First, my personal congratulations to the people of the United States in general, and to President Obama in particular. More than any other issue, I'm opposed to the idea of giving anyone who sincerely believes these are "the end times" the power to make his dreams come true. I'd rather "the football" stayed in the hands of someone who actually believes humanity has a future on the planet Earth, and one to be determined by human beings as much as possible.
Obama didn't set the US alight like I hoped he would four years ago. No envy-of-the-world Camelot II sprung up and took root. Maybe I was foolish to think it would, but even I was optimistic. Nevertheless, given the state of things, he did a better job than I believe any Republican of the current crop would have done.
And on that score, what is it with the Republican Party lately, anyway? It seems to me they've spent the last 30 years looking for more and more outrageous candidates, and then daring the people to elect them. Okay, I didn't think John McCain was that bad, but... Sarah Palin? 150 million women in the United States, and that was they best they could come up with? And now Romney and Ryan, who come across more like they should be leading a synod in 6th century than a modern nation state that puts people into space above an Earth that's not flat and isn't orbited by the sun. What's next; the reanimated corpse of David Koresh? 'Cause, y'know, there was a real champion of religious freedom and guy not afraid to take a stand against the evil, evil government, after all. No, seriously; where are the GOP's outer limits these days? What happened to the party of Ike Eisenhower? Hell, even Richard Nixon? And why, oh why, do they keep polling the numbers they are the loonier they get?
Anyway... something that puzzles me about the election is that people put the Democrats back in the White House to run the show, but then gave control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans. That's like handing someone a Ferrari to win the race for you, and then welding the gas tank shut. What's the point? Now, I live in one of those several-dozen countries using the Westminster parliamentary system in which no one actually votes for the office of Prime Minister. The PM is just the guy leading the gang with the most guys standing at the end of the electoral street brawl. But at least there's no way he or she won't command at least the largest block of legislators, if not the actual majority. On the other hand, US voters just assured that virtually no initiative emerging from the executive in the next two years at least will get through the lower house of the legislature for fear it'll make the Democrats look good.
The other thing I don't get is why the Electoral College still exists, or ever did. I'm glad Obama won 300-and-whatever votes in it, as opposed to Romney's 200-and-some. But I'm hearing that described as "decisive". What's actually decisive, or ought to be, is that he got roughly a million more votes nationwide than Romney did. But that's no 3-2 split. That's a difference of about 1%. So what is the Electoral College for? It was designed in the 18th century as a democratophobic measure; it has the potential to "elect" the loser, like it did only 12 years ago; it skews the results and negates the voice of any 50-minus-1 group in any state, commandeering them as zombies and making them effectively count against the person they endorsed; and it divorces the American people from the one, single office in the entire country they all hold in common: the Presidency of the United States. That should be a direct relationship. One person, one vote, north to south, sea to shining sea. States and counties should be invisible, shouldn't exist in the contest. It should be organized and run by a body of volunteers across the country, directed by an arms-length office in Washington, by a single set of rules, and a central voters list... not the rules and scruples of Podunk County picking the candidates and deciding whom it does and doesn't think ought to get a vote this time around. I was once told that this is impossible; that no federal republic anywhere on Earth directly elects its president in this fashion. But Austria, a stable, moderate, wealthy First World country—and a federal republic—does. It is possible. Navel-gazers, arise; lift your heads with awe. Other people have ideas, too. Sometimes they're even better than yours.
One other thing that's caught my interest, but seems to be utterly overlooked, is that Puerto Rico has just held yet another referendum on its constitutional relationship to the United States. And for the first time in these never-end-ums, a slim majority has voted against the status quo. Of those who did, and went on to answer the second question, something like 65% voted for statehood, with most of the rest voting for a form of sovereignty-association that would distance Puerto Rico from the US somewhat, and a very small minority in favour of outright independence. Supposedly, this result implies a run-off referendum at some point to work out just which of the alternatives people endorse, since they've finally nixed the status quo. I did the cross-calculation and of those who voted in total, about 35% went on to vote for statehood. So it comes down to what the nearly half of Puerto Ricans who were just fine with things the way they are, but presumably can't have that anymore, will prefer as an alternative: statehood, or an arrangement with more independence for Puerto Rico while maintaining some ties to the United States. To me, this is very exciting. The US might get its first new state in over 60 years; the first new arrangement of stars on its flag in the same period. The prospect of a state where English isn't the norm, and Spanish is. And yet, no one seems to have taken any interest. To me, this is perplexing.
So... my varied, scattered musings in the wake of the US national election.