November 05, 2014

Horse 1788 - Election Day In America

Before I even begin this particular Horse, I notice that three things have come together:
1. Horse 1788 - the number 1788 is significant in Australian history because it is the date that the British Empire stole a continent from an entire race of people, with the cunning use of flags.
2. Here it is the 5th of November - the 409th anniversary of the day that a chap packed the basement of the House of Parliament in London and tried to blow it up, along with everyone in it -
Remember, remember the Fifth of November.*
3. It is Election Day in America.

What I find so very very hideously disappointing is that the mid-term elections in the United States, get far less media coverage than the run for the President, despite the fact that in essence, although the President is the Head of State and the Commader in Chief of the armed forces, when it comes to the legislature, he's really only the last gut in the chain. He is the legislative Siskel and Ebert who gives either "thumbs up" or "thumbs down".

Even though there is in theory a complete sweep out of the House of Representatives and of one-third of the Senate, in practice, there is so much gerrymandering going on that most of the offices which come up for re-election in the Congress are pretty well much done deals even before anyone casts a vote. Gerrymandering is that lovely process where the legislature draws up the boundaries of various voting districts, electorates, hundreds (call them what you will), so that there is a favourable number of voters within that district who will collectively swamp the others.

The other problem with today is that there are loads of state gubernatorial races going on as well as voting for state legislatures and elections for positions like judges and major executive positions within government, Already I can see potential problems everywhere.
As soon as you have an election for any position, that position is politicised. That's all fine if the position up for election is a member of parliament but if its a judge or some sort of secretary of a government department, that already implies that said position is not going to be impartial. Having a state supreme court judge who has been voted in on the basis of a declared political party allegiance, just seems like a travesty of justice to me.

Concurrent to this is the problem that if you were to do a google search for "unopposed" positions in today's elections, you'd find more than 700 positions across the United States where no-one is running against the incumbent. Okay, in relation to the point I've just raised about politicising positions, that's fine I suppose but when you reach a point where even the political machines are so apathetic that they don't even bother to set up candidates for election, that suggests to me that there is a massive failure of democracy.

All of this is compounded by the twin facts that in the United States, voting is not compulsory and pretty well much all the elections that take place are on a first-past-the-post basis. That is plain idiotic to me.
In Australia where we have both the Alternative Vote in the House of Representatives where electors number their preferences and Proportional Voting in the Senate, it means that in both cases, people who do make it to office, do so with at least the consent of half of the actual population instead of just the wingnuts and the rabid supporters of two parties who yell at each other like Celtic and Rangers fans. Hooray, Boo, whatever. We still have bad politics in Australia but at least its bad politics with the consent of the people.

What also gets my goat is that most of the elections today are in fact completely pointless. "We The People" who show up every two years, matter very little when it comes to the legislation which passes through parliaments. Groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council who pre-draft a whole host of legislation and openly admits to something akin to bribery through working to:
"advance limited government, free markets and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public¹", Grover (who is certainly not you loveable pal) Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform² which opposes any form of tax increases thereby making the ability to pay back the massive US debt impossible and groups like the NRA as well as a whole host of lobbyist who grease the hogs in the trough, are the ones who really hold the power.
There isn't a so-called "shadow government" or a conspiracy of puppeteers. They don't need to live in the shadows, they play games right out in the open, whilst media companies keep people distracted with talent shows and other games.

Election Day In America should be a day to get out that old brush and sweep out all the dust that's been in the rafters but instead, it never is. The greatest political force in the United States is the apathy of the general public who don't vote at all. By not voting, they give tacit approval to the lobbying, the gerrymandering and they're why people are able to run unopposed in elections.


*Remember, remember! 
The fifth of November, 
The Gunpowder treason and plot; 
I know of no reason 
Why the Gunpowder treason 
Should ever be forgot! 
Guy Fawkes and his companions 
Did the scheme contrive, 
To blow the King and Parliament 
All up alive. 

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