our candidates and the fact that by modern standards elected positions are low paying jobs, you can't get really smart, talented people to run for office in this country. They're too busy starting their own companies.

I remember reading once in a comic book (I think it was "Legion of Superheroes") how the President of Earth was elected from a group of people who were carefully chosen for their abilities by a computer program. There's something to be said for that idea, right up until some hacker has us picking from the Three Stooges. Or maybe that's already happening.

We have conflicts between the state and federal governments too, but generally our Constitution makes it clear what each level of government is in charge of. That became a problem during Hurricane Katrina, when the federal government couldn't move in right away because for some reason the local governments didn't officially ask for immediate help -- something you never hear about in the news.
sunshine_tears
Nov. 9th, 2006 01:14 pm (UTC)
I was shocked when I went in to vote at the Christian Chapel. There were 4 people ahead of me! And then 3 more came in after me! wtf? lol. Years past in Wolf Lake, the place was dead.
ozma914
Nov. 10th, 2006 02:12 am (UTC)
It's very good news, when people finally get off their duffs and start doing their jobs as citizens again. It's too bad that anger seems to be the only emotion that gets us to the polls, but at least we're voting.
sunshine_tears
Nov. 11th, 2006 02:04 am (UTC)
yah, better than nothing.
vichan
Nov. 9th, 2006 01:47 pm (UTC)
Oooh! Now predict that I will be magically sent $1000!! Even two-thirds of that will make me pretty durn happy. :D
(Because two-thirds of that will allow me to purchase a PS3... hee-hee!!)

On a nationwide basis victory can be declared, but not mandate: America is polarized to such a point that almost half of this country hates whoever’s in power at any given time.

And that's sad.
And what makes me even sadder is that probably only a quarter of each half of the American people actually bother to research things for themselves. When someone hates Republicans simply because their parents/friends/co-workers do, or someone hates Democrats simply because their grandparents/siblings/TEH-INTERNETZ-SAYS-TO, it infuriates me. I know people that voted based on LOOKS in the last presidential election. "Bush looks like an ape, and Kerry looks like a muppet." I'm all about allowing everyone their voice - it is a right to vote, but I feel that it is also a duty. To me, that means more than just going to the polls. It means actually KNOWING what you're voting on and not guessing.

I lost FRIENDS during the last presidential election. I hate that. I want to be able to sit and debate and NOT worry about a debate/discussion exploding into an arguement that results in name-calling.


I've been called the crusader when it comes to getting friends to register to vote - all sides, liberal, conservative, and everything in between. People in my age range seem to have developed a really apathetic attitude - or rather, they CARE, but feel that there is nothing they can do.

And as for the Republocrats... yeah. I see nothing getting accomplished here. I'm a huge fan of how this government is described, but not how it's getting run.
I've been saying for a while now that the fathers of our country are probably spinning circles their graves.
My dream (and you can laugh at this if you want) is for our politicians to discover compromise. Everything seems to be "Republicans win this one, Democrats lose" or "Democrats KILLED this one, Republicans lose." It's a huge power struggle, and people may cheer for one party of the other (or neither), but the people in office don't seem to realize that the real losers here are the American people.
Go on - laugh. Even less would get accomplished if the Republocrats actually bothered to take the time to find middle ground. *sigh*

In short... there's not much of value here in this comment. To sum everything up, politics just makes me want to buy a remote island in the middle of Pacific and be a hermit for the rest of my life.

:D
ozma914
Nov. 10th, 2006 02:18 am (UTC)
good luck on that PS3
Um ... can I go to that island with you?

Say -- the did look like an ape and a muppet, didn't they? :-0 I made some off-handed comment about Kerry one day (or his wife, who was great fun), and got called on it by some guy who claimed I knew nothing about the mup--uh, John. So I did a great deal of research, and it scared me so badly that I would have voted for Pee Wee Herman to defeat him, let alone Bush. That's the only real way to do it: Research, research, research. A lot of people are getting elected based on their smiles or their ability to put out a really nice sound bite.

There are two main problems you mentioned: one, that everyone in Washington has come to think of compromise as a dirty word. It's not -- it's doing the best for the most number of people. Two, politics is now being looked at as a battle. We can't be citizens of the same country having an honest disagreement: No, we have to be the evil enemy, fit only to battle and conquer.
curiouswombat
Nov. 9th, 2006 10:32 pm (UTC)
far-left wing liberal
I love the way that you guys think any of your politicians are at all left-wing - to us they all look right wing - just some of them get fairly close to 'liberal' which in many European countries is centralist! It's another case of two countries divided by a common language.

Seriously, it only occured to me yesterday, which shows how slow on the uptake I can be, but it looks as if a lot of your really powerful people aren't actually elected democratically - the President can appoint people who aren't actually members of the Senate or the House of Reprsentatives to positions of power above both houses. And he can ignore the wishes of both those elected bodies. Is that really true? Doesn't that mean that you actually have an elected dictatorship? Or have I misundestood and the new Secretary for War/Defence is actually a Senator as I have always previously assumed?
ozma914
Nov. 10th, 2006 02:31 am (UTC)
far left wing moderate?
The language barrier isn't just between countries. I always have and always will consider myself a moderate, but since I've been making on-line friends from across the country and world I've discovered I'm only moderate by Indiana standards -- and Indiana is a very conservative state. If you put me down in, say, the northeast, or the west coast, I've be seen as extremely conservative by their standards -- and by yours, apparently! On the other hand, one of my newspaper's subscribers canceled his subscription a few months ago because he claimed the paper, including me, were too liberal. I found that one to be a shocker.

The President -- and mind you, in general I'm a Bush supporter -- has been overstepping his Constitutional bounds, and hasn't been called on it by Congress. No one he appoints can do anything without the President's say-so, and most things the President does can be overruled by a majority vote in Congress. They just haven't been doing it, which is likely about to change. Also, the Congress votes on whether to approve anyone the President appoints.

On the other hand, almost anything the Congress does can be vetoed by the President, and only overriden by a very large portion of the Congressmen. Meanwhile, the President appoints members of our third branch, the Supreme Court, and the Congress approves them (or doesn't).

So the system of checks and balances works well in theory, unless a major party gets control of both the Presidency and both branches of Congress, which is what happened under the Bush administration. Bush (and remember, I like the guy), is extremely stubborn and convinced he's doing the right thing, which is why I see no compromise in the next two years -- thus, our government will grind to a halt. What it all boils down to is that we need to bring the art of compromise back into our government.
jgracio
Nov. 10th, 2006 09:19 pm (UTC)
Re: far left wing moderate?
To an European and generally speaking American parties are "That right wing one." and "The even more to the right wing one."

OTOH, over here a liberal party is usually a capitalistic liberal party, AKA, right wing. :)
ozma914
Nov. 13th, 2006 11:09 am (UTC)
Re: far left wing moderate?
I think "capitalistic" would be one good description for our Republican party, which is right wing. The Democrats here would be left wing, and the far left wing of *their* party would probably be termed socialist, although they'd deny it.

The idea that there are people in the world more left wing than Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi or Hilary Clinton is a concept I just can't wrap my mind around.
jgracio
Nov. 13th, 2006 04:53 pm (UTC)
Re: far left wing moderate?
I don't really know enough about them to be able to comment in a significative way, but I'd guess that by my own standards they're not that left wing at all, at least not in regards to some subjects.

Over here, the two main centrist parties, the ones that usually compete for government, have Socialist in the name of the party. One is more left wing, the other is more right wing, but they're both, pretty much, socialist. Socialist is far from a bad name over here.
ozma914
Nov. 14th, 2006 07:31 am (UTC)
Re: far left wing moderate?
I get the feeling that it's not so much that our thinking or political views are that far apart, but rather our terminology that's different. Someone once said that America and the British Empire were nations divided by a common language ...
jgracio
Nov. 14th, 2006 02:28 pm (UTC)
Re: far left wing moderate?
Things are similar enough to lull you into thinking it's all pretty much the same but then a detail comes out of left field and whacks you in the head.

At least that's been my experience. Like walking in Indianapolis a couple of years ago and getting gobsmacked at seeing a teenager behind the wheel of a car. :)

P.S. :)

I'm not sure if you're assuming I'm from the UK. I'm not.
ozma914
Nov. 15th, 2006 07:10 am (UTC)
but now that I've checked your LJ ...
Actually, the only thing I knew was that you were from Europe, but subconsciously I probably was thinking you were from the U.K. I get fooled because so many people in non-English speaking countries speak English so much better than Americans do. I have a writer friend in Malaysia who I assumed lived here in America, until she told me otherwise.

Now that I'm older, seeing teenagers behind the wheel of a car rather gobsmacks me, too -- especially *my* teenagers. Eighty percent of them should NOT be driving. But other than that, how did you like Indiana?
jgracio
Nov. 15th, 2006 05:45 pm (UTC)
Re: but now that I've checked your LJ ...
I liked Indianapolis fine, at least the little I saw of it, mainly the Convention Center and places close by. :)

Indiana at large, well, didn't see almost anything, having arrived late at night, and highway isn't exactly the best way to experience a place. :)
ozma914
Nov. 16th, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC)
Re: but now that I've checked your LJ ...
No, the view from a highway tells you nothing about an area. Actually, Indianapolis would tell you nothing about the rest of the state, either; the Capital is Big City, and the rest of Indiana is very much Small Town.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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