Hope and change, hope of change: Remarks on the Nov. 6 election

What does anyone know for sure before an election? Not much, really, except for David Axelrod, who preserved his mustache, and Nate Silver, whose polling analyses have been right on target.

If I’d been predicting, I would have rightly picked Obama, Casey, Kane, McCord, Dinniman, and maybe DePasquale to win their races in PA. But also, on the local level, I would have picked some Dems who didn’t win.

Besides, there are so many unpredictables and imponderables. Did Obama win in 2008 because of the slide the Republicans entered with the Bush administration’s hurricane Katrina disaster?

And wouldn’t it be ironical if Obama won in 2012 because of renewed public faith in government action resulting from hurricane Sandy and Obama’s response, at the opposite pole from Bush’s? Whatever the Republican side really believes, perhaps they would be politically well advised to act as if global warming really exists and has the potential to hurt people and help Democrats.

In the age of political marketing, of course, Republicans are tempted just to change their message without changing the positions underlying the message. Would the majority of voters see through that? Probably, as they saw through Mitt Romney’s chameleon act. We humble citizens are actually starting to figure out how marketing works.

Overall, though, little changed nationally on November 6. In Washington, President and Senate Dem, House and Supreme Court R. (I think we need to keep remembering that the Roberts Court majority basically follows the R line on its decisions, with the notable exception of Obamacare, though they’ll have another chance to reject the party line on same-sex marriage soon.)

Harrisburg, still all in R hands: Governor, Senate, House, Supreme Court, Commonwealth Court, Superior Court.

As I expected, right after the election candidates both winning and losing were talking about serving the wonderful American people and working together for the greatest nation in history. That common sense of purpose lasted a few days, and then fiscal brinksmanship kicked in, not even half way to the winners’ being sworn in next month.

I think there is something very different between the average statewide and national winning candidate and the other 350,000,000 of us. From the very fact of winning, the winner tends to enter a special protected class, which thinks: we won, so why should we change anything?

Here’s the only possible route to change that I can envision: when the next Senate convenes, the Dem majority could seize its courage by the horns and discard the filibuster (it seems probable that this can be done at the beginning of a session). In fact, Harry Reid is apparently lining up votes to at least make it harder for a filibuster to stall virtually any nomination or legislation.

What reason is there that 40 Senators, without taking the trouble to vote or even to speak, should be able to hog-tie what used to be known, probably facetiously, as “the greatest deliberative body on earth,” now more like the greatest partisan gridlocked and self-awarded perk body on earth (see “Is the U.S. Senate broken?,” 60 Minutes, 11/4/12) Well, there’s US tradition, at least the past forty years of it. And besides, the current majority might be a minority next time, and of course then they’d want to prevent the majority from doing anything either.

A record-breaking twenty women Senators? Well, that’s not a real lot yet, though some of them, like Elizabeth Warren, are certainly not business-as-usual people.

So how about the jobs crisis, the housing crisis, poverty, declining education, global warming (call it whatever, it’s changing), a functional immigration policy, the ubiquitous fascination with money, the all-consuming military budget, our armed forces in a majority of foreign countries, the claim that the US president can send a drone to kill anyone anywhere anytime, the perception in Europe that we are collectively insane–will anyone do anything about that? I doubt it, considering that one even talked about all that in the presidential campaign.

Well, except to say give the military more money. After all, spending military on the money creates jobs, right? Well, I have news for you: spending the same billions on education, infrastructure, police, social services creates a lot more jobs. I once read that $1,000,000 spent on K-12 education creates 8 times as many jobs as if spent on the military.

And I shouldn’t say “no one.” Those four 3rd-party presidential candidates were out there talking about this stuff. None of them were invited to a single presidential debate. What were they saying? See “Expanding the Debate with Third-Party Candidates Jill Stein, Virgil Goode, Rocky Anderson,” Democracy Now!, 10/17/12. The Green candidate’s very first comment is: “to ensure that our students have a strong, secure economic future, how about we bail out the students instead of bailing out the banks for the fourth time?” Wouldn’t it have been good to hear more about that in the interminable two-man debate that sucked substance out of the news all fall?

In Chester County, the unofficial presidential results were:

MITT ROMNEY (REP). . . . . . . . 123,280 49.53%
BARACK OBAMA (DEM) . . . . 122,232 49.11%
JILL STEIN (GRN) . . . . . . 725 .29%
GARY JOHNSON (LIB) . . . . 2,058 .83%
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . 585 .24%

So, 1.36% of the County’s presidential votes went to other than the D and the R (including a few probably for Mickey Mouse, that perennial write-in). That’s not a lot, but how much of the coverage and advertising in the presidential race around here went to other than the D and the R? 0%, as far as I could see. And if they had gotten more attention, they would have gotten more votes.

There are rules, of course, set up by the two major parties and the media that provide the debate forums. Why is it that you have to be a D or an R not only to become president, not only to be named to the Supreme Court, but even to win election to almost any national or state office, including of all things our local school board, which should welcome all citizens’ talents and eschew politicization?

Why? Because the 2 major parties inherited and maintain the rules, of course. We have a winner-take-all system. It’s that simple. The winner is going to be a D or an R.

We keep hearing that the public wants change, they hate gridlock, they are embarrassed by all the shouting and negative ads, they are disgusted by the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in future influence by those who have the means, but what can they do about it? They’re just the public. Some Floridian progressives voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, and that got them George Bush. A lot of conservatives voted for Ross Perot in 1992, and that got them Bill Clinton.

Did you notice, though, that Joe Pitts won the Chester County part of congressional district 16 with only 47.9% of the votes to Aryanna Strader’s 47.0%, in a race where two independents siphoned off over 5% of the County’s vote? And Eugene DePasquale won for Auditor General with 49.7% of the state, with the Republican getting 46.4% of the vote and the Libertarian 3.8%.

Can hope of change come only through hope of third-party candidates affecting the outcome between the two “major party” candidates? That’s not much to hope for, but I guess we’d better take what we can get.

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About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
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One Response to Hope and change, hope of change: Remarks on the Nov. 6 election

  1. Pingback: Hope and change, hope of change: Remarks on the Nov. 6 election | progressivenetwork

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